There are several things that you must do to successfully grow a vegetable garden, including preparation prior to planting. Without preparation, you risk the chance that the vegetables will have poor output or will be diseased. Certain care must be taken during the growth process to keep the plants free of disease and encourage high output.
Preparation Before Planting
In the fall, remove all plants, including the entire root ball. Till the garden and remove any stones, rocks and other debris. Spread compost on the garden bed, then till the compost into the bed. If the garden is new, remove all sod and other debris before tilling. Till the bed once more in the spring, just before planting. Take a soil test to ensure that the garden bed has all necessary nutrients. If the garden is still missing nutrients, even after adding compost in the fall, amend the soil once more, using compost.
Plan the garden according to what you are planting. Some vegetables, such as pumpkin, squash, cucumber and watermelon, need a lot of room to grow, as these are viny vegetables. These vegetables should be planted in a separate section of the garden, so that the vines can use all the room needed for the best production. If you are planting corn, consider a separate garden or make sure it is planted so it doesn't block sunlight from the rest of the vegetables.
Planting and Growing
Plant seeds or seedlings according to spacing and planting instructions for each type of vegetable. Most vegetables need at least 8 to 12 inches between plants. They can be planted closer together as seeds, but need to be thinned to the appropriate spacing once the seedlings reach 4 to 5 inches in height. When small viny vegetables, such as beans and peas, reach 6 to 7 inches in height, set up trellises for the vines so the plant grows up, instead of on the ground. This helps the plants get more sun and give a higher output.
During the growing season, weed the garden often. Weeds not only steal nutrients from the plants, but many weeds also harbor disease and encourage pests. Use a hoe to get the weeds out, but, if possible, it is always best to pull out the entire weed, making sure to get the roots of the weed. Water and fertilize the garden as needed. Vegetable plants need a lot of water for high production, but, on the same token, you do not want to drown the vegetables. Watering once per week with at least an inch of water per week, keeping the ground moist to a depth of at least 4 inches is enough for most plants, as long as the soil is well draining. Fertilize as needed and shown by soil testing. Soil test kits are available at your local nursery or garden store.