Located in the heart of the American Midwest, Missouri enjoys hot, humid summers that are great for growing vegetables. Climatic conditions are fairly consistent throughout the state with plant hardiness zones ranging from 5a in the north to 6b in the south. The growing season averages 200 days per year, beginning around March 15 in the south and about two weeks later in the north.
Choose a level site in your yard that gets plenty of light as vegetables need at least six hours of sunshine a day. Start your vegetable garden small, and expand it as you learn more.
Outline the perimeter of the garden by placing stakes at each corner and connecting them with string. If the site is part of the lawn, remove the sod by cutting it into sections small enough to be lifted out with the garden fork. After all of the turf has been removed give the soil a quick turn to loosen the top 4 to 5 inches. Cover the soil with 4 to 6 inches of well-aged compost or manure and allow it to sit for three or four days before planting.
Draw an outline of your garden and sketch in the planting rows and type of vegetables to be grown. Rows should be roughly 18 inches apart for most vegetable and double that for varieties that have greater spread. The University of Missouri Vegetable Planting Calendar is an excellent resource for determining plant spacing and seeding times.
Remove the stakes and string and turn the soil to mix in the organic material on top. Level with the rake and mark out the rows with stakes and string according to your diagram. Using the hoe, mound the soil underneath the string lines along each row. The mound should be about 6 inches high.
Follow the seed packet directions and plant the seeds at the correct spacing and depth. The stakes and string can be removed if desired. Plant your cool season vegetables such as potatoes, asparagus, onions and carrots first. In southern Missouri, cool season varieties can be planted in the first or second week of March. Planting in the north usually gets underway in the first week of April. Warm season vegetables like melons, squash and peppers are normally sown four to six weeks later.
Water your garden as needed to keep the soil moist. The rainfall in Missouri is usually sufficient for vegetables during the spring and fall, but hand-watering is necessary during dry spells. Water the garden during the cool times of the day, early in the morning or late at night. Avoid soaking the leaves of your plants as this can encourage pests and disease.
Remove weeds as they appear and check the foliage of your plants for signs of insect or disease damage. Signs of trouble can include leaves with holes, partially eaten leaves and discoloration. Contact your local county extension office for advice if any of these problems appear.