April 23, 2012
Gardening

Gardening Tips: How to Plant a Vegetable Garden

I love to garden. I love digging in the dirt, planting little plants, scattering seeds, trimming overgrowth, even weeding as long as I haven’t let it get too out of hand. I love picking flowers and produce. It’s all just so fun to me.

Why a Vegetable Garden?

There are lots of good reasons to grow an interest in gardening, particularly vegetable gardening:

  • Grow the food you love to eat. It’s right there and you won’t need to run to the grocery store.
  • Know what’s gone into that produce. You can make it pesticide free and organic.
  • Enjoy the full flavor, freshness, greater nutrition. Picked when it’s ripe gives it better flavor and fewer vitamins are lost because of transportation.
  • Get some exercise. Digging, bending, stooping—all good for you.
  • Breathe all that fresh air.
  • Gardening with the kids can be educational for them and a wholesome family activity.
  • Gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. Plus your friends and neighbors will love you if you share excess produce.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. All plants, not just trees, are good for the environment. And less of your food will have to be shipped in from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

The first thing to consider is the location of the garden.

You’ll want to find a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of bright sunlight each day. The more exposure, the better your harvest will be. My own garden has been getting about 6-7 hours of sun each day and I was absolutely astounded at how much more produce my daughter got from her garden that got about 12-15 hours of sun each day. So, when it comes to sunlight, more is more!

You’ll also want to choose a spot that will be easy to water. Here in Colorado supplemental water is a must. If the garden spot is hot, some extra water will be even more important. When it comes to heat, some plants handle it better than others. For example, tomatoes like it warm, but peas do not.

Also, if this is your first garden, start small. As you get into it, you can enlarge.

Once you’ve settled on a location you’ll need to do some preparation.

If the area is currently grass, you’ll have to dig up the grass. Shake the dirt off the roots and get rid of the grass. If you turn it into the ground you’ll have a lot more weeding to do as the grass regenerates itself.

Now you have a plot of dirt. Add some organic matter like old leaves, straw, old grass clippings (be sure that weed & feed fertilizer wasn’t used on the grass). And/or you can buy compost and composted manure. By adding these to your dirt, you are making your soil more nutritious for the plants. They will grow better and produce more with great dirt. Dig these things in really well. You’ll want to dig at least as deep as your shovel—8-10 inches. Worms will change the additions into dirt, but you don’t need to wait for that before you plant.

Plant things your family likes.

I always planted green beans near the edge of the garden because my daughters and their friends loved to eat them raw. As they played in the yard, they picked beans and nibbled away. I also love to plant cherry tomatoes. Not only are they fun to share, but I nibble them as I work in the garden.

Speaking of green beans and tomatoes, you’ll want to plant them after all danger of frost. That means they go in the ground after Mother’s Day. If nighttime temperatures have been down around 35 or lower, don’t plant them until there has been 5-6 consecutive warmer nights. If you buy plants from a nursery, the same is true for lots of the plants you’ll buy.

Some plants are hardier and prefer cooler weather.

Things like peas, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and spinach should be planted earlier. They will produce earlier in the season and finish up earlier. You can plant these as soon as the ground can be worked, but after you’ve prepared it. Last year I planted lettuce, peas and carrots on March 20th. To be honest, only the lettuce really took off, but chilly April temperatures didn’t kill the peas and carrots.

Once you’ve planted, keep the dirt moist.

Seeds need moisture to germinate and little plants need it to grow a strong root system. As things come out of the ground you can spread some straw between rows or plants. As the plants get bigger, add more straw to reduce evaporation and weeds. In a couple of months you’ll be reaping the benefits of your work. Enjoy!

Are you a gardener? What tips do you have to offer? If you’re just getting started, what questions do you have?

 

 

About the author:

Jay Demore loves the outdoors. During her free time you can find her hiking, snowshoeing and gardening. Inside, she is a graphic designer at Front Range Community College.