A Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening

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Vegetable gardening will offer you deep satisfaction and provide healthy food for you and your family. Growing your own vegetables involves choosing a site, planning your garden, clearing the soil, selecting the vegetables to plant and then nurturing the crop till it is time for harvest.

There are many benefits to be had by growing your own vegetables. You will have produce that has a higher nutritional content than what would have been shipped over a long distance to your local grocery store.

Also, for those who have little children, getting them involved in the garden will motivate them to eat more health-boosting vegetables. The health of the entire family will be improved by eating produce that is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and other nutrients.

Growing your vegetables gives you the chance to eliminate the use of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals that have a negative impact on the environment.

Using natural resources and biodegradable materials will prevent dangerous chemicals from entering your body and will keep the environment healthy.

Here is a step-by-step guide for starting a vegetable garden.

Choose a Location

The most important factors to consider are sunlight, water and soil fertility.

Sunlight:

* Pick a place that receives enough sunlight during the daytime. Vegetables need at least 8 hours of sunlight daily.

* Avoid areas that are close to trees and other big shrubs that will prevent the garden from receiving adequate nutrients, sunlight and water.

Water:

* Choose a location that is close to a source of potable water for easy watering.

* Let your vegetables be located in a place where they can receive at least 1-inch of water every week from rain or direct watering.

Soil Fertility:

* Choose the most appropriate type of soil for the vegetables you want to plant.

* Pick a place where the soil is well-drained to avoid muddy conditions that can damage your plants.

Select the Plants to Grow

* Grow the type of vegetables you love to eat.

* When you have limited space, focus on vegetables that offer the highest yield, including: leafy greens, root crops, tomatoes and pole beans.

* Plant cold season annuals early in spring or autumn such as: spinach, radish potatoes, peas, onions, kale, collards, carrot, cabbage and sprouts.

* Plant warm-season annuals at the end of the spring season, including: watermelons, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, okra, beans, pepper, okra, cucumber, corn and cantaloupes.

* Select pest-resistant plants and seeds and read the label carefully before you purchase any seeds.

Improve Soil Quality

When planting in containers:

* Prepare the soil for container gardens.

* Purchase soil made for potting or create yours by blending equal amounts of compost with mulch and vermiculite.

* Don’t fill your containers with the same soil used for in-ground gardening.

When planting in raised beds:

* Amend your soil with commercial or homemade compost.

* Take a soil sample for analysis or use a reliable soil test kit to analyze your soil.

* Make further amendments to improve the soil based on recommendations from the analysis.

Plant Your Vegetables

Pay close attention to spacing while planting:

* Follow the spacing requirements specified on your seed packet or on the plant tag.

* Leave enough space around the plant for it to mature.

* Provide spacing for airflow between the plants to forestall disease.

* Let the depth in the ground be three times the greatest diameter of the seed.

* After covering the seed, bring the surrounding soil close to the seed for better soil-to-seed contact.

* If you are using transplants, provide temporary shade for two to three days so the tender plant can harden.

Organize Your Garden

* Plant your vegetables in rows across the natural slope of the land to minimize erosion.

* Arrange crops from north to south to make the greatest use of sunlight.

* Plant all tall vegetables and trellised plants in groups together at the northern side of your garden so they don’t shade shorter crops.

* Prevent the growth of disease by rotating your plants.

* Don’t plant the same vegetables on the same spot year after year.

Take Care of Your Garden

* Use high-quality mulch to conserve soil moisture, to prevent weed growth and stop erosion.

* Make your mulch with pine straw, wheat straw, shredded leaves, old newspapers and other organic matter that will degrade quickly and enrich the soil.

* Water new transplants and seeds every day if there’s no rain.

* Water your mature plants as needed depending on the ambient temperature and rainfall.

* Avoid excessive watering that erodes nutrients from the soil.

* Water the soil and not leaves, where possible, use drip irrigation.

* Avoid splashing soil unto the leaves.

* Re-fertilize crops with long growing seasons such as tomatoes and corn.

* Observe any signs of nutrient deficiency such as yellow leaves and slow growth and fertilize accordingly.

* Protect plants with cold frames and frost cloth during freezing temperatures.

* Use mulch to keep the soil cool and protect it from extremely hot temperatures.

* Examine your plants periodically for disease or damage and take prompt action to prevent further infestation.

Creating a flourishing vegetable garden is an exciting project and a worthwhile cause to undertake in today’s environmentally conscious world.

To ensure that you enjoy the fruits of your labor, you should learn all you can about each plant you grow. Take steps to increase your yield and prevent all possible diseases in advance.

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