Frugal homeowners across the country are deciding that a good way to save money on food is to grow their own. Gardening creates a steady supply of the vegetables that your family likes to eat most, and the cost is negligible if you already have a shovel to dig your garden patch. Planting your first garden may seem like a large job, but taking it step by step can make it manageable.
Discuss your vegetable patch plans with your family to determine what kinds of vegetable you wish to grow. Choose the foods that your family likes to eat on a regular basis. Include more than one variety of a vegetable if it is a family favorite. Pepper lovers may enjoy red, green and orange peppers, while tomato fans will probably like cherry tomatoes as well as beefsteak varieties.
Read vegetable catalogs or seed packets to find out how much room each vegetable needs to grow. This will help to determine the final size of your garden. If your available garden space is small, adjust your planting needs accordingly.
Draw a diagram of your garden patch on graph paper. Use two squares of graph for every square foot of the garden size. Draw different colored dots for each vegetable type, spacing the dots the correct distance from each other, depending on how large the actual plant is.
Dig out the soil from your vegetable patch site and remove all roots and rocks. Add compost to the top six inches of soil to help feed the growing plants. Rake the ground smooth.
Hammer sticks into the ground around the edge of the garden so that you can run strings between them. This will help to separate the garden sections for each vegetable type. You will be able to see what is growing in each section without them growing over each other.
Plant seeds or seedlings in the soil after all chance of frost is past. You can find your average frost date at the Farmers' Almanac website, or at other gardening sites. This date is a guideline, so take your local weather into consideration each year when planting.
Water the garden regularly. Most growing vegetables require about an inch of water per week to grow well. Set out a small can or other container near the garden so that you can measure rainfall each week. Use a sprinkler or hose to water the garden to make up for any moisture that the garden lacks through not having enough rain.
Harvest vegetables regularly when they ripen. Keeping vegetables picked every two or three days encourages plants to create more vegetables. If you leave the vegetables on the plants, they will concentrate their energy on the larger ones already on the vine, and your crop will be much smaller.