Most vegetables require full sun to grow. Plan your garden with taller plants near the back so they won’t shade shorter plants. Tall vegetables like pole beans or tomatoes require support. Corn is pollinated by the wind, and for optimum pollination, it should be planted in blocks of several short rows, rather than two or three long rows. Squash, pumpkins and melons will spread and fill a large space as they grow.
Prepare the Garden
Use a tiller or hand tools to turn and loosen the soil. The soil should be crumbly, but slightly moist. Rake and remove clumps of grass, roots and stones.
Spring soil is often too wet to plant in. When you squeeze a handful of soil, it should break apart into smaller clumps. If it clings into a ball, it is too wet and compacted; wait for it to dry a bit before planting.
To mark straight rows, make a guide using a string pulled between two stakes, one at each end of the row. Allow plenty of space between rows or beds for walking and picking vegetables.
Incorporate compost or organic fertilizer directly in the planting area in your furrows or raised beds.
Plant Seeds and Transplants
Plant early seeds like lettuce, radishes, peas and spinach as soon as the soil can be worked. Set out early transplants like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and onions at the same time. Plant warm weather crops like beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers and squash when soil temperatures are at least 65 degrees F, and there is no chance of frost.
Plant tiny seeds like lettuce about 1/4 inch deep. Plant larger seeds like peas or beans about 1 inch deep. Read the seed packets for specific information, including how deep to plant the seeds and spacing between plants and rows.
Plant vegetable transplants 12 to 18 inches apart. Tomatoes and peppers require more room; plant them with about 24 to 36 inches apart. Check plant tags for specific transplanting information; space requirements vary between vegetables.
Water your garden consistently, at least 1 inch of rainfall or the equivalent each week. Any time the plants begin to droop or the soil seems dry, water them. One deep watering is more beneficial than several light ones. A soaker hose or drip-irrigation system are efficient methods to get water to the roots with a minimum of evaporation.
Fertilize every three to four weeks. Use compost or organic fertilizer before watering. Water is needed to disperse the nutrients and to avoid fertilizer burn.
Use mulch to help control weeds. Hand pull weeds, and use a hoe or tiller.
Use safe organic pesticides only when needed. Hand pick small infestations, and try biological controls such as ladybugs or nematodes.