Vegetable gardening is a rewarding experience, no matter how large your garden might be, from two containers on the patio to 2 acres. Vegetables you grow yourself are fresher and simply taste better. The satisfaction of harvesting a healthy vegetable crop--that you grew yourself from seeds or tiny plants--is incomparable.
Rotate Your Crops
Some varieties of vegetables belong to the same family. Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower belong to one family. Tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes also share a family classification. Plants that belong to the same family tend to be affected by the same pests and plant diseases. These pests and diseases can become concentrated in the soil as the years go by. To combat this, rotate crops from season to season. Plants from the same family should not be cultivated in the same spot two consecutive years.
Mix Flowers, Herbs and Vegetables
Mixing flowers, herbs, and vegetables in your garden design can create a garden that is lovely to look at and functional. The bright colors of the flowers against the broad, rich green leaves of the vegetable plants can be striking. Having them in proximity allows you the convenience of picking herbs you need for cooking, vegetables for the dinner table and flowers to decorate your outdoor or indoor dining area, all at the same time. You also get the benefits of companion planting: Certain plants can help others by keeping pests away, improving the flavor, or providing shade. An example is the herb chervil, which may enhance the flavor and encourage growth of both broccoli and lettuce planted nearby.
Prepare Soil Carefully
Preparing the soil in advance of planting can be hard labor, particularly in soil that has never been cultivated before. Vegetable garden soil must be loose, not compacted. It must have adequate drainage so moisture can reach the plant roots but not drown them. Nutrients from organic matter are essential. Turn the soil to a depth of at least 1 foot with a shovel. Break up heavy dirt clods with a garden fork. Add 2 inches of organic matter, such as compost, and work it into the soil. In heavy clay soil, adding peat moss can improve aeration, but the soil will still need additional nutrients.
Plant Vegetables With Care
If you purchase vegetable plants in containers, water them before planting. If the vegetable bed is dry, water it several days ahead. The ideal soil for planting is moist, not soaked. Be careful about compacting the soil as you work. Gardeners often put a board down between the rows to kneel or walk on. Don't plant the vegetables too close together. Visually, your garden might seem sparse, but remember the plants will rapidly spread out and fill the area in. The hole for each plant should be slightly deeper and several inches wider than the root ball. Gently loosen the compacted roots at the side and bottom of the plant. Don't add fertilizer to the hole--it could burn the plant's roots. After you fill in soil around the plant, pat it down lightly and water around it.