The midwestern state of Missouri is known for hot, humid summers that are perfect for planting and growing vegetables. The plant hardiness zones for the state range from 5a to 6b and the growing season is 200 days on average. Vegetable planting gets under way in mid-March in the south, while the first crops in the north are seeded about two weeks later.
Select a level, exposed area of your yard for the vegetable garden. The site should get six to eight hours of sunshine per day, so choose a spot away from shade trees and tall shrubs. If this is your first vegetable garden, it’s a good idea to start small. You can expand the garden as your experience grows.
Mark out the outline of the garden by placing stakes at each corner and tying the string around the outside. Remove turf grass, if any, by cutting it into one foot squares with the spade and lifting them out with the garden fork. Once down to bare soil, turn the top 4 to 5 inches using either the spade or the hoe. Spread 4 to 6 inches of aged compost or manure over the entire plot. Leave the plot for about four days to give the organic material a chance to work into the soil.
Make a drawing of your garden to plan how the crops will be arranged. In a small garden, plant vegetables that require less room, such as carrots, onions, cabbage, beets and broccoli. These can be spaced in rows about 18 inches apart. For detailed information on what and when to plant, refer to the Vegetable Planting Calendar available from the University of Missouri.
Take out the perimeter stakes and mix the compost or manure with the soil by digging it in. Level by rake and place stakes to mark the ends of the rows based on your drawing. Tie string along each row to use as a guideline. Mound the soil up beneath the string line along each row with the hoe. Make the mound roughly six inches high.
Remove the stakes and string. Plant your seeds at the correct depth and spacing along the row. Each seed packet will provide detailed planting instructions. Plant cool season crops such as onions, beets, potatoes and carrots first. Warm season vegetables like squash and peppers are planted four to six weeks later depending on climate conditions.
Water your garden enough to give your vegetables about one inch per week. The spring and fall rains in Missouri often provide enough water for the garden. However, the hot summers will dry the ground out quickly and consistent watering will be needed. Always water the garden early in the morning if possible.
Weed your garden regularly. Weeds will rob young vegetable plants of soil nutrients and can also encourage insects. Keep an eye out for damage to the leaves and stems caused by insects or disease. Your local county extension office will be able to offer advice if problems appear.