Having a vegetable garden and being able to harvest your own food is both rewarding and satisfying. To be successful, a gardener needs to plan what they are going to plant long in advance and be prepared to start seeds inside well in advance of planting, when necessary.
Most vegetables will grow equally well from seeds as they will from store bought plants. If you plan to grow any of your vegetables from seed, you will need to know which vegetables must planted long before you plan to plant them outdoors. I believe in playing it safe, so I always plan to start the vegetables that need to be started indoors ten weeks before they are to be planted outside. You need to add any time for hardening your seedlings off into this plan, so that’s why ten weeks is the ideal time.
Broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes need to be started in advance. You will need to have some sterile seed starting mix on hand. Make sure that if you use potting soil, it also contains peat moss and Perlite. A soil mix without fertilizer is preferable. Not all fertilizers are well suited to all plants. If you use peat pellets, you will not have to worry about soil. Peat pellets are self contained planting units that expand when soaked in warm water.
Garden centers sell plastic greenhouses that will hold many small seed starting pots. These are ideal. You will also need to have bright light and a warm place. Cut several slits in the top of the plastic green house. Without air circulation, the soil will get moldy quickly. Make sure you have plant stakes so you can label your seedlings. They will need to be short enough to allow the top of the plastic greenhouse to close.
Depending on how much of any given vegetable you want to plant, you may want to use one greenhouse unit for each individual vegetable. They do make smaller greenhouses, so this is also an option. Don’t over plant. If your garden is well tilled and the soil is properly amended, each plant should produce a decent harvest. Several plants of each vegetable should be plenty.
Always till the ground before planting. If you plan to have a garden, build a compost heap. Compost is the best, fastest and cheapest way to improve the quality of your soil. Add composted manure if possible. It will further improve the quality of your soil. Aside from tilling, remember to rotate the positioning or your crops every year.
Before planting your tomato plants in the ground, add some bone meal and lime to the hole where you plan to put the plant. This will add additional calcium and tomatoes are always susceptible to blossom end rot, a condition caused by insufficient calcium and unbalanced levels of water. Tomatoes need consistent water. They will have problems if they get too wet or are allowed to get too dry.
Lettuce, carrots, onions, potatoes, spinach, beans, peas and radishes can all be sown directly into the soil. Before going out to plant them, plot out your garden plan. Be sure you keep your layout because it will help you remember what was planted where when you go to create your garden again the next year. Peas and beans will germinate faster if the seeds are soaked for a couple of days before they are planted.
Beans and peas generally grow on vines, so they will need to be supported. A trellis or some sort of mesh fencing will work well. As long as the vines are able to grip on and grow up the support, the vines should grow well. To prevent the supports from harming tender small plants, it’s best to put them in place as soon as you plant the seeds. Put tomato cages in place as soon as you plant your tomatoes.
With crops like spinach, lettuce, peas and radishes, since they are cool weather crops, stagger plantings. This will allow you to extend the length of harvest. Also plan to plant these crops again in the fall. Spinach will tolerate light frost. If you live in a warmer climate, many cool weather crops can be grown during the winter.
Carrots and radishes will need to be thinned after the seedlings are about two inches tall. Lettuce and spinach won’t mind the crowding as much. Peas and beans should be planted about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Be sure to allow at least a foot of space between your rows.
Corn is not a good crop for a home gardener to plant. It takes up a lot of space, and it is necessary to have a minimum of four rows to allow for cross pollination. Rows should be planted 18 inches apart. Because corn grows so tall, it will likely shade your other crops and prevent them from getting sufficient sun.
Although squash, pumpkins, zucchini and melons all grow on runners that grow on the ground, they can be a wonderful addition to a garden, provided you have some space. Plant these in hills with 4 to 5 seeds in a hill. Plant each hill at least 2 1/2 to 3 feet from one another.
Your vegetable garden will need 2 inches of water a week. Water everything really well immediately after planting it. To ensure that your garden gets enough water to keep the soil somewhat moist under the surface, water two or three times a week for a longer time. Watering deeply like this will allow the soil to better absorb water. The best time to water is early in the morning, but if you live in a very warm climate, watering at dusk is advisable. Watering at dusk will allow the soil to absorb all the water, but if you water early in the day, especially when it’s very hot out, the sun will dry up the soil very quickly.