Skip the produce aisle in your grocery store, and start your own vegetable garden. A simple garden plot in your backyard can produce a bounty of juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce, sweat peas and other tasty and nutritious veggies. Though growing needs and environments vary by the vegetable species, you can employ several strategies to help you grow the best, biggest and healthiest backyard vegetables.
Provide the right amount of sunshine. Some vegetables, such as corn and tomatoes, require full sun for a minimum of six to seven hours per day. Others, like radishes or kale, do fine with as little as three hours of sun. The best tactic is only planting vegetables that do well with the amount of sun that hits your garden plot. Alternatives include pruning surrounding foliage to increase sun or covering your garden with shade cloth to increase shade.
Amend your garden soil before planting your vegetables. Add 2 inches of compost and mix it into your garden soil; this boosts both the dirt's nutrient levels and its ability retain moisture.
Follow the compost with a standard fertilizer, applied according to the fertilizer label's guidelines, since potency varies by product. Some plants, like corn and tomatoes, are heavy feeders and should be fertilized again as soon as they begin producing fruit.
Plant your vegetables with enough of a space allowance around each plant. Crowding your vegetables increases the risk of pest infestations and diseases. Spacing needs vary by plant but often ranges between 18 to 24 inches; consult the seed packet's guidelines for planting instructions.
Water your vegetables appropriately. Water twice a day, or as needed, when sowing seeds, to keep the soil perpetually moist. Once seedlings emerge, adjust your watering according to the plant's needs. Some require heavy watering while others do well with moderate levels. For example, fruiting tomatoes need 4 to 6 quarts of water a day, which would be too much for the average bean plant. If you're unsure, consult the seed packet for your vegetable.
Harvest your vegetables as soon as they are ready. Leaving the fruit on the vine or plant increases the risk of damage, lowers the fruit quality over time and reduces the plant's ability to grow new fruit. Pick when the fruits are ready for your specific species. Check the Iowa State University's chart for planting and harvesting times for the most common garden vegetable species.