Growing vegetables is very popular in Utah, with many people enjoying the harvest of small but productive gardens. From the Great Salt Lake Desert in the northwest to the mountainous terrain that covers most of the state, the growing season varies widely. Precipitation can be as few as four inches per year in the west rising to as many as 40 inches in the mountains. Such a diverse climate results in plant hardiness zones ranging from 4b in the mountains to 8a in the far south.
Choose a level, well-drained location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. Although most vegetable gardens do best in full sun, some afternoon shade is desirable in areas that experience extreme summer temperatures. If you are forced to locate the garden on a slope due to mountainous terrain, try to find a southern exposure and consider terracing if the ground is quite steep.
Mark out the garden plot by placing wooden stakes at each corner. Completely remove any turf, plants or other debris from the plot. Spread two to three inches of organic material such as aged compost or manure over the plot and dig in to a depth of six inches. Utah soils tend to be alkaline and the organics help to bring the soil pH level down to a suitable range for vegetables.
Make a drawing of your garden to use in planning the arrangement of crops. Garden rows must be spaced according to the type of vegetable to be grown. Smaller varieties like onions, carrots and lettuce can be planted in rows 18 inches apart. Larger plants need much more room between rows. Refer to the Variety Recommendations for Utah bulletin published by the Utah State University Cooperative Extension for ideas on what to plant and the row spacing required for each type of vegetable.
Level out the plot with the rake and mark the row locations with stakes and string according to your drawing. Use the hoe to make a six-inch-high mound of soil along the length of each row.
Plant your seeds according to the depth and spacing instructions provided on the seed packages. Spray a fine mist of water over the garden to keep both seeds and soil moist. Cold hardy vegetables, such as onions and asparagus, are planted first, usually around March 1 in most parts of Utah. Mountainous areas are always at risk of late frost. Check with your local county extension office for advice on timing and planting information specific to your area.
Water your garden daily, preferably early in the morning. Vegetables require at least an inch of water per week, so adjust your irrigation to the rainfall in your area. Mist newly planted seeds, but otherwise always direct water to the soil. Use a soaker hose laid between the rows if you have one.
Remove weeds as they appear, and examine young plants for any signs of disease or damage from insects. Consult your local county extension office for advice if you find discoloured, curled or partially eaten leaves.