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Planting a vegetable garden is time consuming and takes a fair amount of planning, but it's also one of the most rewarding outdoor experiences you can have. Enjoying fresh veggies right out of the garden is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. And if you're at all like me, once you've tasted just how delicious and fresh home-grown veggies are, you'll likely agree that despite how much work and effort goes into planning your ideal vegetable garden, it is well worth it.
So what do you need to know to plant and grow a garden that will produce an amazing bounty all summer long? Actually, not much at all...a few simple tips and tricks and you'll be well on your way. Specifically, in this article we'll cover:
You should take the time to plan your garden, which includes thinking about things like location, sun, accessibility, soil and other things we'll cover here for you. And once that garden is growing, you need to know how to keep up with the maintenance aspect of your space. Weeding and pruning are important, as is learning how to use this year's garden to plan for next – have you heard about crop rotation?
Read on for everything you need to know about successfully growing a vegetable garden, from your vegetable garden layout to when and where to plant.
Planning your vegetable garden is important for several reasons. First, you need the right conditions. Your soil needs to be prepped and tested, and you need to know what you're planting (and where – sun patterns are important). Most importantly, you need to prepare the space you'll plant in. Turning soil and pulling weeds are important first steps that I detail more later in this article. I use the Fiskars® Long-handle Steel Tiller and Steel Extendable Rotary Cultivator to help loosen the soil of my bed location. Once this has been accomplished, I use my Fiskars Aluminum Garden Rake
to smooth out the soil to get ready for planting.
Taking the time and care to plan before you plant means you'll put things in the right place, you'll know what you're planting and you'll better set up your garden for a successful growing season. Not planning, on the other hand, means you risk all your effort being for naught.
The next step in planting is to make a trough for your seeds. I use the Fiskars® Long-handle Aluminum Hoe to dig and then plant my seeds a few inches apart to encourage proper root growth and vegetation spacing.
Perhaps the absolute most important step in your entire planting process is choosing your location. Take your time on this – you want the right amount of sun, easy access to water and relatively flat ground.
If you're still in the planning stages of your garden, you may be wondering how much sun does a vegetable garden need? Most edibles require a minimum of six hours of full sunlight. Without enough sun, your crops will end up being expensive in terms of what you get back, and they'll essentially be time-consuming, frustrating failures. It's true that some vegetables, like many leafy greens and beets, will do fine in shadier spots, but, if you're looking for tasty tomatoes, piles of peas or sugary melons, you definitely need a spot with full sunlight.
Take your time in determining your veggie garden layout – it will help ensure you're planting in the right spots with the right amount of sun.
Edible gardens require a lot of attention. Throughout the growing season, you'll need access to water, and you'll need to weed and harvest consistently, often more than once a day. If you're lucky, your sunniest spot will be close to your kitchen door and near a water source as well. If it isn't, choose the sunny site and be prepared to travel a little further to your vegetable garden location.
Something that many novice gardeners may not realize or even think about is that level ground is the best place to plant vegetable garden plots. Flat ground means water stays where you put it, which is ideal for appropriate water saturation that plants and roots so desperately need during the hot summer growing months. If you plant on a slope, you'll need to take care to ensure water is getting to the plant, not just running down the hill.
Toxicity and chemicals are a huge environmental concern these days. Be sure that you're looking at more than just your own yard when you're thinking about where to plant your vegetable garden. Take into consideration what's around you, too. You want to make sure that your garden location isn't in direct line of any runoff of potential toxins or environmental hazards. Rainwater can allow for toxins to travel, especially if you're downhill from a toxic source, so a quick assessment will confirm that your vegetable garden is in a place that's free from any unnatural or unsafe hazards.
Like I mentioned before, prepping your soil is an important step in planting a garden that will produce. You want to first till, then turn soil before putting plants in the ground.
Tilling will break up and loosen soil so you can rid the space of grass, weeds and other roots that are low in the dirt and will affect your veggies as they attempt to establish and take root. Tilling is easiest when you have an actual garden tiller, but they can be quite expensive. If you're not sure if you want to invest in a big piece of equipment, try borrowing or renting one. For smaller jobs, either the Fiskars® Long-handle Steel Tiller or the Fiskars® Steel Extendable Rotary Cultivator
can do the trick.
You also want to turn your soil, which is easily done after you've tilled by simply picking up shovels full of dirt and turning them over. This will reveal any last patches of Bermuda or other grass roots. A wide, flat shovel like the Fiskars® Ergo D-handle Steel Transfer Shovel is great for this task, as it allows for large sections of dirt to be turned at once. Then, smooth everything out with the Fiskars® Aluminum Garden Rake.
Now that you've prepped your soil, removing all the weeds and grass roots, you're ready to start planting, and future weed elimination will be a snap.
Keeping on top of the weeds in your garden is important for several reasons. First, there's the aesthetics component – nobody wants to look at a garden bed full of weeds. But even more importantly, weeds are aggressive and invasive, stealing essential nutrients and water from your vegetables. Don't let weeds compete for the success of your veggies – with a few simple weeding tips and tricks, and with diligent attention to your plot, you can easily beat the weeds in your veggie garden.
Crop rotation is the basic process of moving your crops, or rotating them, each year so they're not completely depleting the same soil year after year of the essential nutrients your vegetables need. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least three years in between planting locations. In addition to allowing the soil to recover natural nutrients, crop rotation also thwarts disease pathogens or pest infestation from taking over in your vegetable garden.