Sitting down to a meal that includes fresh vegetables from your home garden is very satisfying. Planting a vegetable garden takes preparation and research, but the rewards are worth it. Start planning your garden well before the growing season gets underway. Visit local garden centers or nurseries and ask for advice on plant selection, when to seed and local soil conditions. Armed with knowledge and a few supplies, you will be well on the way to your first harvest.
Decide where to locate your garden. A level plot with well-drained soil and good light exposure will be ideal. Vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight a day to grow well. Pick a spot away from trees or tall shrubs that may overshadow the garden.
Mark out the perimeter of the plot by placing stakes in each corner and tying string around the outside. If this is your first attempt at vegetable gardening, keep the plot small until you gain more experience. A garden of 200 square feet can provide plenty of fresh vegetables if properly tended.
Clear the plot of all existing grass, weeds or other plants. Remove lawn turf by cutting it into one foot squares with the spade and lift them out with the garden fork. Remove the marker stakes and string and loosen the top four to five inches of soil using a hoe or spade.
Spread 4 to 6 inches of well aged compost or manure over the plot. Dig the organic material into the soil lightly with the spade. Leave the plot to rest for about a week to allow the organics to work into the soil.
Plan your garden by drawing an outline of the plot. Small vegetables like onions, carrots, beets and pole beans can be grown in rows 18 to 24 inches apart and are suitable for a small plot. Varieties such as asparagus, cucumber, melons and squash have more lateral spread and will need twice as much room.
Rake the plot level and use wooden stakes and string to mark out the rows according to your drawing. Using the string as a guide, pull the soil into a mound about 6 inches high along the length of each row. Make a shallow v-shaped furrow along the top of the mound for the seeds.
Plant your seeds by following the spacing and depth directions on each. Plant your cool season vegetables such as potatoes, asparagus, onions and carrots first. Warm season varieties including melons, squash and peppers are normally sown four to six weeks later.
Water your garden regularly during the cool times of the day. Most vegetables need at least 1 inch of water every week. Direct the water to the soil rather than spraying the leaves. Wet plants are more susceptible to insect infestation and disease.
Weed your garden regularly, preferably every day. Young vegetable plants will not be able to compete with aggressive weeds for precious nutrients. Be on the lookout for insect or disease damage to your plants. Discoloration, brown spots, and holes in leaves are just a few of the signs to look for.