Growing your own fruits and vegetables is one of the most rewarding gardening experiences you'll undertake. Home-grown produce is almost always tastier, less expensive and more nutritious than grocery store counterparts. Whether you have a large garden plot or a few patio containers, you can grow almost any vegetable or fruit at home.
Select the sunniest spot in your yard for your vegetable garden. Choose a location that is fairly level and not at the bottom of a slope where frost pockets develop. Remove all rocks, weeds and debris from the site.
Spread 2 inches of compost over your garden area and shovel under to a depth of 8 inches. Add additional compost if you have compacted clay soil. Rake the surface to smooth and level it.
Plant cool-season crops such as lettuce, peas, onions and carrots four weeks before the last expected frost. Plant these crops from seed by making a furrow 1/4 inch deep in the soil with a hoe. Drop the seeds in the hole by hand, spacing them 1 inch apart. Onions are also grown from onion sets. Plant these at a depth of 2 inches under the soil and 3 inches apart.
Plant raspberry and strawberry plants in mid-spring when the ground is workable. Dig a hole as large as the potted plant with a shovel or trowel. Remove the plant from its pot and slide it into the hole. Backfill with soil and tamp down gently. Berries are perennials, meaning they come back every year. Plant them in their own garden space as they grow quite large. Strawberries spread on runners and become invasive if neglected.
Plant warm-season vegetables after the last frost. These include corn, beans, melons, tomatoes and peppers. Plant corn, beans, melon and pumpkins from seed, according to package directions. Plant tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from nursery plants as these plants are slow-maturing and won't grow quickly enough from seed.
Water your vegetables and fruit to keep soil evenly moist. Check the soil every two or three days during dry weather. The soil should feel moist 2 to 3 inches under the surface. Water deeply for 30 minutes until moist, but not soggy. Vegetables and fruit need constant, even moisture. Periods of drought followed by heavy watering promote disease and stunt growth, slowing fruit production.
Apply a granular fertilizer two weeks after planting, midsummer, and as plants are setting fruit. Hand spread the fertilizer according to package directions around the plants. Cultivate lightly with a hoe and water to activate fertilizer. Don't get the fertilizer on the plants' roots or leaves.
Cultivate the soil weekly to remove weeds. Weeds are a problem when plants are just growing. As the plants get bigger, they shade the ground and crowd out most weeds.