Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

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Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Vegetables
are easy to grow and are very rewarding at harvest time. The most
important requirements are sunshine and watering. Other requirements
are a loosened soil, some fertilizer, and a little bit of weeding. If
you have an area in your yard that gets sunshine most of the day (6-8
hours in summer) then you can have a vegetable garden. The first time
you start a new garden requires the most amount of work, but don’t get
discouraged, the work you do in the beginning does not have to be done
again each year.

The
ground that the plants will grow in needs to be loosened up so that the
roots of the tender vegetable plants can grow into your soil and make
strong, healthy plants. The roots are the only way the plant takes up
water and nutrients so you want to make their job easy. Unfortunately,
soil found in most yards has become compacted over the years and can be
as hard as concrete in summer. Therefore, the best time to dig your
garden is early spring when it is moist enough to dig easily but not so
wet that the soil is muddy and heavy. The first step is to mark out
your spot making sure there are no trees or large shrubs around it with
roots that will spread into your garden. Then, remove the grass and
create some type of border around the garden to keep it neat and weed
free. I also recommend a short fence if you have pets, as the garden
can easily be mistaken for a large litter box.

You
must dig your soil to loosen the clumps and allow air in, which will
allow the roots to breathe (yes, they need air also). The depth that I
recommend is at least 12″. It seems like a lot when you are digging but
keep in mind that your tomato plants will extend their roots
approximately 2 feet down into the soil. I use a large digging fork and
involve my whole family but a rototiller makes short work of it. Rakes
also help in smoothing the soil out after the digging is done. You
should add about 2″ of compost at this point and mix it into the soil
well. Do not add too much, 10-20% of the soil should be compost, but no
more than that or you will over- fertilize your garden. When it looks
like a good place to lie down and take a nap then you are ready to
plant. You may also need Lime or Gypsum in your garden to correct the
Ph. If you live in an area with lots of rainfall, add lime every year,
about 1 pound per 100 sq. feet. If you have low rainfall amounts each
year, you may need to add some Gypsum to new gardens to remove some of
the salt content. Check with your local garden center for the correct
amount.

Before
you plant, you need to do some planning to allow enough room for the
plants you want to grow. Plants generally get very large and you need
to allow enough space for each one, or the plant will become stressed
and may not produce good fruit. When you purchase them most plants will
have information on how much room they will need when fully grown. A
good rule of thumb is to allow 18-24″ spacing for most plants. I
recommend using a paper & pencil to draw the garden plan out.
Always keep in mind that the sun will be important to all of the plants
so put the tallest ones in the back so they do not shade the shorter
ones.

Some plants you may wish to grow in your first garden for Summer harvest:

Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, Bush Beans, Eggplant, and Cucumbers (If you have lots of room then you should also plant Corn.)

Spring and Fall crops include:

Leaf Lettuce, Broccoli, Spinach, and Peas

Plant
at least 2-3 of each type of plant, depending on how many vegetables
you want, but don’t worry about using all 6 plants in the 6 packs or
you will have so much fruit you may never eat another cucumber again.
You should water gently after planting until the soil is moist at 1″
below the surface. Water again when the soil appears dry on the top.
This can happen daily in warm summers. I recommend putting newspaper
strips or pine needles as mulch around the plants to protect the soil
from drying out so quickly and to keep the soil cool when the
temperatures go up.

Keep
an eye out for signs of insect damage to the leaves, mostly holes
chewed by caterpillars. If you see this then you can use an organic
insecticide such as Bacillius Thuringiensis ( or BT worm killer)
according to package instructions. Do not spray strong insecticides
every time you see an ant. You will poison your vegetables and stress
your plants out which will reduce your crop and may kill your garden.
Most insects are actually supposed to be there for pollination and to
eat caterpillars, so only spray when you see something that is eating a
leaf and causing severe damage, and then check the labels carefully to
make sure the insecticides are organic and safe for vegetables.

Weeds
are a fact of life with gardening but they should be pulled, not
sprayed. Again, the poison to the weeds is poison to us. If you check
for weeds every 2-3 days and use a weeding tool, the work goes fast and
easy. Using a mulch will keep many weeds from starting.

I
highly recommend Organic fertilizers such as worm castings or Osmocote
pellets which can be purchased in our Catalog. These are mixed in at
planting time and last almost the whole growing season. If you wish to
use a spray on fertilizer, (such as Miracle Gro), then approximately
every 3-4 weeks, spray the leaves of the plants according to package
instructions for vegetables. You may use any type of “complete”
fertilizer that is recommended for vegetables, as they are all
basically the same ingredients, but remember, more is not better, so follow the instructions carefully to keep from over fertilizing.

If
you follow the above instructions, you will be successful in harvesting
lots of vegetables. It really is easy and you will learn more every
year. Experiment and do not get discouraged if something does not work
the first time. People have been gardening for 30 years and are still
learning new things every year. Good luck!

 

 


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