How to Start a Vegetable Garden
For those asking how to start a vegetable garden, the answer is pretty simple. Deciding to participate in vegetable gardening for relaxation, yard beautification, fresh food benefits or profits is the very first step toward becoming a master gardener. Coaxing food from the soil is an ancient art form; easy or complicated, all types of gardens exist.
Vegetable gardening plants come in assorted varieties, even among the same plant species. Each unique plant will have a specific day count or gestation period required for growth from start to finish.
After determining the approximate frost-free growing days from the hardiness maps, it is time for the beginning vegetable gardener to decide upon a goal; what exactly should the new garden accomplish? Some enjoy planting vegetables to supplement their summer salads, and others demand a high yield of specialty vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets. Making lists of expected vegetable gardening results helps in preparing for planting.
The garden plot can come in three forms: traditional rows, potted plants or vegetable plants used decoratively along existing flower beds or inside lawn border rows. Plants grow happily in soil anywhere as long as their soil composition, root spacing, and growing season watering conditions are met.
The composition of garden dirt is different in every location. Some soils are sandy while others are like thick clay; for a good crop, plants must grow in the dirt which allows them freedom of root movement while still allowing some moisture retention around the roots so that the plants can drink.
Soils can be tested at home for composition using simple tests found in gardening stores, or a sample of garden dirt can be taken to your local County Extension Office for a free professional opinion on what kind of gardening soil the new garden area has, and what needs to be done to make it perfect.
Garden plants need rooms from side to side for roots to grow without competition from other plants and weeds. Plants also need room going down for their roots to easily expand. Roots are often fragile, injuring easily when running into rocks or solidly packed soil while trying to grow.
To help roots to grow easily, all new gardens should be double dug while removing the previously established weeds or grass. Dig the dirt out of the garden to the depth of a shovel head and pile it beside the garden. Repeat this process one more time.
Remove the grass, weeds, and large rocks from the top dirt pile, and put this top dirt onto the bottom of the garden. Next, place all remaining dirt onto the top of the garden, and do not pack it down. Roots now have air spaces to grow easily through while weed seeds are buried too deep to grow easily.
Good vegetable plants for beginners to try are the ones listed on the package for the growing zone that the garden will be growing in. Reading seed packages helps gardeners to know what will grow and any special soil conditions needed. Many packages will also give some kind of an idea about how much room is needed for each seed in the garden setting.
Never-fail plants that some gardeners enjoy are the cooler weather plants such as radishes whose bulbs and leaves both can be used in salads, rhubarb (a vegetable that bakes into very nice desserts), and various styles of lettuce that can substitute for flowers along the walkway to the front door. Cool-weather plants do better in late spring and early fall and tend to die off during the heat of the summer.
Warm-weather vegetable plants that grow easily include choices such as zucchini, spaghetti squash, corn or popcorn plants, and our “vegetable” (which is really a fruit) tomatoes. Something to remember about all warm-weather garden plants is that these plants often overproduce when conditions are right. Try not to overplant.
While learning how to start a vegetable garden, remember that the first year is often spent getting to know conditions and plants appropriate for the area where the new vegetable gardening hobby is to take place. Vegetable gardening is like every other hobby; it takes time to understand all fundamentals involved before becoming a pro.
Easy Garden Vegetables for the Beginning Gardener
There are so many benefits to having your own vegetable garden. Not only is the produce much tastier than anything you can find in the grocery store, but it’s also packed with much more nutrition, and can help stretch a grocery budget by a significant degree.
For parents whose children are fussy eaters, gardening is also a great way to get a child interested in vegetables. They’ll discover how great spinach and squash can taste when they’ve grown them all by themselves.
Gardening can be a bit intimidating for new gardeners, but there are a number of vegetables that are quite easy for the beginner.
Summer or Winter Squash
Squash has always been a favorite vegetable for new gardeners. A single squash plant grows into a vine that averages 10 feet in diameter and produces large, bright yellow blossoms that develop into tasty fruit. A typical plant will produce between 10-20 fruits that can be cooked in a variety of ways.
Easy-to-grow varieties include zucchini, crookneck, spaghetti squash, butternut, acorn, and hubbard squash.
Certain squash varieties, such as zucchini, are often the butt of jokes because they are so prolific. The secret to growing squash is daily harvests and picking those tender fruits before they grow the size of clubs. The blossoms can also be harvested and eaten as well. Squash is very easy to grow from seed and can be planted as soon as all danger of frost has passed.
Every garden should have pole beans. These green beans are climbers that wrap themselves around trellises or cages and produce an abundant crop from the end of July through September. Green beans are favorites of new gardeners because they are easy to grow and fun to pick. Pole beans are another vegetable garden that is fast to grow from seed and can be planted after the last spring frost.
My boys didn’t like tomatoes until they planted a cherry tomato plant. These cherry-sized fruits are easy to grow and delicious to eat right off the vine. Many garden centers and commercial nurseries sell tomato starts in all different sizes. For short growing seasons, buying a one-quart start will begin producing fruit as early as late July.
For spring gardens, Spinach is another easy-to-grow vegetable for the beginning gardener. They don’t seem to be quite as susceptible to being eaten by slugs and can go into the ground as early as March. Fresh, homegrown spinach has a delightful, rich flavor that is both delicious in salads and cooked. From seed to harvest, spinach is ready in about 45 days.
Radishes are the fastest growing of all garden vegetables, reaching maturity as quickly as 25 days. They are best planted in early spring, with seeds planted in 7-day intervals to produce a steady supply of radishes until the hot weather hits.
Growing vegetables are as much fun as exhibiting them at the county fair! Your homegrown squash, cherry tomatoes, and green beans will still be in the season by fair time, and this is a terrific way of sharing your hobby with the community.
Having your own vegetable garden does have to be an intimidating experience. By selecting easy-to-grow plants, even the most inexperienced gardener will feel like a seasoned professional at harvest time.
Common Mistakes to Avoid when Growing Vegetables
If growing vegetables were easy, everyone would do it instead of paying for veggies that go bad in the kitchen. Even those who have been growing their own vegetables for years can make mistakes. Those who are starting out often have to process through a trial and error system that costs them time, money, and good eats.
Many of the most common mistakes made in growing vegetables can be corrected simply by knowing them beforehand and taking the advice to heart. Simply reading the following advice may have you eating your own delicious corn instead of having to rely on store-bought corn that is at best half as sweet as it would be if eaten immediately after being plucked off the stalk.
To aid in the process of pollination you should plant your corn in at least two rows. The reason for multiple corn rows is that single-row planting usually produces undeveloped kernels. You also don’t want to crowd your corn. A crowded cornfield reduces your yield. And, of course, there is the advice that Jed Clampett gave when a service worker asked him if he was going to give him a tip: “Plant your corn early.”
It is easy to make the mistake of storing your onions in the winter immediately after harvesting, but it is also easy to avoid this mistake. When you pick your onions in the winter, you want to make sure they are completely dry before storing them in a cool, dry, dark place. Allow them to dry for several days and check that the stem is completely and totally dry before storing them away. Another common mistake made on the backyard vegetable farm is planting onions in new soil. More so than just about any other vegetable, onions absolutely thrive when planted in soil that has been pulverized and fertilized.
You may have experienced great success with many vegetables in the backyard while having consistent trouble growing beets. There may be one very simple explanation for your problems. Check the soil for its acid content. Beets need alkaline soil to grow to your expectations. If your soil is acidic, you can simply add lime and try again.
One of the most common mistakes made by those new to growing tomatoes has to do with the confusion over the value of sunshine. Those who are aching to grow richly red tomatoes will often cut leaves in an effort to ensure that sunlight gets to the vegetable. Or is that fruit? The truth is that the red of a tomato is produced without the help of sunlight. You can grow very delicious and very red tomatoes even if they are hidden from the sunlight behind the leaves. On the other hand, cutting the leaves may have the effect of increasing susceptibility to diseases that cause defoliation.
Jed Clampett’s advice is even more apt when it comes to peas. If you are experiencing problems growing peas, it could be because you have waited too late to plant them. You should plant your peas in early spring so they can reach maturity in June. The reason so many waits so long are to avoid a late frost, but peas are fairly hardy little vegetables and can handle a frost much better than other vegetables. Try to get them in the ground by the middle of March.