Ah, the joy of growing vegetables in the garden: it's certainly a great way to feed you and your family. But did you know that most people—including yours truly—who have vegetable gardens save, on average, around a $100 a year on vegetables? Did you know that homegrown vegetables are up to 3 times safer and a whole lot more organic than any supermarket's selection? You do now.
Growing vegetables in the garden is one of life's greatest small pleasures. Some use them for a steady supply of food and others use them as supplement to their existing food stock. In either case, managing a vegetable garden is fun and so rewarding. But whether you're a newcomer to vegetable gardening or a veteran, there are a few tips that can be extremely useful.
The basics for beginners
So you're going to be growing vegetables in the garden—great! Take a few pieces of advice from a person who's been gardening for years.
- Make sure your soil is good, healthy-looking, nutritious soil—plants typically hate soils with a lot of sand or clay. - Gather a sample of it and take it to a gardening shop (or similar) to let them run a quick and simple pH test on it. - A good pH level is usually about 6.4. - Your vegetable garden needs to be in spot that gets the most sunlight.
Water, drainage, and general maintenance
Drainage is definitely an important point. Depending on the height of the ground, make sure the garden's drainage system is efficient. You don't want water to practically run right off it, but you also don't want it to be susceptible to over-watering. Regions that get a lot more rain than others (i.e. heavy rain is pretty common to most of the U.S.'s Eastern half) can pour more water on the ground that it's capable of quickly absorbing. The latter is all the more reason for a good drainage system.
Assuming that you get little rain while growing vegetables in garden, water your plants twice weekly—one good weekly watering is usually more than sufficient for areas that receive moderate rain. Also, during spring and summer don't bury or even worry about foliage as this is normal and won't hurt the crops. However, when the foliage turns brown in fall gradually clean it off.
A variety of vegetables can be grown a good portion of the year
There are many vegetables that are much easier to care for, easier to sustain over the long-term, and last seasonably longer. Bush beans are one and they're generally pretty self-sufficient. Pole beans are easier to plant typically much more resilient against hotter temps in the summer, and just need support beams to grow. With most vegetables, however, it's ideal to plant and start growing in spring. Make sure that the possibility of Old Man Winter (in the form of frost usually) is long gone, though. The last thing you want is to wake up to a completely spoiled vegetable garden because you planted too early.
Other plants that are typically simple to moderately easy to sustain include the venerable tomato, legumes like lettuce, peppers, zucchini squash, and good 'ole ordinary squash. But whichever crops you plan to grow, it's important to do at least a little plant-specific research. Some more than others have specific requirements.
Zack Wilson is an avid organic gardener, for more comprehensive information on vegetable garden preparation
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