Whether you're a brand new gardener, or an old "green thumb," you probably have questions. Most geographic questions concerning the performance of certain plants in your area, should be answered by a local gardening authority. Try the agricultural extension service of a nearby university, or for plant-specific questions, a local gardening club or organization.
Where Should I Locate the Vegetable Garden?
Vegetables require sunlight, at least eight hours a day. Most veggies don't like boggy soil, so the garden should go where the soil gets moist, but not soggy. An alternative is to build a raised bed for the vegetable garden. This solves the problem of wet ground and poor soil.
How Should I Prepare the Garden Soil?
Soil preparation is key to the success of any garden. It's very difficult to make up for poor soil solely with extra fertilizer. To adequately prepare your soil, double dig the garden. Add a 6-inch layer of compost, well-rotted manure and organic matter to the garden and mix in well. Every year add another 6 inches before spring planting.
What Should I Plant in the Vegetable Garden?
The answer depends on the climate where you live and what vegetables you like to eat. Check with a local plant nursery or extension service to find out when the first and last frosts occur. The period between the dates is your growing season.
Plant cool-season crops like lettuce, peas, cabbages, broccoli and leafy greens as soon as the ground can be worked, meaning it's not still soggy from spring rains, and the frost date has past. Protect the new veggies from late frosts by covering them with sheets, straw or gallon water bottles cut in half and placed over the plants.
Plant warm-season crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peppers when the ground temperature is at least 60 degrees. That means the air temperature is around 75 degrees.
How Can I Start Seeds?
Get a jump on the season by starting seeds inside six weeks before the date of the last frost in spring. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. Remove and plant in moist potting soil placed in paper cups that have a drainage hole poked in the bottom. Cover the top of the cup with kitchen plastic wrap. Place in a warm, sunny window. The wrap captures the heat which hastens the seed germination. A week before planting in the garden, harden off the seedlings by taking them outside for longer and longer periods of time.
What's the Difference Between an Annual and a Perennial?
Annuals are plants that live for one season. They start from seed in the spring, grow, flower and set seed, then die. The new seeds will sprout the next spring but they are brand new plants. Annuals include both flowers and vegetables. Most vegetables are annuals. There are a few exceptions--asparagus, artichokes and, believe it or not, tomatoes are perennials.
Perennials are plants that don't die at the end of the growing season. They may go dormant and lose their leaves and even branches, but the plant's roots are alive. The plant comes back at the beginning of the next season. Evergreen perennials stay green the entire year. Short lived perennials like hollyhocks may only live three or four years, while roses live for more than 20 years.