Starting your home vegetable garden and growing your own vegetables, herbs and fruits will provide food that is fresher, more nutritious and tastier than whats available in retail stores. And, you can grow them for very little cost.
Consider going organic. A paradox of the home vegetable garden is that growing organic is no more expensive than growing conventionally the costs are usually the same. Compare that with produce in the grocery store where organic vegetables command a much higher price.
The most successful home gardens are those with vegetables you love to eat.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Choose the best garden location
Vegetable gardens need full sun, at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. The garden should have easy access to water with a garden hose.
Good soil is needed also. Soil should be loose and loamy with have enough organic matter to hold moisture. Turn the soil well to about eight inches deep; mix in organic soil amendments and planting fertilizer. Amend the soil with compost or E.B. Stone Flower & Vegetable Planting Mix and E.B. Stone SureStart® fertilizer.
Vegetables and fruits take a lot of nutrients out of the soil, so add plenty before planting. I’ve used E.B. Stone products for years and they are one of my favorites for the garden.
2. Better use of garden space
Do not grow horizontally that which can grow vertically. Trellis and stake tomatoes, squash, cucumber and pole beans. Trellis, stakes, cages and other supports minimize the ground space used and increase garden productivity.
3. Warm season vegetables to grow
4. Cool season vegetables to grow
Fall and early winter, in milder climate zones, is the time to plant cool season vegetables like arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage collards, carrots, celery, chard, fennel, kale, kohirabi, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes and spinach.
5. The garden plan
Make a sketch of the garden area showing the dimensions of the garden. Prepare a list of vegetables to be grown, how many plants and how far apart.
If this is your first vegetable garden, think small. Enlarge it later if needed. A 10’ x 16’ garden can feed a family of 4 for the summer. A 10’ x 8’ can produce about half the vegetables for a family of 4.
Tall crops such as corn, tomatoes and pole beans should be planted on the north side of the garden so they will not shade low-growing crops.
6. Garden tools
The minimum tools needed for a home garden.
Spade or shovel; to turn over soil
Rake; to smooth out soil after spading
Hoe; to remove tough weeds
Yardstick, twine and stakes; to space rows evenly
Putty knife or spatula; for transplanting seedlings and cleaning tools
Trowel; for transplanting and firm soil around roots
Dibble; pointed stick to make holes for seedlings
7. Planting seeds and plants
Remember; grow only what you like to eat!
You can grow vegetables from seed, or you can buy young plants or seedlings from a nursery. Vegetables grown from young plants are ready to harvest earlier but seeds are the less expensive option. Vegetables commonly bought as young plants are; tomatoes, lettuce, peas and beans.
Buy fresh seeds from a reputable dealer or nursery. Some seeds such as onion, parsley and parsnip lose viability after about a year. Seeds of other vegetables are good for 3 years. Always check the date on the seed packet before purchasing seeds.
Direct seed into garden bed: beans, peas, radish, beats, fava beans and endive.
Lettuce and arugula seeds can be planted by individual placement or broadcast into the garden bed.
Plant young plants or seedlings by digging a hole twice as deep and 1-1/2 times as wide as the roots. Mix ¼ cup of SureStart® in bottom of hole. Plant the seedling at the same level as the plants’ soil. Firm soil around roots and water well.
Create a “well” of soil around seedlings to hold water as it soaks in.
Water thoroughly every three days for first few weeks, then once a week throughout the spring at summer.
9. Feeding and fertilizing
Feed vegetables with a good organic fertilizer such as E.B. Stone Fertilizer every 6- to 8-weeks during the growing season until harvest.
10. Harvesting, storage and preservation
Harvest vegetables when they are at the best stage for eating. Vegetables are crisper and cooler if harvested in the early morning.
To prepare vegetables for storage, discard any part that shows evidence of decay. Immediately use any bruised or soft vegetables.
If storing vegetables in the refrigerator but not in the crisper, package them in plastic bags or plastic containers. Do not store ripe fruits together with vegetables in the crisper. Many ripe fruits product ethylene gas which will cause yellowing of green vegetables, russet spotting on lettuce, toughening of asparagus, sprouting of potatoes and a bitter taste in carrots.
Enjoy your garden fresh vegetables!