Have you ever considered planting a vegetable garden? With spring around the corner, and our thoughts turning toward all things green, now is the time to make plans if you desire to grow vegetables this summer. Often new-comers to gardening are intimidated by the prospect of tilling, planting, weeding and harvesting. However, with some basic knowledge and a strong desire, you can easily get hooked on vegetable gardening.
Some people garden out of necessity and others out of a love for the hobby. Either way, consider the benefits of garden-grown produce. It is less expensive than what you buy from the store or farmer’s market. Often, you pay only the cost of the seeds or plants you purchased and fertilizer. You also get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that no pesticides or chemicals have been used during the growing process. There is also a tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with eating something you have grown yourself. So let’s get started!
1. Determine how much space you have in which to plant. If you are going to till up the ground, measure the area out so you know how many items you can plant. Likewise, if you are going to plant in boxes to be kept on your deck or porch, know how much space you are going to be working with. If you want to simply plant a few tomato plants in buckets, that is fine too.
2. If you want to get an early start on planting, and would like to save money by purchasing seeds instead of starter plants, begin indoors. Many gardeners plant indoors during the months of February, March and April. Peppers, onions and tomatoes are good plants to start inside. You can use Styrofoam cups for planting, just be sure to poke holes in the bottom for the water to drain out. Plants started indoors can be kept in the basement under a florescent light. The damp air found in basements is good for growing plants. Plants should be transferred to the primary gardening area when they are 6″ tall.
3. If you are planting in ground not previously used for gardening, you will need to borrow or rent a tiller. Virgin ground should be tilled several times to thoroughly break up all of the ground and make the soil loose for planting. All dirt clods need to be removed prior to planting and if you like, fertilizer may be added to the soil. Do not be discouraged with this process. The first year of tilling is the most work and things get much easier with each additional planting season.
4. Plant outdoors only after the danger of frost has passed for your region. Some states in warmer climates can plant outdoors as early as April, others cannot do so until June. Certain plants are especially susceptible to dying from frost, including peppers, tomatoes, and vine plants. Root vegetables as well as some others can withstand a little frost. I usually plant peas, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, and beans early and save my other plants for warmer weather. Be sure to follow the instructions that came with your seeds and plants for planting depth, space between plants, and sunlight requirements.
5. Be careful to weed, especially during and immediately after germination. If you let weeds creep in too soon, you will have difficulty telling the weeds from the plant when it first comes up. Though a carefully weeded garden is ideal throughout the whole growing process, it is especially helpful during the early growth of the plant.
6. Keep your plants watered. If your region is not receiving regular rainfall every three days or so, you will need to water. Vine plants such as cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupe are easily damaged by lack of hydration. The best times to water are in the evening or morning. Watering between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM is counterproductive during the summer as the water evaporates on the plant, rather than sinking down into the root.
If you want to give vegetable gardening a try, do not be overwhelmed by the process. Consider doing just a few plants the first year so you can get a feel for all that goes into gardening. You will likely find that you enjoy it as a hobby, as well as a money-saving, healthy alternative to store bought produce.