Home Tip Tuesday: Planting a Vegetable Garden

Creating a vegetable garden is very rewarding.

There's no denying that vegetables grown in your own backyard taste better. There's also no denying that raising vegetables is a lot of work, especially if you're starting a garden for the first time. But once you taste the sweet, juicy and vibrant flavors of your own produce you'll know it was all worth the effort.

Scout Your Site
Vegetables need about six hours of direct sunlight each day, even more is better for some crops. Some of the things vegetables need can be brought to the site, such as water or soil amendments, but choosing a too-shady location can't be remedied. A proper garden site should be more or less flat and provide good drainage. Avoid steeply sloped or boggy areas. Also consider the access to your site. Having a vegetable garden in the most rustic and isolated corner of your property may seem like a wholesome idea, but when you have to haul shovels and rakes and heavy loads of compost and run yards and yards of hose out to the site, it may not seem so quaint. 

A 10'x10' garden is the perfect size to start with.
Start Small
Establishing a new vegetable garden can take many hours of work. For most crops, the soil will need to be tilled and amended to create at least 12 inches of loose, fertile soil for planting. A 10'x10' garden is the perfect size to begin, it's enough room to grow 3-5 different crops and harvest a moderate amount for the average family. Once you've mastered your first plot, consider increasing the size to 300-500 feet. A general rule of thumb is to plant approximately 100 square feet of garden per each person in the family for fresh vegetables all summer long. As your ambition and experience grows, you may want to grow a surplus of produce for freezing, canning, selling or sharing. To provide vegetables for your family all year long, estimate planting about 200 square feet per person.

Crop Selection
With so many delicious vegetables to choose from, one of the biggest challenges of home gardening is deciding what to grow. First, choose seeds or plants that are best for your site and of course, the ones your family will most enjoy. Some easy crops for the first-time gardener include carrots, radishes, squash, zucchini and lettuces. These vegetables need a relatively short amount of time to grow and provide plenty of bang for the buck. 

Purchase plants that are already thriving for vegetables with a long growing period.
Should you plants seeds or purchase seedlings? The answer depends on the crop, your budget and your patience. Crops that start easily from seed like radishes or beans aren't typically available as seedlings. However, for vegetables with a long growing period--like tomatoes--it makes sense to purchase plants that are already thriving. With a little experimentation and practice, you'll quickly figure out which options work best for you and your garden. 

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