Sustainability Tips: Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden

Go with me here, close your eyes and imagine that first bite into a juicy, ripe tomato, while enjoying the summer heat…yum!  If I had to choose one of the best parts of summer, I would pick eating fresh, ripe tomatoes from my grandparents’ garden. Home-grown vegetables are sweeter, juicy, and have more vibrant colors and textures.  Not to mention, growing your own vegetables will save you money and give you a reason (if you even need one) to spend more time outside getting your hands dirty!

Are you wanting to start your own vegetable garden, but don’t know where to start? Here are a few helpful tips to get you going.

Tools you will need to get started:

  • Spade
  • Garden fork
  • Soaking hose
  • Garden hoe
  • Basket for moving mulch or soil
  • Hand weeder
  • Vegetable seeds
  • Flowers

Location… Location… Location:
The key to a successful garden is location. You will want to find a sunny spot in your yard to start your garden. It is recommended that a vegetable garden has a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day. Good soil. Good soil is crucial when starting a garden; learn how to test your soil quality here.

You still want to make sure that you place your garden in a stable environment. For example, you want your garden to be away from an area that is prone to flooding, or prone to drying up quickly. You want to find the “Goldilocks location,” just the right spot in between. Be sure your garden is in an area that is protected from strong winds to ensure your crops don’t get blown over.

Picking your plot size:
The best advice someone can give a beginning gardener is, start small! Now, I understand you are excited about embarking on the new adventure of growing your own vegetables, but you don’t want to dive in too far and not have a productive crop. As you gain more knowledge and experience, you can start to add on to your garden.

A recommended plot size is 16×10 feet, which has the potential to feed a family of four for the whole summer and even have enough left over to can at the end of the gardening season. A good rule of thumb is to have your garden run north to south in order to take full advantage of sunlight.

How to grow your best vegetables:
There are a few things you can do to give your vegetable garden the best chance of succeeding.

  • Give your veggies some space. No one likes to feel crowded, so space your vegetables out throughout your garden. Pay close attention to the back of the seed packets you purchase, where you’ll find recommended spacing for that type of vegetable.
  • High-quality seeds. One of the best ways to get a good vegetable crop is to invest in good quality seeds. Here is a list of potential seed vendors.
  • Water your vegetables appropriately. You don’t want to over- water them, but you also don’t want to under- water them. The “Goldilocks” analogy used earlier applies here, too.
  • Know when to plant your seeds. The Farmer’s Almanac provides a planting calendar based on your location. Simply go to the Farmer’s Almanac website and enter your location to see when the best time is to start your garden indoors, transplant outside, and harvest your vegetables.
  • Rotate your vegetables. A helpful recommendation is to plant the same crop in the same spot only once every three years to prevent depletion of soil nutrients.

Top 10 recommended vegetables for beginners:

  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini Squash
  • Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Bush Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Radishes
  • Also consider planting marigolds. Flowers can help add color and discourage pests from snacking on your yummy, growing vegetables.

Indian Creek Nature Center’s Spring Plant and Art Sale on May 5th is another great opportunity to learn about starting a vegetable garden. Garden experts will be on site to help answer your questions and to make recommendations based on your specific situation. There will also be vegetables available for transplant, too.

 

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