Are you thinking about planning a new vegetable garden, but don’t even know where to begin? Maybe you’ve pondered what it would be like to grow your own nutritious organic food. If you’re like thousands of others, you’re ready for growing your own food and knowing that you can provide a meal for your family no matter what comes your way. Follow this concise vegetable garden guide and you’ll be well on your way to reaping bountiful harvests for years to come.
What Plant Zone Am I In?
This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before venturing down the gardening path. Knowing your USDA plant zone will help you determine what plants you can and cannot grow successfully. Plant zones are a simple indicator of when your regional average last frost (for Spring) and first frost (for Fall) dates occur. Many, or should I say most, vegetable garden plants are easily killed off by frost. If you plant too early in the Spring and your seedlings get hit by a late frost, you can say goodbye to those seedlings and all of your hard work that went into raising them. And by knowing your first frost date in the coming Fall will help you know when to plant your Fall crops so you’ll have enough time to harvest plenty of vegetables from the garden before those plants are killed off.
Location of the Garden
Planning where to locate your garden is very important. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to plant your garden under the largest shade tree in your yard. Vegetable plants need lots of sun to grow and a garden with half a day of shade will give you very poor results. Try to pick the sunniest location you can find for your vegetable garden. If at all possible, locate your garden close to a water source. You never know when the next big drought is going to occur and hauling water to your garden is no fun at all. Hopefully you’ll have a flat piece of land to locate the garden. If you have no other choice than the side of a hill, you can tier the land and successfully grow vegetable garden plants.
To Seed or Not To Seed
That is the question! Many gardeners enjoy purchasing their plants from a local garden center. But with this method you give up the ability to choose exactly what variety of plants you want to grow. You will most certainly have a better selection of plants to choose from if you grow your vegetable plants from seed. Let’s face it, many garden centers have yet to jump on the heirloom and open-pollinated garden wagon. If you want to save seeds from your garden every year, you need to choose an open-pollinated seed to grow. Saving seeds from hybrids, what you will find at most big box garden centers, will give you plants that may not have the same characteristics as the plants from the year before. Make your seed selections wisely. Order some free garden seed catalogs in early winter and you’ll have plenty of time to choose what vegetable varieties you wish to grow by the time Spring rolls around.
Your soil will either make or break your new garden. First thing you want to do with a new garden is have a soil pH test done. This will tell you whether your soil is either acid or alkaline. The best way for new gardeners to have their soil pH tested is through their local Cooperative Extension Office. The test results will show what will be recommended for your particular soil. You may also wish to amend your garden soil with compost to improve the humus content. This just helps make the soil a better place for your vegetable plants to thrive.
Organic Vs. Chemical
You really need to think hard about whether you will use chemicals or not in your vegetable garden. Many gardeners shun the use of chemicals in their vegetable gardens. For them, organic is the only way to go. And you can get by without using chemicals…it just takes a bit more effort on your part. First you need to learn more about organic principles. We live in a spray it and forget it type world, so growing organically is definitely going against the grain. The desire to feed your family healthier food has to come from deep within you for organic gardening to really work. So when you’re out there doing the manual labor that a chemical spray would zap away in seconds, remember why you are doing it and it will make it all worth it.