So you’ve decided to try your hand at vegetable gardening this year! That’s a great first step, but where do you go from here? Before breaking out the shovel and tearing up your back yard with nothing more than visions of grandeur to guide you , here are 6 easy things to consider to help you succeed in your gardening venture.
Who would have thought?! Size really does matter! What are your gardening goals? Are you wanting to try your hand at an herb garden, just have a few tomatoes, onions, and peppers to add a personal touch to your dish, or are you wanting to make a serious dent in the grocery budget? Each plant has its own requirements for the right space it needs to grow and each goal requires a different set of plants. You will save a LOT of time and headache by doing a little bit of research online to determine whether or not you have the space for the garden you have in mind. And don’t let a small back yard dissuade you! Container gardening can produce wonderful results with limited space requirements.
You should select a site that receives an average of 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day. When selecting your site, be sure to keep an eye out for tall trees and buildings that could cast shadows on your vegetable garden. A site close to the house may seem like a great idea for the harvest, but might prove to be detrimental in the growth and productivity of your garden. A little research goes a long way!
Vegetables require a light, well-draining soil. It can be created by adding compost to sandy soil or peat moss to clay soils. A fertilizer can help your vegetables reach their growth potential. Beware of using too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Too much of this can cause great leaf production, but could hinder the actual vegetable production. The pea plant is a good example a vegetable suffers from too much nitrogen.
Always plant your spring vegetables as early in the season as possible after the risk of frost has passed. You can either buy starter plants from a reputable greenhouse and transplant them as soon as it is safe to do so or you can start your spring vegetables from seed. If you start your own from seed, you will have to begin their germination and growth in a warm sunny spot indoors during the late winter months.
Mulching is the act of placing wood chips or other organic materials around the base of the plants after they have been planted. While not required, the proper use of much can definitely help you achieve great results with your garden. Mulch helps to regulate the soil temperature, which can be an issue with the fluctuating temperatures often associated with spring weather. A couple inches of leaves, compost or wood chip should do the trick in helping to shed excess rainfall and will help to retain moisture when rainfall isn’t as frequent.
How much time to you need for your desired vegetables to grow? Will it take 20, 60, or 90 days for your planted seeds to be ready for harvest? Not all plants are going to work well outside of a greenhouse environment if you life somewhere that has a very short growing season. In central Georgia, it is the middle of February and we’ve already begun planting onions, garlic, and lettuce. Maryland would not have the same results if they tried to plant these same vegetables at the same time of the year. That said, waiting too long to plant certain things- like sweet potatoes- could mean that the plant will not be ready to harvest before the end of the growing season.
To find your hardiness zone and better know what to plant and when to plant it based on your location, check out this useful map provided by the USDA:
Please share other tips and tricks you’ve learned about gardening in the comments section below!
Good Luck, God Bless, and Happy Planting!