The first step to any successful vegetable gardening is to plan appropriately. Appropriate planning in a vegetable garden can prevent many of the major disasters that would otherwise arise and destroy the crops.
There are at least four major considerations that need to be taken into account as you plan:
- The location of your garden
- The choice of your plants
- How much you wish to plant, and
- What type of additional structures you will have to construct or purchase for your garden.
The first consideration that will affect all the others is the location of the garden. There have been some studies done that suggest gardens that are planted close to the home are more successful and have less problems with pests.
This may not be ideal, however, because you must put your garden in an area that has plenty of shade and soil drainage, and must be in an area that can both offer access to sunlight and offer shade. For all of these reasons, your vegetable garden may not be able to be cultivated close to your home.
After you decide where you are going to have your garden, you will want to test the soil quality of the area, to make sure it has the right concentration of nutrients, salinity, and acidity to make your vegetables grow.
If these qualities are missing, new topsoil and fertilizers may be used to compensate, but it is necessary to know this ahead of time.
The second consideration to keep in mind as you plan your garden is what plants you want to plant. If this is your first year planting, you might wish to keep with the simpler plants that grow easily and are fairly hardy.
These include onions, tomatoes, squashes, and leafy lettuce. If you have been gardening for some time, you may feel comfortable moving on to more challenging vegetables such as peas and potatoes.
The third consideration to keep in mind is how much do you want to plant? It is always better to plant less crops and have them turn out well than to plant more and have them turn out badly.
Keep in mind all the time you will spend on weeding and the money you will spend on fertilizers and pesticides when you are deciding how much to plant.
Finally, decide what type of structures you will need to build or buy for your garden. If you are growing any type of vine plants, you will have to build a stake system for it to grow along.
Vegetable gardening can be intensely intimidating, particularly if you are new at the hobby. With a little preparation and planning, however, even the most clueless of the new gardeners can grow a gorgeous and tasty crop.
Vegetable Gardening and the Soil pH
The amount of acidity and alkalinity is measured in pH, and when you are planning your new vegetable garden, one of the most important things you can do is test your soil’s pH levels. Vegetable gardening that skips this step will not be as successful as those that include it.
In terms of pH, 7 is the magic number. Any number that comes back higher than 7 indicates an alkaline soil, while any number that comes back lower than 7 is acidic soil.
Generally speaking, moister climates more frequently have acid soils, while the dryer ones have alkaline soils, but this is a rule of thumb and can be influenced and altered by many outside features.
This is why it is essential to test your soil before you plant your vegetables. You can alter the pH of the soil, but for best results that is a process that needs to be done before you begin planting.
You have two options for testing the pH of your soil. The first option is to buy a pH testing kit from any of your local garden centers or nurseries. If you go this route, your kit will have a test tube, a solution, and a color chart.
Soil is put into the test tube, along with the solution and after a period of time, you can compare the color of the solution to the colors on the chart. Based on the color result, you will be able to determine whether the soil is acidic or alkaline.
On the other hand, if this approach intimidates you, try calling around to your local garden centers. Most will happily test the solution for you. Most of these gardening centers can also suggest materials to adjust the acid content of your soil, which would be your next step. This is a step that will require adding lime to raise the alkaline traits or sulfur to raise the acidity of your soil.
You should be cautioned, however, that many plants will not be tolerant of growing in lime.
The right acid content for the plants you wish to grow will vary by plant. Getting the correct type of soil will require the appropriate research to determine what kind of soil the plants you wish to grow need.
Overall, soil pH is a very important factor to consider when planning your vegetable garden. It can be one of the more challenging aspects of vegetable gardening, but it is absolutely vital that it is not a step, which is skipped.
Read also: Know About Soil Moisture Meters
Preparing the Soil
Vegetable gardening is not as simple as digging a hole and dropping in the seed. Vegetable gardening requires careful preparation of the soil before the carefully prepared seed can be sown.
In planting your plants, it is important to decide first which plants you are going to plant next to one another. This will be determined by the amount of room you have to grow in, the amount of room your plants need, and the types of plants you plan to grow in your vegetable garden.
For example, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins will all require more space than leafy lettuce or most beans, because they will need to have room to grow and vine.
Likewise, you will want to plant the vegetables that have similar growing seasons close together so that you can reuse that soil once the vegetables have been harvested.
After you have planned out your garden, you need to prepare the soil. The first and most essential step is testing the pH levels of your soil.
As long as the pH level matches the pH level required by the plants you want to grow, it really doesn’t matter what type of soil you use, as long as it is gravel free, able to absorb moisture, has plenty of organic matter, and will drain well. Items that will inhibit the growth of vegetables and are often found in soil include gravel, shale, and sand.
The next step in preparing your soil is to plow your soil. This should be done when your soil is dry. Plowing while it is wet will cause the soil to cake, and become inappropriate and inhospitable to growing young plants.
Along with plowing the soil, fertilizers should be added to the soil during this stage, before the planting of the vegetables.
As you plant your vegetables, you should plant any stakes or trellises before planting the seeds that require them, so that you do not accidentally plant them too close to one another.
When sowing your seeds, pay careful attention to the depth that is recommended on the back of your seed packets. Plant extra seeds in each row. This is to ensure plants develop because not all of the seeds will germinate.
After the seeds are planted, it is important to keep your soil moist, because plants cannot germinate and grow without moisture.
In summation, careful preparation of your soil and proper sowing of your plants can make your vegetable gardening a much more successful endeavor. The time spent on soil preparation and seeding can help you avoid bigger problems later.
You have planned your garden carefully. You took all the recommended steps in vegetable gardening: the soil was tested for pH and nutrients, fertilizer was added during the plowing stage, vegetables were exposed to plenty of sunlight, and plenty of moisture was given to the seedlings.
The first few germinations are starting to pop up, and you’ve now reached the all-important maintenance stage of vegetable gardening. Many people are worried about this stage; for fear that they will mess it up and ruin all their hard work.
The first rule of maintenance is to always keep plenty of fresh water provided to your garden. This may not be necessary if you live in a particularly moist climate, but for most of the North American continent, it will be necessary to water plants by hand at least once a week, depending on the dryness of the region. As a general rule, plants require an inch of water each week.
An additional tip is to utilize mulching. A little mulching between the rows of the plants will conserve moisture and help cut down on weeds.
Speaking of weeds, every gardener knows what a pain the weeding process can be, but it is important to make sure your vegetable garden is well weeded. Weeds can steal precious light and water and crowd out the space needed for roots.
One of the biggest problems for any vegetable gardener is the problem of insect pests. Keeping the insects out before they become a major problem is essential because pesticides cannot be used on flowering plants.
Finally, after all your plants have been harvested, gather the excess your vegetation matter into a pile to be used for compost. This pile can help grow your crop the following year.
The maintenance stage of the vegetable gardening experience is sometimes the easiest stage of gardening. By keeping the plants moist, free from weeds and pests, and well cared for, you will ensure a great harvest.
Vegetable Gardening and Mulch
For vegetable gardens, mulching is a very important step to include, because it helps retain moisture and keep out weeds. There are additional claims that it will help cool down and heat up the soil, and that it can help reduce the insect population of a garden.
In simple terms, the simple step of mulching can spare most people a lot of hard work in their vegetable gardening that can arise if this step is skipped. Even more importantly, this step is rather easy to do because you can create mulch out of many items you have laying around in the home.
One type of mulch that is used by many is the very simple, and very cheap newspaper. Excluding the glossy ad sections, the newspaper is cut into one-inch strips and placed around the vegetables. This will form a mat when the paper is wet, and help to secure the moisture around the vegetables.
Another tip that many people use as mulch is the usage of wheat straw. Not only does straw keep in moisture, it also makes a great compost after the straw has decomposed. Be careful against using hay, however, as it has been known in some instances to increase weed production.
Combining the newspaper and the straw will do a doubly good job as serving as a mulch.
Many gardeners prefer to use leaves and bark chips to use as mulch. These materials, like the straw, will make for a good compost pile when the growing season is over.
If you are lucky enough to live in a place where your town collects grass clippings, you might have free access to collections of grass clippings. These will do well to keep your garden mulched, but on the other hand, most lawns come processed with a variety of chemicals that could prove to be unwanted.
Overall, though there has been some concern that mulching can cause more rats, slugs, and mice in vegetable gardens, it has been proven that gardens that include mulching will retain their moisture, lower insect populations, enrich the soil, and keep out weeds. For these reasons, adequate mulching is a definite must for any vegetable gardening.