images-22One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”          – W.E. Johns

So you want to plant a vegetable garden? Growing your own vegetables is fun and rewarding. There are a few factors you need to decide before digging that spade into the ground. I suggest drawing a diagram of a prospective garden and which vegetables you would like to grow, keeping in mind the height and width of each plant. You don’t want to crowd too many plants in the space you have designed or you will get spindly plants. Perennial vegetables such as Rhubarb and Asparagus should be planted off to the side where they won’t interfere with future tilling.

  • Do you have enough sunlight in your yard? Vegetables love sun and need a minimum of 6 hours of full sun everyday.
  • Do you want a raised bed? If so, decide what you want type of material you want construct it out of. They can vary in size depending on the size and materials used and light conditions. Raise beds are great for beginners because they make the garden more manageable.images-21
  • Do you want to plant directly in the ground? The overall size does not have to be limited as long as you have the room. You are able to till you garden with no obstructions. You will need to establish pathways, but can get creative with different mosaic stones or stepping stones.images-26
  • Growing vegetables in containers. There are many gardeners who don’t have the space or an area large enough for a vegetable garden with full sun. Containers are perfect for this and for the gardener who only wants just a few vegetables or herbs.
  • Soil. You want your soil to be fertile. A well prepared soil=a successful garden. You want the soil to be well drained, supplied with organic matter and free of stones. You want a proper soil PH for your garden.  If you are unsure of what type of soil you have, you can purchase an inexpensive soil test kit at your local garden centers. Plants do best when the PH is 7.0, which is neutral. If your soil PH is too high or too low it can result in plant deficiency. When you add organic matter/compost to your soil, it releases nutrients and is beneficial to your plants. When adding manure to your garden, make sure it is aged and composted, never apply fresh manure or it will burn your plants. Rule of thumb-to raise the PH level in your soil if lower than 6.5  add lime. 4 pounds of lime per 100sq.ft. To decrease the PH level in your soil if over 7.5, add 1 pound of sulfur per 100sq.ft. There are so many products on the market you can purchase to help you amend your soil, Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish and Seaweed blend fertilizers are great.
  • Watering. When choosing the right spot for your vegetable garden you want to make sure it is close to a water supply, mainly for convenience. Connecting multiple hoses is not an ideal situation, but if it is where the full sun is in your yard, then make the investment on a heavy gauge, one that won’t split if left out in the beating sun. During dry periods your garden will need lots of water, 1-2″ per week.
  • Choosing which vegetables to grow either by seed or plant. If you decide you want to start all your vegetables by seed, see my post regarding seed starting. If you want to go to your local farm stand or plant sales, you can purchase the plants in 4″ pots, ready to go into the ground. Think about what vegetables and herbs you like to eat, make a list before you head out and bring along your drawing. This way when you arrive at the farm stand you are not overloading your car(like I do every year).
  • Ready to plant. Now that you’ve had your soil tested, the PH is perfect, you are ready to get digging. If you are planting right into the ground, you may want to put up some type of fencing to keep unwanted guests out. Make sure you bury the fencing down about 12″ so these critters won’t burrow under and get in. Nothing more frustrating to a gardener to have you unwanted guests arrive and feast on all your hard work. Build trellis and set stakes for beans, peas and tomatoes. You can purchase these items at local garden centers or on line, like Gardeners Supply Company, or get creative and build your own. For squash, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins you want to create mound for these vining plants. You want to mulch around your plants to help control the weeds and help retain the water, it also helps you establish pathways. I have been using salt marsh hay in my garden for over 20 years and I swear by it. Check with your local garden centers and make sure they carry it. I spread it all around my plants as soon as I plant, then water thoroughly.
  • Maintenance of your vegetable garden. You want to examine your garden regularly throughout the season to make sure there are no insect or pest problems. You want to weed regularly, this allows the plant more room to grow. After high winds sometimes your trellis or stakes may blow over. I think the best day of the summer is when I go out to my vegetable garden and pick my very first vegetable of the season.
  • Trying to keep the Unwanted Guest out of your garden. This often can be a challenge. Start by identifying which animal is wreaking havoc on your labor of love. Woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and deer. Once you have identified the perpetrator, decide how you will eradicate him. Although the first thing that comes to many gardeners is shooting that unwanted guest, but that is probably not an option. Scent repellents do help. Garlic clips, castor oil and predator urine can be effective but needs to be reapplied regularly especially after heavy rain. Products with hot peppers can deter rabbits. I shaved bars of Irish Spring soap one year and had great success, until the heavy rains came and the perimeter of my garden was all suds. Planting marigolds around the borders also helps deter certain animals. You can buy visual and auditory devices that have motion sensors with water sprayers, but sometimes the animals become familiar with that also. Sometimes we have to just learn to co exist with wildlife in our backyards. Personally I struggle with this, but am will to try again year after year.images-25

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