How to start a vegetable garden
The wildflowers are blooming and the lawn needs mowing. That can only mean one thing: It’s time to start this year’s vegetable garden. Here are a few tips for how to start a vegetable garden if your attempts in the past were less than stellar.
First, build some raised beds. There are several benefits to this system, the first being that a raised bed with a physical barrier between the bottom of the bed and the native soil will keep the majority of weeds out. Make sure these beds aren’t too wide. You want to avoid stepping into the garden so the soils remain looser than the rest of your yard.
When learning how to start a vegetable garden, consider the climate you’re in when building the raised beds. If you commonly get temperatures in the 90s with little or no rain or cloud cover, you may want to find a section of the yard with partial shade during the day to protect the plants from completely frying.
Once you have a frame for your raised beds, lay a barrier down to protect against weeds. You can use old cardboard boxes, layers of newspaper, or special sheeting you can pick up at Lowe’s or The Home Depot specially made for raised beds.
Don’t go into this expecting to feed a village with your garden. Be content with knowing the tomatoes in your salad and the lettuce on your burger came from your garden and you won’t be disappointed.
Next, add your mixture of soil and compost to the bed. A great way to save money on soil is to order a cubic meter or two to be delivered to your house. Lay out a tarp on the spot where you want to soil to be dumped and carry it in loads in a wheelbarrow. If you have to mix the soil and compost, you can also do this in the wheelbarrow, stirring with a trowel or your hands.
If a drip hose is in your budget, this is an investment that will save you a lot of time and ensure your crop yield is the highest it possibly can be. Snake the hose through the pre-determined rows and cover with several inches of soil. Buy a timer to turn it on for 30 minutes in the early morning and 30 minutes in the evening. This will give your plants water at the most useful times when it won’t evaporate quickly.
Cover your soil with a good inch or two of mulch. Use those leaves from the fall that may still be in a pile in your yard or in their own compost pile. Or you can buy some mulch. This will prevent weeds from getting in or popping up and will keep moisture in.
You should map out what you want to plant in your raised beds. Most plant seedlings come with a little plastic information stick telling you the suggested spacing of the plants, the expected height, etc. This will ensure that you don’t try to squeeze in too many plants and diminish your yield due to excess competition.
“Now that you know how to start a vegetable garden, get out there and do it. Set aside an entire weekend to get those beds in and enlist the help of the rest of your family. Make it a project that involves everyone…”
Plant the vegetables that will grow the tallest in the north end of your raised beds to allow for maximum sunlight for all plants. If you have multiple beds, it may also be helpful to look into which plants are most beneficial to grow next to each other and which ones should be kept further apart.
Don’t start from seed if you are only getting started in late spring. Yes, it can be a matter of pride, but if you want to eat a tomato before September, get some healthy looking plants that were started in a greenhouse back in January and may already have some blossoms on them.
Your main goal should be to have fun, get some exercise, and learn a little about yourself and your plants this summer. Don’t go into this expecting to feed a village with your garden. Be content with knowing the tomatoes in your salad and the lettuce on your burger came from your garden and you won’t be disappointed.
When it comes to gardening on a budget, keep your eye on the Sunday flyers in the newspaper from stores like Lowe’s and The Home Depot. Check their websites frequently and do your shopping online, then go pick up your order in the store within a day most times. I also use a cash back program like Dubli to get back around 8% from both Lowe’s and The Home Depot. There are plenty of other stores that give money back when you shop online, so give it a look. (For more info, click on the ad below this article.)
Now that you know how to start a vegetable garden, get out there and do it. Set aside an entire weekend to get those beds in and enlist the help of the rest of your family. Make it a project that involves everyone and give each member some responsibility throughout the summer. Gardening is a great skill to pass on to the next generation and teaches a lot of valuable lessons.