Vegetable gardens are fun, pretty and cut down on grocery bills. The quality of the veggies you grow yourself is better than grocery store produce---where they're bought for bright colors, early harvests and transportability. Compare a homegrown tomato with store bought and the difference is immediately apparent. Homegrown, picked at the peak of ripeness, is hands down better.
Soak the Seeds
Get seeds off to a fast start by soaking them overnight. Place hard-shelled seeds like beans, corn, peas, squash, cucumbers and eggplant in a dish of water. Set in a warm place for up to 24 hours. Drain them and plant immediately.
Soak small seeds such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and leafy greens by sprinkling them on half a smoothed-out round coffee filter. Spray the filter with water. Fold in half and then into quarters. Place in a plastic sandwich bag after spraying with extra water. After eight hours, cut the coffee filters into pieces with the seeds still inside and plant immediately.
Veggies love rich, loose soil. Eight hours of sunlight is required for the best vegetable production. Construct a raised bed in a location that gets that amount of sunlight. Dig the soil below the raised bed to a depth of 6 inches. Add gypsum to soften the soil. Fill with top soil mixed with well-rotted manure, compost and organic material. If the bed is in an area that currently has a lawn, you don't need to dig, but you do need to kill the grass. For two weeks, keep newspapers on top of the grass where you plan to put the bed. You don't have to remove the newspapers because they will decompose.
Keep the raised beds to no more than 4 feet wide so you won't have to walk on the soil to weed or harvest veggies.
Water when the plants need it. Deep watering is better than shallow watering. Check the top 4 inches of the soil. If it's dry, then water; if still moist, then wait. The exceptions are beds with seedlings. These need to be kept moist until the seedlings are well established. Fertilize every two weeks with water-soluble plant food at half strength.
Weed on a consistent basis. Weeds compete with vegetables for food and moisture. Small weeds are easier to pull than big weeds. If the weed has gone to seed, do not put it in the compost heap.
Vegetables that fruit, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, will keep producing if the vegetables are harvested. Veggies such as squash keep getting bigger and the plant will stop blossoming. New lettuces and leafy greens taste better when younger. If you can't immediately use the harvest, freeze it, give it to neighbors or a food bank.