Growing vegetables has a lot of delicious benefits. Not only can a garden help you save money, it will give you the opportunity to know your food from seed to stem.
At Sunday, we believe that getting outside and putting your hands in the dirt is good for the soul. Gardening doesn’t need to be intimidating, just follow these easy steps and you’ll be enjoying some delicious results in no time.
The first step to starting your new vegetable garden is picking the right location. Every garden needs sun, water and healthy soil to thrive so you’ll want to set yourself up for success by picking the right plot.
Sun: The ideal plot offers six or more hours of direct sunlight a day. Avoid any location that doesn’t have direct sunlight, or is surrounded by dense plants or wooded areas so that there is plenty of air movement. Take note of which side of the garden faces North. Planting from North to South will help ensure consistent sun exposure.
Water: Access to water will make maintaining your garden easier, but it’s even more important to pick a location that is level and has good drainage. Improper drainage can cause flooding and over saturation that can kill plant growth.
Soil: Fertile soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. Be sure to avoid any known toxins and polluted areas. If you aren’t sure about the quality of your soil, we recommend soil testing or using a raised bed or planter. With the right fertilizers and soil amendments from composting, you can create a healthy soil ecosystem that will promote healthy growth.
Sunday Tip: Be sure to avoid any buried water lines, sprinkler systems or electric lines. If you aren’t sure where lines are located, be sure to have your yard surveyed before you start digging.
The first step in determining the best plants to grow best in your region is checking the USDA hardiness zone map. Once you’ve identified your hardiness zone, simply match your growing zone to the zone number printed on any seed packet or plant tag. For cool climates, kale and carrots are a great choice, and sweet potatoes or hot peppers are ideal for warmer growing zones.
Once you know your growing zone, it’s time to pick out some veggies. The right vegetable is the one you are excited about. Pick something that you want to grow, pick and eat.
For a continuous harvest we recommend planting both cool and warm climate vegetables. Once soil is warm enough for planting, it’s a great idea to start with root vegetables like potatoes. As the weather continues to warm, planting cooler climate veggies like carrots and broccoli in the spring will allow you to start your harvest in summer while you are beginning to plant warm season crops like tomatoes, and peppers. By planning out your planting schedule, you can enjoy fresh produce all season long.
Garden maps don’t need to be complicated or perfect, but drawing a simple plot map before you start planting is a great way to make sure that you get the highest yield possible without overcrowding plants.
Now that you’ve picked your plot and plotted your crops, it’s time to decide if you are going to start with seeds or transplants. Seeds will save you some money but transplants will save you some time by jump starting the growing process.
Before seeding or placing your plants into the ground, you’ll have to prepare your soil. If you are growing in a raised bed where the soil is fresh, things should be ready to go. If you are planting your garden directly into the ground, we recommend testing your soil to get all the dirt on your soil health.
Depending on the size of your space you can use a powered tiller or a hand tool like a cultivator pitch fork or spade. Be sure to remove any weeds, grass or unwanted plants before you start tilling. Then move through your garden in rows, turning over the dry outer layer and exposing the softer soil beneath. Be sure to add any soil amendments like compost, garden fertilizer or animal manure before sowing or planting and follow your plot map to ensure that your garden is properly spaced to your preferences.
For transplants, start by digging an appropriate sized hole for the plant. For most plants this means creating a hole that is the same depth as the root bulb but twice the width. Be sure to check the seed packet or plant tag for instructions before you begin. Once you have the correct size hole, remove the plant from its container and place it into the ground making sure not to damage or disrupt the root systems. Once the plant is in the soil, use your hands to firm up the dirt around the plant and water generously.
Different types of seeds require different sowing approaches. Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packets.
Take two fingers and dig a small hole in the soil. Place the seeds inside, cover and water. The Trough Method is the easiest and most affecting seeding method for most gardens, especially for raised beds or planters.
Create small mounds (about 6” high) of dirt and use your fingers to create two small holes in the mound, placing your seeds inside. The mounds help soil heat up faster, kick starting germination. The Hill Method is recommended for inground gardens where temperatures remain cooler.
Once your seeds or transplants are planted, it’s time to water. Be sure not to drench the plant or seeds directly. Instead, shower the surrounding soil. For best results, water in the morning so your soil is well hydrated for the afternoon sun.
Over the growing season there are bound to be a few weeds along the way. Weeds compete with your vegetables for sunlight, water and nutrients and given the opportunity, they will crowd out your produce. Removing weeds by hand and being sure to only nurture and water wanted plants can go a long way. But if weeds start to get the upper hand, using an OMRI certified organic herbicide spot treatment can help you regain control without losing your vegetables, or your organic status.
Your new veggie garden is a great way to get to know your food, work on your green thumb and who knows, it might even get your children excited about growing veggies.