5 Tips to Plant the Perfect Vegetable Garden
Growing your own food is a fun and sustainable hobby. If you’re ready to grow a vegetable garden for the first time, this article provides a great crash course for beginners. Growing vegetables is easy when you choose the right location, select a nutrient-rich soil, and plant vegetables that are hearty and easy to grow. Let’s explore the best tips to get you gardening with confidence, even if you’re a total beginner.
5 tips for the perfect vegetable garden
When you’re growing your first vegetable garden, daily or weekly actions make all the difference. You’ll want to water regularly and weed your garden. Set yourself up for success from day one by choosing the right soil, location, vegetables, and tools. Here are some tips that will help you grow the perfect vegetable garden this summer.
1. Choose your location wisely
Choosing a prime location for your vegetables is dependent on a number of factors. For you this could mean the perfect sunny windowsill to grow seedlings, or a whole garden plot in a corner of the yard. Don’t forget that it’s okay to start small! Better to plant a smaller garden that thrives, than to feel overwhelmed with a giant plot that you’re not able to sustain. If you’re growing a garden on a porch or back patio, consider buying or building a raised garden bed. If you’re building a bigger garden, make sure you leave space every four feet or so in order to walk through easily and get rid of any offending weeds. Consider accessibility as well; you’re more likely to remember to water or weed if your garden is easy to access.
Here are some factors to consider when you’re choosing a location for your vegetable garden:
Consider strong winds. If you’re in a place that gets very windy, consider choosing a plot of land that’s more sheltered on blustery days. Strong winds can knock over small plants and can also affect plant pollination.
What is this location currently used for? If your garden is right in the path of the kids, the dog, or a squirrel family, you might be asking for trouble. Choose an area with low foot traffic where your plants can exist peacefully. Look around to make sure your garden plot will be well sheltered and safe.
Regardless of the vegetables you’re growing, your plants will likely need at least six to eight hours or good sunlight a day. Choose a sunny spot where your plants will get enough light.
Make sure your hose reaches your garden plot, or consider how far you have to walk to water your plants if you’re planting in a raised bed. Once your garden is established it’ll be hard to move––so think ahead and plan your location wisely.
2. Get equipped with the right gardening tools
You don’t need a lot of fancy tools to start gardening, but it’s good to have the essentials for optimal planting and harvesting. If you’re using compost or soil that’s rich in nutrients, you’ll definitely want a pair of gardening gloves to keep your hands clean. Organic matter can be smelly, and some of the best organic soils are rich and full of compost. Check out your garden hose for any kinks or cracks, and consider buying a new adjustable head for your hose to water plants with a light stream of water––especially when they’re delicate seedlings. Consider tools like pruning shears or scissors to cut and prune when your plants grow up, and a hand trowel or spade if you’re investing in a bigger more comprehensive garden plot. If you’re watering without a hose, choose a good metal watering can. Are you walking from the house to the garden? You might want a wheelbarrow for easy carrying and planting. Think through your gardening process to plan ahead for any tools you might need as your vegetables grow.
3. Pick the right vegetables for your garden
Choosing which vegetables to grow is a fun part of planting your garden. Learning to grow vegetables can be more enjoyable when you choose hearty, easy-to-grow crops. Do your research to learn about which plants grow well in your area, and favour plants that will grow confidently. If you choose difficult crops for your first vegetable garden, you’ll get discouraged easily. Choose crops like lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, or green beans if you’re looking for sturdy crops that are easier to keep alive. Take time to make your first vegetable garden personal. If there are vegetables or herbs you love to eat, prioritize those. Planting what you’re truly excited to eat adds extra joy and anticipation to the act of gardening. It’s also worth considering which plants grow well together. Explore online gardening guides to ensure that the vegetables you’re choosing will encourage each other’s growth—this is known as companion planting. Plants grown next to each other can even affect subtle nuances like the flavour of the vegetable, so it’s worth making sure that your vegetables will play nicely together before you plant them! Don’t forget about herbs. If you’re planting vegetables, round out your garden plot with a beginner herb garden and you’ll have flavourful seasonings to add to all your meals.
4. Know your climate and risk factors
Consider your local climate and common pests when you’re planting a vegetable garden. This way, you’ll be able to protect your crops from damage as they grow. Understanding the nuances of each province or country will also let you plan for a prosperous growing season with maximal productivity. Canadian provinces have a short growing season, and the optimal growing times differ based on where you live. A surprise frost or an especially hot summer can affect your growing season, so consider keeping a garden diary each year to note common themes and get to know your growing season more intimately. This is another great reason to choose hearty growers; picking plants that are resilient means you don’t have to worry if there’s a cold snap. You can learn about local crops at the local farmers’ market; walk around and ask the vendors what’s in season, and how hard each crop is to grow. Notice when certain vegetables pop up at roadside stands or in your local grocery store. Use online gardening guides to plan your garden based on your local growing season and relevant crops.
5. Select a nutrient-rich soil
You might think that dirt is dirt, but there’s a lot to consider when it comes to the material you grow your plants in! The right planting material can make or break your gardening efforts. Soil is a complex blend of matter that can include minerals, organic matter, compost, manure, and a variety of bacteria or fungi. If you’re planting outside, you can choose a richer soil that truly benefits your plants. For indoor gardening, you’ll be more limited because you’ll want to be especially watchful of the bugs or smells your soil generates. Healthy, rich soil lets your vegetables prosper and grow, making them even more delicious.
Tips for choosing the best gardening soil for your vegetables:
Choose a soil that’s designated for growing vegetables.
Choose a soil rich in organic matter with a crumbly texture.
An ideal vegetable soil drains easily but still allows for some moisture retention so that your plants can soak up enough water into the roots.
Avoid sandy, rocky, or clay-based soils as these can make it hard for plants to grow. These types of soils can also affect water retention.
Remember to enjoy your vegetable garden
This last point might seem like an unnecessary tip, but it’s important. Growing vegetables can be a meditative, enriching experience. Gardening with your grandchildren or kids can be a great bonding experience, and cooking a meal for friends with fresh garden vegetables makes a special evening even more personal. Even a small indoor or patio plant can have tremendous health benefits. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself if your first vegetable garden isn’t a smashing success! By keeping track each year of the vegetables that were easy to grow, and which herbs were a challenge, you’ll grow in confidence and each year your vegetable garden will be even more successful.
Looking for more gardening tips? Read our article on growing your own herbs at home.
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