Growing vegetables and herbs in your backyard is a healthy and enjoyable pastime. Learn about the planting season in your area by visiting garden centers or seeking advice from experienced local gardeners. They will also be able to offer suggestions on what varieties to grow and when you should plant them. Start with a small plot and expand it after you have mastered some gardening basics.
Choose a small, level site that gets at least six hours of sunshine daily. The soil should be well drained, so avoid low spots in your yard. Place wooden stakes at the corners to mark off an area of a few hundred square feet. Locate the plot close to your house if possible, as it will save time and be within easy reach of water.
Remove all of the grass and plants from the plot by digging them out. Turn over the bare soil to depth of 6 inches. Cover the plot with aged compost or manure and dig this in lightly to mix with the loose soil. Add enough water to moisten the soil and wait about a week before planting. This gives the organic material time to break down and work into the soil.
Give the soil a light turn with the spade and level out the ground with the rake. Mark out rows 18 to 24 inches apart using the stakes and string. This is adequate spacing for small vegetables such as lettuce, onions, carrots and radishes. Leave an extra foot of space along one side of the plot where you can place the planting containers for the herbs. The rows should be laid out north to south to give the plants the best exposure to sunlight. With the hoe, mound the soil along the center of each row to a height of 6 inches. Follow the package instructions for planting each type of vegetable, paying close attention to the spacing and depth of the seeds. Remember to follow local advice regarding planting dates.
Fill the planting containers with potting soil. You will need one container for each type of herb you plan to grow. Make sure the pots have drainage holes in the bottom, as herbs will not grow well in wet soil. Tarragon, rosemary, oregano and thyme all grow well with plenty of sunshine. Herbs such as dill and cilantro will also attract ladybugs, which are very efficient at keeping the garden clear of aphids and other nuisance insects. Plant your herb seeds as directed by the packages and place the pots along the side of the plot.
Water the garden first thing in the morning. It is better to give the soil a good soaking every few days rather than a light sprinkling each day. Soaker hoses make watering very simple and provide more effective and efficient irrigation. As your plants grow, avoid getting the foliage wet when watering, as this increases the risk of disease.
Weed your garden regularly, preferably once a day. Weeds will quickly take over the garden if left unchecked. Examine your plants often for insect or disease damage.