Creating a Vegetable Garden

Overview

Growing your own vegetables ensures the freshest produce on your table. Planting vegetables can save you money and the tomatoes, beans, and other produce you harvest will be of better quality than vegetables shipped hundreds of miles and kept for days or weeks in coolers. Vegetable gardening is also an enjoyable hobby. A few minutes pulling weeds or watering a garden can help you unwind after a hard day at work, and the sight of ripening corn or fresh squash from the garden can be a source of pride and pleasure. Vegetable gardening isn't difficult, as long as you keep a few basic points in mind.

Step 1

Choose your location. Your garden will need at least six hours of full sun a day. You should choose a level, well-drained location. Find a spot that's convenient for you to get to---if you put your garden in an out of the way location you may not spend as much time there. A neglected garden won't produce as well as one that receives regular care. If you're going to garden in raised beds or containers, decides what kind of containers or shape of bed you'll use.

Step 2

Amend the soil. While the topsoil in your yard may be all right for growing grass, adding soil amendments such as compost, peat moss or rotted manure will add nutrients and make the soil less compact and better able to hold water. If you want to know exactly what amendments would be best for your soil, purchase a simple soil testing kit. Or ask your county agriculture extension agent what kind of soil amendments would be good for soil in your area.

Step 3

Provide water for your garden. This can be as simple as running a water hose from a nearby tap. Drip irrigation hoses will allow you to water the garden by turning on the tap and letting water drip onto the plants. This slow trickle of water seeps in and avoids wasting water. You can also water with a sprinkler or by hand, although these methods are not as convenient.

Step 4

Decide what vegetables to plant. Ask neighbors and at local nurseries for advice on what will grow in your area. Crops such as melons and field peas need a long growing season, while carrots and greens prefer cooler weather. Read seed catalogs and seed packets for information on the amount of space required for each vegetable. Carrots require little room while watermelons need space to spread. Finally, plant only what you know you and your family will eat. It doesn't matter if beets do great where you live if everyone in your family hates beets.

Step 5

Decide where to plant each vegetable. Plants that need supports should be at the back against a fence or trellis. Tall plants, such as corn, should be planted where they won't shade shorter plants. Some plants like to be planted together---you can plant beans beneath the corn, or herbs with tomatoes. This is called companion planting and makes the most use of your garden space. Local nurseries and seed catalogs can provide more information about suitable companion plants. Draw your garden plan on graph paper to get a better idea of how things will work out. When you're ready, plant your garden.

Step 6

Control weeds. Study the pictures on seed packages to differentiate between weeds and plants. Pull the weeds as soon as possible, being careful not to disturb the new vegetables. Pulling young weeds is relatively easy and a good way to control their growth. When vegetables are larger and more established, mulch your beds to deter further weed growth. Mulching also helps conserve water and keeps plant roots cooler in hot weather. You can use compost, leaves or even layers of newspaper for mulch.

Step 7

Deal with pests at the first sign of problems. You may spot holes in the leaves of a plant or a sickly looking plant. Some worms and bugs can be easily removed simply by picked them off the plant and squashing them. You can dust plants with diatomaceous earth or sulfur powder to deter some insects. Spraying a mild soap solution also works. If the pests are the four-legged variety---rabbits or deer---erect fencing or netting to keep them out.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil tester
  • Soil amendments
  • Water hose, drip irrigation or sprinkler
  • Seed catalogs
  • Graph paper and pencil
  • Mulch and other weed control
  • Pest control

References

  • Vegetable Gardening Basics
  • How to Start a Vegetable Garden

Who Can Help

  • How to Grow a Vegetable Garden
Keywords: grow vegetables, plant vegetables, vegetable garden

About this Author

Cynthia James is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Bride to Popular Mechanics. A graduate of Sam Houston State University, she has a degree in economics. Before turning to freelancing full time, James worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.