Top 7 Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden

Top 7 Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden

Congratulations! A new season has arrived, and you've resolved to take new directions to better your life. For some time, you've been wanting to start, expand or change the current layout of your vegetable garden. Now you're finally ready to move ahead and turn those dreams into reality.

That's great, because a positive project like this will be a bright spot in what is turning out to be a very challenging year. A few basic spring gardening tips can help you grow the best veggies ever. Here are seven steps from DripWorks that will lead to your success.

Planning

The first thing you should think about is how many people you hope to feed from your veggie garden. Next, decide whether you plan to use most of your crop fresh or to process the bulk of your harvest for consumption later by freezing, drying or canning.

Obviously, most greens need to be eaten fresh, so if you are a big fan of healthy, tasty and easy-to-grow greens, sowing lettuce seeds or seedlings at the beginning of each month in the spring will stagger the harvest of each planting for your dinner table. One delightful but often overlooked green is the bush-like basil plant. You can put basil leaves in a blender with a few other ingredients, like garlic, olive oil and pine nuts, and end up with delicious and nutritious pesto you can eat fresh or preserve by freezing. Just two or three plants will provide a family with a year's worth of pasta con pesto.

Site Selection

Choosing the best site is the most crucial of our vegetable gardening tips to follow, since it will determine the success of the harvest. If you would like to grow sun-loving tomatoes, peppers or melons or other warm-weather plants like squash or corn, an area with at least eight hours of southern sun exposure away from root competition and shade from trees and bushes is necessary.

If it's leafy greens you're after, partially shaded or filtered sun exposure will work. Good candidates for this type of light include lettuce, chard, kale and spinach. Take a look at your present garden with a fresh set of eyes, feel the passion for growing plants well up inside you, but don't forget the hard work it will require to be successful.

Working the Soil

If you are starting a new garden or preparing your established garden for planting, you will need to build your soil each year. Add a three-inch layer of fresh, rich compost you have made, or organic soil bought by the bag or by the yard, and then lightly digging it in. Only go down about four to six inches to avoid upsetting the microbial activity in the soil. These beneficial microbes will attach to the roots of plants and help them assimilate all the nutrients they'll need for optimum growth.

All soils have microbes, but sometimes the amount present is not enough to be very beneficial. If you want your garden to reach its full potential, use a fertilizer injector. You can easily connect one to your drip-irrigation system. As the system is running, the fertilizer will mix with the water and become easily available to your crop.

Purchasing Plants

If you are starting your garden with plant starts from a nursery, big-box store or farmer's market, take a list of your favorite-tasting vegetables with you when you go seedling shopping. Starting from seed can be more economical, but if you have a small garden the money outlay for seedlings will be minimal. Buying young plants can also save you time. If you had used seeds, you would have needed to start a few months earlier.

If you want to start your own plants, you will also need some extra equipment for success. Planting outside requires a place such as a hothouse or small greenhouse. Inside you will need an indoor lighting system.

All in all, you will save time and money buying plant starts. If you are starting your garden now, buy some healthy vibrant starts from a nursery with knowledgeable employees to guide you. You could also research online which vegetables are best for your area and then go to a big-box store, where the wide selection will satisfy your needs.

Planting

At this point, you have built and filled your new garden beds or top-dressed your garden. You have your seeds and seedlings in hand and are ready to plant. I must emphasize again the power of microbes by advising the sprinkling of the planting hole and the immediately surrounding soil with a dry powdered microbe mix. Doing this will help make the fertilizer readily available, exponentially increasing the growth of your veggies.

Now is the time to plant your sun-loving crops. Come late summer, you can sow cool-season crops like carrots, cabbages, kale and chard to harvest in the fall. In some coastal areas of California and some areas west of highway 101, year-round gardening is possible by using some frost protection-fabric. This row-cover material will let light and moisture nourish your plants while protecting them from cold snaps.

Irrigation

You've probably heard the old saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. That holds true for gardening as well as for many other ventures in life.

Plan your irrigation system so you get it right the first time. That will make it a sure thing. If you are unsure or have questions, get some help from someone who is experienced. You're in luck if you have a friend or neighbor who has successfully set up a drip-irrigation system before.

Another way to get clear instructions is to go to our website and explore the Resources section. You will discover simple but thorough directions as well as examples of laid out systems of every type. These include landscapes, backyard garden beds and rose gardens as well as row-crop gardens for the homeowner and small farms. See the Gallery of Plans and the Drip Planning Guide for more information. Watch the many videos on the website to educate yourself by seeing it firsthand. Visiting the starter irrigation kits section will also help you get the supplies you need to get it right the first time.

Attention to Detail/Maintenance

A drip system will greatly diminish the chore of weeding because it waters just one specific spot on the surface and spreads out under the ground. There will be very little moisture available for weeds to take hold and sprout.

That said, even when a garden with an irrigation system is set up correctly, things can go awry. There can be problems with rodents and animals like deer, rabbits, gophers and moles. A six- to eight-foot tall fence will be necessary to keep deer out. Your local nursery or hardware store should be able to help you with that.

Being vigilant and visiting your garden daily will overcome practically any challenge. This habit will turn into a passion when your first harvest comes in.

With a little preparation and work, you will enjoy abundant harvests you can share with family, friends and neighbors or put aside for consuming in the dreary winter months ahead. Once you have laid the basic groundwork, you can enjoy happy gardening in 2020 and for many years to come.

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