Vegetable gardening is not hard, once the garden is created, but it is very time-consuming. All the time spent is worth it once the first tomato is harvested and the family has all the homegrown vegetables it needs. The most important thing is to start small and work up to a large garden. A new gardener can become overwhelmed, so start with only five to six vegetables.
Gardens need three things: sun, good soil and water. Locate gardens in an area that gets six to eight hours of sun per day. It must be well drained so that no water gathers when there is a storm. The area must be accessible to a source of supplemental water. If the hose will not reach, it is not a good place for the garden. Purchase a soil-test kit. Vegetable gardens should have a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. If they do not, sulfur or lime must be added.
A garden suitable for a family of four is about 10 by 16 feet. This will allow for extra vegetables to preserve or give away.
Most vegetable gardens are on the surface of the ground, but vegetables do well in raised beds. Pests have easy access to a ground-level garden. It is not as easy to get into a raised bed. A raised garden is easier on the back and knees because it is not necessary to bend or kneel. Make them no wider than can be reached comfortably. Raised beds are most frequently made of wood, railroad ties or cinder block.
Seeds are planted right in the garden, or transplants that need a long growing time can be purchased. Starting seeds indoors takes special equipment like grow lights and bottom warmers. Tomatoes and peppers should be transplants, and almost everything else can be planted by seed. Vegetables are planted after the last frost is forecast.
Remove grass, stones and weeds from the garden area and dig all around the perimeter. Use a tiller and till down six inches for a raised bed and 10 to 12 inches for a ground-level garden. Add peat moss to make the soil light and compost to make it rich. Add other additives to adjust the pH and till it all in well.
Follow directions on seed packages because they will tell you how far apart to plant each plant, how deep to plant seeds and other information. Some crops can be planted two times in a season, and some will grow only in the early summer and fall when temperatures are cooler. Water plants and seeds after planting and keep them watered well for two weeks.
Keep the garden free of weeds because they compete with the vegetables for nutrients. Vegetables need one or more inches of water a week. Fertilize using a water-soluble spray fertilizer. Start when the plants get flowers, and fertilize every four weeks. Pick ripe vegetables immediately to prevent them from rotting and attracting pests.