Growing a vegetable or kitchen garden will bring you many health benefits: eating better food, staying active and reducing stress. It also is good for your pocketbook by saving you a great deal at the grocery store. Here are ten helpful tips on how to grow a vegetable garden:
- Know what to plant. To find out what and when to plant in your region, contact the nearest Cooperative Extension office. You can also talk to neighbors who have a garden or visit a plant nursery nearby.
- Use a planting calendar. It’s a good idea to make a planting chart that takes into account the seasons and life cycles of the plants. Think about the weather and be prepared for possible problems, such as a dip in temperatures. Knowing when and how to water and fertilize your garden will make it more productive.
- Pick the best location. You can grow vegetables in your yard, a community garden, containers or planters in your porch, terrace or balcony, or even in window planters. The most important thing is not to plant your fruits and vegetables in locations that don’t get much sun. To get a good harvest, your crops need to be in a sunny and open location.
- Build a raised bed. Raised beds can be made by creating low mounds of soil or by building a large frame out of wood. They help you improve the quality of the soil, avoid compacting of the soil and promote better drainage. You should design your raised beds so that you can reach all your crops without having to stand inside the bed.
- Prepare the soil. Buy or make your own organic compost. Another option is manure mixed with compost. Chemical fertilizers should be your last option, since they can burn the crops and be harmful to your health.
- Buy seeds. If this is your first time planting, it’s best to plant your seeds ahead of time in seed trays and then transplant them. Buying a few plants may simplify things if this is your first time growing a garden or if it’s getting late in the season to plant certain varieties.
- Use your space wisely by growing the same type of vegetable at different times. If you plant small numbers of the same fast-growing vegetable throughout the planting season, you’ll be able to harvest your crop at different times and it won’t compete for space and sun. This way you will enjoy your harvest throughout the growing season. If you plant all crops at once, they will all be ready at the same time.
- Rotate your crops to grow fruits and vegetables more than once a year and conserve nutrients and avoid diseases in the soil. You should plan ahead and learn the basics about vegetable families and how they grow.
- Remember that certain plants don’t grow well together and some help each other. You can have the following plants in the same garden, but not next to each other. Avoid these combinations:
|Plant||Don’t Plan with|
|Potato||Tomato or squash|
|Cucumber||Potato or sage|
On the other hand, companion planting can help protect against pests and disease. Try planting some of these plants together:
- Beans, carrot, celery, corn, eggplant, peas, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, beet, strawberry, cucumber
- Carrot, beet, garlic, scallion
- Cucumber, corn, beans, sunflower, radish, dill, nasturtium
- Lettuce, cabbage, Brussels Sprout, cauliflower, lettuce, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip, beet, carrot, cucumber, onion, strawberry
- Squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, cucumber, corn, marigold, oregano, nasturtium
- Tomato, eggplant, okra, pepper, asparagus, beans, carrot, cucumber, onion, basil, marigold
- Get ready to work outdoors. Wear long pants, sunglasses and a hat. Use sunblock, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, and bug repellent if necessary. Protect your hands with gloves and your feet with socks and shoes. On hot days, try to garden early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Drink lots of water, but avoid alcohol and sugary drinks. Take breaks in shady areas. Children under 4, the elderly and those who are not in good health should not be exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time.