When the gardening catalogs come out in the winter, we have visions of attractive rows of vegetables breaking through the spring soil. Growing a vegetable garden may not seem like a daunting task in the spring, but if not planned wisely, your new garden may be hard to manage by mid-summer. Assess your family's needs and how much work will be involved before you turn over your soil in the spring.
Locating a vegetable garden requires more than just finding an unused spot in the yard. Most vegetables need at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight to be productive. Planting your garden near trees or shrubs not only block the sunlight from your garden during the day, but also forces your vegetables to compete with the neighboring foliage for nutrients and water. Locating your garden near your water source eliminates the need to run an irrigation system across your yard or drag your hose to the garden each day. Choose a location with good drainage to save yourself the trouble of amending difficult soil.
Consider what you want to achieve from your vegetable garden. If your purpose is to supplement your family's diet with vegetables during the summer months, your garden should be smaller than if you want to process your own produce for the fall and winter months. The Ohio State University Extension recommends a new gardener start out with a small plot of no more than 10 feet by 20 feet, while a 20-by-40-foot vegetable garden is suited for those who are processing their food for storage. A common mistake is to plant too much, resulting in a weedy, overrun garden.
Think about the amount of time you want to devote to your garden before planting. Weeding, mulching, watering and harvesting your vegetables all require good time management. A 20-by-20-foot garden requires at least one-half hour of work per day in the spring and one-half hour of work every few days throughout the rest of the growing season according to the Ohio State University Extension.
Consider your reason for growing your own vegetables. Not all vegetables are cost-effective to grow in the home garden. Purdue University Extension reports that you should consider the hidden expenses of growing your own vegetables, such as the purchase of your equipment, seeds, plants and your time involved. Calculate your costs to your yield and compare that to your local grocery store prices. Visit your local extension office to find out which vegetable varieties are recommended for your area to achieve the greatest yield.