The first year I lived in a “real house” I was excited to get a garden started. I just couldn’t wait until spring when I could plant all kinds of vegetables, and reap the benefits all summer long. I dreamed of home cooked meals and snacking on raw veggies, canning for the winter and having the most beautiful garden on the block.
While this seems like a good idea and a nice dream, it really wasn’t. Being a new gardener I let my excitement get the best of me. Luckily, my family made sure I still had a very nice garden that year, and helped me learn how to make a vegetable garden the right way.
How to Plan a Vegetable Garden
The first step in making your vegetable garden is to make sure you have enough room for all you want to plat. Some plants get bigger than others, and take up more space. Make sure you give certain plants more room than others in your vegetable garden, and plan enough sunlight for smaller plants. Most plants have specific instructions on how, where, and when to plant them. Do your research on EACH plant to make sure you have a large enough space.
In previous years, I’ve had smaller plans die because they eventually end up in the shadow of a larger plant. View your vegetable garden from every angle, and check the planting information on each plant or package of seeds. Know exactly how tall the plants will get before you decide where they will go in your vegetable garden. Also factor in shade from buildings and what time of the day they might be in shade. Because of our neighbor’s garage, we usually end up with smaller tomato plants close to the garage, and larger towards the middle of our yard. This is because the plants in the shade aren’t getting enough sun in the afternoon. While tomato plants aren’t very picky, other plants may not even grow if not getting proper sun. Never would I plant “full sunlight” vegetable plants on the “dark side” of the garden, even if it does get sun most of the rest of the day.
The second thing you show know about home vegetable gardens is this: Don’t plant everything you think looks tastey.
Pick a vegetable that is easy to grow and hearty in your specific area. Ask your local gardening supply store what will work best in your new vegetable garden. Tomatoes work best where I live, but don’t work well in other areas. You can also talk to neighbors, and ask them what their gardening experiences have been. For example, I can not grow pumpkins or squash because of an inscect that lives in our town. My grandmother, on the other hand, can grow them just fine 30 miles north of us. When it comes to suggestions on what to plant in a vegetable garden, local is always best!
Once you are an expert at growing one or two different types of vegetables, then you can move on to learn how to plan a vegetable garden with more types. I use tomatoes as an example because it was easy for me to grow. Over the years I’ve attempted growing various other vegetable gardens, sometimes without success, but always with harvestable vegetables of some sort (like tomatoes!). You do not want to overwhelm yourself with dozens of plants when you aren’t sure what plant needs what kind of care.
Also, the bigger the garden, the more weeds there will be to pull. Plants take TLC, time, and devotion! Always remember to start small, so you can give each vegetable plant the care they require.
Start with Plants, Not Seeds
Instead of throwing seeds in the ground, start off easy buying vegetable plants that are already started. They have been started at the right time of year by experts, and are much easier to grow in your vegetable garden. Check local nurseries or farmers market in the spring. Ask for advice while you are there, listing to suggestion for the plant in particular. You can learn a lot about how to make a vegetable garden from those who have had years of experience.
You can also try to grow seeds inside several weeks prior to planting them outside. Just be sure to read the package for specific information, and look up information on your own area if need be. That way you’ll know how far ahead of time to plant, as well as what the plant might need to get fully started. Also be sure you have enough sunlight inside for it to grow, such as near a window or under artificial lighting.
Know Your Time Limits
Another thing you must know before you know how to plan a vegetable garden is knowing your time limits.
If you can only devote 10 minutes per day to your vegetable garden, make sure you only have a few plants. Pulling weeds can quickly become a problem, so if you have limited time don’t make a big area for your vegetable garden which will take a long time to weed.
A good rule of thumb is to dig or till up the ground for your the vegetable garden yourself, noting how much time you are devoting to each plot for individual plants. It took us two weeks to plant all of our vegetable plants this year, but we were able to keep the other areas weeded and watered was we went along. We have been devoting aproximately 30 minutes a day (an hour or more on the weekends), and have over twenty plants. In addition to tomatoes and pepper that we usually plant, we plan to try brocholli and cauliflower as a new vegetable in our garden.
If you have more time, you’ll be able to plant more, just remember to start small. Keep in mind that planting is the easiest part – pulling weeds, watering, and taking care of your vegetable garden will take much more time. Know your time limits or you could quickly become overwhelmed!
Last but not least, seek help when planning your vegetable garden doesn’t turn out like you thought it would. In order to get the most out of your vegetable garden, you’ll need to ask for advice from time to time. Since you are here reading this, it’s obvious you’ve already started. Ask others in your area how they set up their vegetable garden, and what has been the most successful for them. Remember that every area is different!
You can also learn how to plan a vegetable garden by reading online publications and newsletters on a regular basis. You never know when a new tips or information might come in handy, or teach you something about plants that you didn’t know.
I wish you the best success and biggest harvest from your home vegetable garden!