Home Tip Tuesday: Planning a Vegetable Garden

Follow the planting advice for your zone.

Get exercise, fresh air, and the satisfaction of eating food you grew yourself when you plant a vegetable garden. Whether you have a patio or a large plot of land, plan the perfect garden with these tips.

Select the Right Site & Prepare the Soil 
Most vegetables do best when they have full sun, while some enjoy a mixture of sun and shade. The ideal site for a vegetable garden will offer sun exposure for a minimum of 6 hours a day. 

As a beginner, start small to have success and grow your confidence. If you dive in with a half-acre plot, you'll feel overwhelmed and your garden can suffer. Another beginner's mistake is planting too many veggies. For instance, zucchini is really prolific, so you don't need more than one zucchini plant to enjoy this summer crop. 

Once you have your site, prepare the soil. For a container garden, fill planters with soil intended for container veggie gardening. If you're planting in the ground, improve your soil with compost. 

Pick Your Produce
You don't need to grow everything in your garden. Some gardeners find it helpful to grow expensive summertime favorites, from strawberries to tomatoes. Small-space gardeners may prefer to grow herbs, leaf lettuce, and other crops that don't require a lot of space. 

Herbs are a good choice for limited space.

If you don't have the perfect sun exposure, there are plenty of plants that do well in part shade, including Swiss chard, cilantro, carrots, kale, garlic, and herbs. These plants can go behind sun-lovers, so they get the natural shade cast by a tomato or pea plant, or they can go on their own in a shady plot. By planting what will do well in the exposure you have, you'll enjoy success. 

Start your vegetables from seed or purchase starts from your local garden center or farmer's market. Follow the planting advice for your zone. While some plants, such as arugula, can be started before the last front in your area, sensitive summer vegetables like zucchini must be started after the last frost date. 

Water and Weed
After you plant your garden, spend time every day checking on the progress of your plants. Water plants in the morning or evening; when you water in the afternoon, sunlight can cause water evaporation and rob your plants of moisture. Containers gardens require more frequent watering, especially during heat waves.

Remove weeds manually, so plants aren't competing with weeds for resources. Fertilize to increase yield. Then harvest your produce when it's ready. 

If you follow these tips, you'll enjoy success with your first vegetable garden. You can evaluate your garden's performance and make tweaks for an even bigger yield the following year. 

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