As you begin your garden, be sure to think of it as a learning experience. There are plenty of online resources and books on the subject. And even if you’re new to gardening, you can still give it a try!
To help you better indulge your green thumb, and we’ve compiled a list of the five most basic requirements for healthy, happy gardening.
Soil testing is the first step of developing a vegetable garden. You can have the most beautiful garden, but without good soil, your plants will not grow. The soil test will tell you what nutrients are lacking in your garden’s soil so that you can amend them with organic matter. If you fail to do this, your plants will be delicate, and growth will be stunted.
Soil testing tells you what nutrients are needed to make your soil into what’s called an “excellent growing medium.” It is not an exact science; rather, it is based on averages of what is recommended for various types of soils. Therefore, don’t expect to find one specific formula that will apply to all types of soils in your area. Different types of soils need different amendments. To determine if your soil needs any improvement, take a sample from each area of your garden and send it off for testing with a soil test kit.
Decide what you want to plant
The first step in the gardening process is to decide what you want to grow. You must consider your available space and your family’s needs. Not all vegetables grow the same way, so select a variety of vegetables, which provide a good harvest throughout the season.
Vegetables, flowers, and herbs can also be grown in many other places besides the garden. These places include pots on a deck or patio and raised beds on a deck or patio, around trees or shrubs, on a rooftop or balcony of an apartment building, and even on your front lawn! Before beginning any garden project, it is vital to evaluate your space and determine which planting areas have the best sun exposure and drainage.
The most appropriate location for a garden depends on the time of year the vegetables are harvested. For example, if you want to harvest tomatoes in late August or September, you should plant them in a location that receives at least six hours of direct afternoon sun between Mid-May and Mid-June. The more sun exposure your vegetable plants receive during this critical stage of their growth, the better they will produce.
When planting seed directly into the ground, use a shovel or hand trowel to make small holes about 1,2 inches deep for each seed. Space seeds about an inch apart in each hole, cover with soil and water gently until moistened. To avoid damaging young plants while working in the garden, use a hoe or rake instead of a spading fork or shovel.
Water at the right time
Water plants thoroughly to a depth of at least 6 inches. Watering deeply helps prevent plant disease by washing away spores before they can infect the plant. Water early because you will reduce the chance of water evaporating during the day.
To avoid washing away soil nutrients, water plants from below, not from overhead. Water that hits leaves will simply run off the leaves and drip onto the ground instead of being absorbed by the plant’s roots. Choose a quality garden hose reel that will withstand harsh weather conditions. We also advise beginners to obtain the equipment they require, because some things you really won’t be able to do by hand.
Watch out for pests
It’s always better to prevent than to cure.
Gardeners can control insects and diseases by using preventive practices, like rotating cropping areas, planting resistant varieties, and maintaining good garden sanitation. In addition, there are several commercially available organic or synthetic insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides that provide control under most conditions. However, growers should utilize these materials with caution to avoid harmful effects on humans or the environment.
Proper harvesting and storage
You may harvest the entire crop at once or over a period of time. To keep quality high, remove any damaged or diseased plants before harvesting.
To maintain quality, protect harvested vegetables with high humidity and cool temperatures. A convenient way to achieve this is to place them in cardboard boxes. They can then be stored in a cool, shady area with high humidity, such as the garage or basement under beds of moist peat moss or sawdust. Alternatively, you can store vegetables in perforated plastic bags. If you make holes in the bags with a knife, the plastic will allow air to circulate for good ventilation while keeping out insects and reducing moisture loss.
If stored properly, green tomatoes will keep for up to six weeks; turnips and rutabagas, for three months; beets and carrots, one year; onions, two years; and potatoes (mostly in storage), five years.
Alison Pearson is an interior design student. She is a writer and designer, and her ultimate passion is art and architecture. She is also a bibliophile and her favorite book is “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner.