Growing vegetables is much easier than many other plants. With just a minimum of good planning, proper planting and a little bit of care you’ll have a bounty of tasty, natural things to eat.
But before you sow a seed, think.
Consider your climate first and foremost. The type of vegetables you plant and, just as important, when will be influenced by whether you live in a tropical, temperate or cold climate. Within these broad categories there are several sub-types. The range of climates in the U.S., for example, runs across a dozen zones. You should not plant tomatoes – a heat-loving vegetable – when you can anticipate a frost after winter’s end.
On the other hand, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and more grow well when in cooler climates. They like 50F-68F (10C-20C) weather and will tolerate frost fairly well. Cabbage, carrots, lettuce and others will prefer slightly warmer temperatures, about 60F-75F (15C-25C). Tomatoes, corn, eggplant and potatoes prefer it hot. Of course, you can grow all of these if you plan appropriately and plant when the climate is ideal for each.
Soil is another consideration for a lot of people. In our area the hard clay soil can make it almost impossible to grow anything well. One easy solution for this is to create a raised bed planting system where you construct planting beds out of wood frames and fill them with a mixture of good soil and mulch.
Next, consider the total area and location of your planned vegetable garden. A family of four might do well with a 100 square meters, but that’s far more than a novice gardener will want to care for at first. Beyond size, think of the specific needs and nature of each plant. Corn grows tall, so it will produce shade. But you don’t want that shade to block sun desired by those tomatoes.
When considering the location, think about what you might have to do to protect the vegetable plants from excessive shade and wind. You will also want to consider animals like deer and rabbits and plan for them as well. I have to construct my own fence and other deterrents for the large number of deer in our neighborhood.
Some places are shaded naturally, and perhaps too much so. Vegetables like sunlight. At least five hours per day is needed by most. You’ll be able to tell they aren’t getting enough if your vegetables are far below average size, if the leaves are wimpy looking and by other signs. Plant the taller vegetables, like corn, to the north of the shorter ones. Plants low to the ground, like lettuce, need to be nearer the south edge.
Your garden can get too much wind. Providing a wind break might be a good idea. Wind can dry the soil and break tall plants. Cold winds, in particular, tend to stunt plant growth. They remove the heat provided by the sun. A garden lattice or an appropriately designed fence can solve the problem.
Give your vegetables plenty of water, though. Unlike herbs and some other plants, vegetables like lots of water. They’ll need good drainage in sandy loam in order to avoid root rot. But beyond that, the more the better. Watering the base and roots is more important than keeping the leaves wet. A drip system can provide the perfect solution here.
Be prepared to do what the pros do and rotate your crops from year to year. Different plants take different things from the soil in varying quantities. Some of that can be replaced with compost, fertilizer and other soil treatments. But help out by changing your design once in a while.
Having your own garden can be both fun and rewarding. You will know for sure that your family is eating the freshest and safest vegetables with all of the nutrients fully in tack.