Complete Guide to Growing Vegetable Garden
Vegetable gardening has been part of the human experience for over 10,000 years. Today, many urban dwellers are rediscovering the benefits of home vegetable gardens, from the quiet satisfaction of watching plants grow to the delicious and healthy meals that vegetable gardening makes possible.
Living in touch with nature is called the simple life, but the first-time gardener will discover that it’s not as simple as you might think. The soil must be prepared, seeds planted and seedlings transplanted. There are fertilizers for specific plant needs and vegetable varieties that yield different textures and flavors.
But vegetable gardens are very forgiving, and even if you don’t get everything right the first time, there will always be next year. And as time goes by, vegetable gardening becomes a process of growth, not just for the plants, but for gardeners too.
Starting a vegetable garden – A quick how-to guide for the would-be vegetable gardener
The first question to be asked before planting a vegetable garden is, “Am I sure I want to do this?” Starting your first vegetable garden is a bit like buying a pet. Puppies and vegetables may look appealing in a display window (no, not at the same time), but getting them to grow at home requires time and commitment. If your answer is definitely yes, here are some tips that will help you out.
Where and when growing vegetables !!!
Begin by deciding where and when to plant your vegetable garden.
Where you can plant vegetables
Vegetable gardening demands sunlight and well-drained soil, preferably sandy loam, but light trumps earth. Poor soil can be worked, but it’s awfully hard to manufacture sunlight if your vegetable garden is too much in the shade. Try to find a moderately open location. Air circulation is beneficial for pollination and disease prevention, yet too much wind can damage crops.
When Growing Vegetables
Next, you must find out the average first and last frost dates in your region. Most — though not all — vegetables shouldn’t be planted or transplanted until after the last frost. Stick to these dates faithfully. When planting a vegetable garden, it’s better to be patient and wrong than impatient and wrong.
The Good Soil
Soil preparation is critical for the first-time vegetable gardener. To take the guesswork out of it, we recommend contacting your local cooperative extension office and getting your soil’s pH and nutrient content levels tested (they should be listed in the government pages of your phone book).
The ideal soil for vegetable gardening is sandy loam. Loam is a fertile mix of clay and sand that contains humus, which is formed by the decomposition of plants and leaves. You can tell that your soil is sandy loam if a handful squeezed together in your palm crumbles as you let go.
Begin working for garden beds in spring when the soil is yielding but not overly wet. If you decide to plant in the open ground, work the soil to a depth of about 12 inches. If your soil is of a sandy or clayey type, now is the time to add several inches of topsoil or compost. Another option when planting a vegetable garden in regions with poor soil is raised beds. Building raised beds to improve drainage and allow you to establish a genial soil composition. Apply a 15-15-15 granular fertilizer a few days before planting.
A final word on vegetable garden beds: start small. Weeding, watering, and nurturing — in other words, vegetable gardening — can be time-consuming. Better to expand your vegetable garden as desire dictates than suffer a poor yield because you were too ambitious.
Some vegetable gardening tools are obvious — shovel, hoe, rake, garden hose, etc. — but there are a few more that will come in handy. A wheelbarrow will make transporting soil and compost a whole lot easier. A garden fork and trowel will assist with weeding and transplanting. Stakes and garden lines are indispensable for an orderly vegetable garden.
Of Seeds and Seedlings
Most garden vegetables should be grown from seed sown outdoors. But there are a few plants that benefit from an early start, and these you can begin indoors and then transplant to your vegetable garden when weather permits. The list includes tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, and eggplant. Give plants about four to six weeks before moving them outdoors. Seedlings can also be purchased from nurseries if you don’t want the bother of a glasshouse or cold frame.
As for seed buying, vegetable gardening is much like everything else: you get what you pay for. If you’re looking to save a buck or two, buy used garden tools rather than skimp on the cost of vegetable seeds. Your appetite will thank you for it later.
Prepare Vegetable Gardens for Spring Planting
With this past week’s warm temperatures, gardeners are thinking about planting their spring gardens. A gardener recently told me that he plants his Irish potatoes around Mardi Gras. This is one of the few veggies that can be planted during late winter. It is, however, a good time to begin preparing your garden sites for planting.
One of the best defenses again vegetable diseases is sanitation. In other words, the removal of crop debris from last season helps to keep disease outbreaks lower during the growing season. Many diseases and even insects live throughout the winter in decaying organic material. Many crops such as cabbage, green beans, and tomatoes will be less susceptible to disease.
Removing such vegetation should be an annual project at the end of every growing season. It pays to remove old roots as well, especially if root-knot nematodes (microscopic, worm-like organisms) were a problem. These nematodes produce tumor-like galls on root systems, and removing them will remove a large percentage of the population in your garden.
Composting vegetation is a good practice unless it is diseased. Temperatures in compost piles may not get high enough to kill eggs and other disease organisms. Composting is an excellent practice to break down disease-free vegetation, as it produces a nice, organic supplement for your garden.
Vegetation remaining in the garden should be plowed or tilled under the soil to a depth of six inches or so. This reduced the number of disease-causing organisms, called pathogens, from infecting your new crop.
Plowing to bury debris is an effective way to reduce the amount of southern blight on tomatoes, peppers, and other susceptible vegetables. Southern blight sclerotia (dark brown to tan colored reproductive structures about the size of a mustard seed) are formed on diseased stalks. These structures can remain near the soil surface unless they are turned under during deep plowing.
In fact, sclerotia can survive in the soil for seven years or longer. Preventing disease outbreaks can be drastically reduced through the simple procedure of turning under garden topsoil.
Another important disease preventative is disinfecting your tomato stakes or bean poles. Plant support structures such as these can harbor disease-causing organisms during the time the structures are not in use.
Such structures should be washed thoroughly to remove soil and disinfected by washing or spraying them with a 10 percent bleach solution prior to reuse. One gallon of bleach added to nine gallons of water is effective against most pathogens.
Some diseases such as damping-off of seedlings can be prevented if well-drained soil is used for planting. This is especially true for those of you who like to take your chances and plant early in the hopes of an early harvest.
If drainage is a problem, plant on raised beds to promote drainage and faster warming of the soil. Faster seed germination and seedling emergence encourage young plants that are more resistant to early-season diseases. In addition, transplanted seedlings are more resistant to root diseases when grown in raised beds.
Take advantage of the warm daytime temperatures to get your garden site off to a good start. Your reward will be a bountiful harvest of delicious vegetables this spring and summer.
A-List of Vegetables
You remember Mom saying, “Eat your vegetables.” And as you grow wiser, with a year or two behind you, you realize what good advice that was.
With your new healthy lifestyle, you know that vegetables are an essential part of any smart menu.
Whether you’re balancing your diet with vegetables or choosing a vegetarian approach to eating, you’re finding yourself more energetic and even more content – it’s just natural. And maybe the new saying, “Grow your vegetables” could be added to the good advice column.
Ok, they’re a fruit (technically) but no garden and no menu is complete without the versatile tomato – easy to grow and edible straight off the organic vine in your garden.
Beans and Peas –
There are so many varieties, Fresh beans and peas can make the most of soup or a casserole. If you’ve got a vegetable garden climbing varieties make economical use of space.
Take your “pick”: Summer squash, Yellow, Butternut, Acorn, Spaghetti, and many more. Easy to store and easy to grow. In vegetable soups, casseroles or baked on their own, squash is a great, healthy addition to any meal.
Again there are so many choices, Leaf, Romaine, Iceberg, Boston, put these in your garden on your shopping list. Try the early “baby” leaves for a nutritious and delicious salad.
In vegetable soups, casseroles, in so many cooking uses. Carrots are in fact one of the basic ingredients in classic French cuisine.
Again a basic in any dish. Onions can be sweet or hot and add zest to a hundred recipes. For the home gardener, they nearly grow themselves.
Another basic. Good in vegetable soups, dressings, salads. Tricky to grow but fun to eat even all by itself.
So many vegetables can be grown organically in your home garden or just enjoyed in your cooking – Spinach (try this in your vegetable lasagna), Cucumbers, Potatoes, Greens (so many different types) Okra (jambalaya necessity), Bok Choy, Cabbage, Broccoli, Asparagus, Beets, Corn, Peppers… and so many more all in many types and varieties, and all so delicious. Eat your vegetables!