If you are new to vegetable gardening, here are some tips:
- Start small. Find a small plot in your backyard or even just a few large pots. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed as your summer gets busier. If this year goes well, you can always expand the operation next season.
- Choose fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow and enjoyed by your family. For your first year, choose plants that produce quickly and are first-year producers. Plants such as zucchini, squash, lettuce, spinach, radishes, tomatoes and melons are easy and allow kids to watch the progress of their plants. However, don't plant lettuce and spinach if your family turns their noses up at the sight of salad.
- Find a book to use as a guide. Of course there are countless number of online gardening resources to take advantage of. I suggest a book because you often want to look up a small piece of information as you're planting, such as planting depth or spacing. If you are already in your yard with your gloves and muddy shoes on the last thing you want to have to do is go inside to Google "plant spacing for tomatoes" and have to weed through the results to find that the answer is 1 1/2 to 4 feet apart. I use Sunset's Vegetable Gardening but it is no longer available. You can find some basic vegetable gardening books at Amazon.com.
- Order online or find a local nursery that carries the varieties you want. There are advantages to both avenues. First, online you can often get a better description of the fruit or vegetable you are looking for as well as the option of several varieties. However, your plants often arrive very small and it will take awhile to get them going. Your local nursery will allow you to purchase your plants in the morning and have them in your garden by dinnertime. Be cautious about the advice given by nursery employees. Some can be very knowledgeable and extremely helpful in your garden endeavors and some are there just to get a paycheck and really have no gardening knowledge whatsoever. I use both avenues to pick the plants I want. I have had a lot of success with Gurney's for vegetable plants, vegetable seeds and small fruit. Also check out their sale plus get $20 off a $40 purchase.
- Wait for the last frost, then start planting. Most plants need to be planted after the last danger of frost has past. However, some plants and seed such as lettuce, spinach, strawberries, radishes and carrots can be planted several weeks earlier. There are many other vegetables that can be planted early these are just the ones I have experience with. Depending on where you live, your soil might need to be amended to make it nutrient rich and productive. Talk to someone at your local Lowe's or Home Depot to determine what they recommend. Usually a few bag of garden soil, compost or top soil can do the trick.
Getting your garden started will take a weekend or two. After your garden is set, all you have left to do is water and harvest! If you want to go organic, look for soil amendments marked organic and use natural methods of weed and pest control. Unless you have irrigation set in your garden area, I suggest watering with a soaker hose to cut down on the work of daily watering.
Good luck and I would love to hear how you and your family have benefited from your garden!
This is my small garden from two summers ago. It will look a bit different this year since we moved but I'm going to do my best with the space we have.