How To Start A Vegetable Garden
How to start a vegetable garden is becoming a more popular question as the movement toward self-sufficiency and homesteading grows. And most are interested in organic gardening…maybe. After all, isn’t growing food organically more difficult than using conventional methods?
If you are using the term “organic” in the usual line of gardening thought – gardening in monoculture rows – then yes, organic gardening is, if not more difficult than conventional methods, at least as difficult.
What I want to talk about is something better than organic gardening. This article, rather than teaching you simply how to avoid toxic chemicals, will provide the basics of how to start a garden that doesn’t require any kind of spraying. Or, if you do it right, digging or weeding.
Three steps to the perfect vegetable garden
1. Build a bed.
Before you start planting anything, you need to examine your soil. Is it dark, even black, and loose? If so, you’re good to go. If not, collect as much organic material as you can: leaves, straw, kitchen scraps, weed clippings, manure, etc., and pile it over the space you want to use for your garden.
If you include at least a couple inches of finished compost or composted manure, you can begin planting in it immediately. If not, you will need to let the material sit and compost in place for at least a couple of months before you start planting.
Make sure you situate your bed that gets enough sun for what you want to grow. If you are going to stick to greens, two hours of full sun per day is plenty. To grow the common summer vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, the area should receive at least four hours of sun.
2. Plan your garden
One of the most important things to consider when thinking about how to start a vegetable garden is your growing zone. If you live in the United States, this page will help you find your zone. Your zone is basically what kind of climate you live in, which dictates which kind of food crops you can grow when.
As you plan, also keep in mind how big your bed is and what you would like to grow – which should coincide with what you like to eat.
The most important consideration will be the spacing of the plants. For example, tomatoes need more space than most other crops – anywhere from one to three feet apart, depending on who you ask – while other vines, like cucumbers, will take up much less space if they are trained up a trellis.
On the other hand, you can plant four lettuce or kale plants in a square foot, or nine bush beans or spinach plants in the same area. My e-book Weird Gardening goes into much more detail about how to plan a garden, including details on spacing and planting companions that help to mitigate – sometimes even eliminate – pest problems.
3. Plant seeds and/or transplants.
The final step in how to start a vegetable garden is, of course, getting something in the ground. The easiest crops to start from seed are peas, beans, lettuce, cucumbers and zucchini. Water the soil thoroughly ahead of time, then after planting the seeds – about 1/2 inch in the ground for peas and beans, and barely below the surface for the others – water at least every other day until the seeds emerge, or germinate.
Beginning gardeners will have more success with buying tomato, pepper and herb seedlings from nurseries. Eventually, though, you will want to purchase open-pollinated seeds and learn to start such plants from seed because you will be able to choose from a much larger variety than what is sold in any nursery.
Water your garden with either drip irrigation or soaker hoses whenever the soil is dry three inches down, typically about once a week unless you are growing in 100-degree weather.
There are too many details on how to start a vegetable garden to include in one blog post. If you are serious about growing your own food, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of my e-book, How To Grow Vegetables Without Losing Your Mind, which teaches the exact techniques to use in order to avoid weeding and digging, and how to keep pests from becoming a problem as you see huge yields come from relatively small spaces.