Nothing tops the flavor of garden fresh vegetables. Full of vibrant color and the total range of nutrients, homegrown vegetables provide all the benefits that store-bought, commercially ripened vegetables cannot give. Gardening not only benefits the body, it also benefits the food budget, because you can control exactly what is grown, and you can experiment with a vast array of hybrids and heirlooms.
Get to know the soil
Before you begin planting, get soil tested through your local agricultural extension agency to determine the basic pH level. Take samples from different areas of your garden plot to get an accurate assessment. In addition to pH levels, soil consistency also plays an important role in successful garden. Soils that are high in clay or sand content will need to be amended in order to create the proper environment for vegetable growth.
Creating the Perfect Foundation
Once you know what kind of soil you are dealing with, you can begin to make amendments that will create a nutrient-rich base for your garden. Clay soils need to be amended with sand and compost to improve drainage and oxygenation. Sandy soils need the added weight of organic materials such as compost, peat or manure, to allow the soil to retain moisture and nutrients. Amendments should be worked in to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, in order to create a solid base across the entire garden bed.
Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more vegetables, herbs and flowers together in the same area of the garden to increase yield and deter insect and rodent infestations. There are also certain plants that should be kept apart in the garden, to ensure the success of each plant.
Feeding the Garden
Fertilization can help increase the strength and productivity of the garden. Fertilizers are comprised of a blend of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and come in different formulations for different types of plants. Follow the recommended feeding dosage and schedule for each type of vegetable.
Watering the Garden
Keeping an even moisture level throughout the garden is essential for strong growth and increased production. The majority of vegetables require at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week, with extra watering during drought periods. Installing soaker hoses throughout the garden will allow for more even, thorough watering to the root systems and can also help to ward of diseases caused by excess moisture.
Mulching around the base of vegetable plants helps to retain moisture, prevent disease, deter weed growth and ward of certain rodents and insects. Apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic materials such as compost, straw or grass clippings that will add nutrients to the soil as it decays.