Avoid the grocery store produce aisle, often filled with under- or over-ripe vegetables shipped far distances and treated with chemicals. Grow fresh and healthy vegetables in your backyard. Though specific management practices vary according to the vegetable species, several general cultural tips can help ensure a bountiful garden harvest.
There are hundreds of hybrids and cultivars available for common vegetable species such as tomatoes, squash and beans. Not all cultivars perform alike, and many are bred to thrive in specific regions. Consult your regional cooperative extension office to find what vegetable varieties grow best in your area.
Most vegetable species need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight for optimal growth and fruit production, according to the University of Illinois. Choose an open area that receives as much sun as possible. The University of Illinois also suggests selecting a site that's away from large shrubs or trees, as such vegetation's roots often compete with the roots of the vegetable plants.
North Carolina State University estimates that a 25-square-foot garden plot will provide a sufficient amount of growing space for most households. If this is your first vegetable garden plot, don't get too ambitious. The university says it's easier to expand a garden as you get accustomed to it instead of trying to handle a very large plot all at once.
Directly sowing seeds into the garden soil often comprises the cheapest method of starting a vegetable garden. Follow the directions on the seed packet for seed depth recommendations and suggestions on plant spacing. Alternatively, use seedlings from a garden store or nursery. Vegetables that do well as transplants include peppers, tomatoes and eggplant, according to Iowa State University, and offer a head start on the growing season.
A healthy vegetable garden starts with healthy soil. Use a spade and breakup the soil to a depth of 10 inches to allow for proper root development, according to the University of Illinois. Generously mix in 4 inches of organic matter, such aged compost, to add micronutrients and increase the dirt's ability to retain water. The university also recommends using a general all-purpose vegetable fertilizer like a 10-10-10 or a 12-12-12 product, applied before planting according to its labeled guidelines.