Fresh fruits and vegetables are central to any healthy diet. In order to get the freshest vegetables possible, you may have thought about starting your own vegetable garden. If you aren’t an experienced gardener, getting started might seem daunting. Where do you put your garden? What vegetables do you plant? When is the best time to start? Fear not. Follow a few simple tips, put in a little hard work, and you will be enjoying fresh vegetables in no time.
- Find the best location. Look for a spot that gets plenty of sunshine. Choose a location where water drains properly. A site that offers some protection from the wind is also ideal.
- Don’t overdo it. Start small. You might be enthusiastic and full of energy on the first day, but maintaining a garden is a long-term commitment. You will have a lot to learn. Expand your garden as your skills and knowledge increase.
- Know your soil. Before starting, remove any rocks, or debris. Several weeks before you plant, consider adding compost or soil conditioner. Vegetables grow better in soft soils. Soil with too much clay or sand will be difficult to manage. Silty soils, on the other hand, hold onto just the right amount of water and nutrients. If you are unsure what kind of soil you have, grab a handful, rub your fingers through it, and take note of the texture. If the soil is thick and muddy, it is a clay. If the soil is coarse and dry, it is sandy. If it falls somewhere in between, you have silty soil.
- Use raised beds. If you want to avoid working with existing soils, consider using a raised bed. You will need to buy soil to fill the bed, but this way you guarantee that you are working with high-quality soil from the start. The bottom of a raised bed is open to the ground below, but your plants will be less susceptible to weeds that grow along the ground. You also won’t have to bend over as far to tend to your garden, saving yourself potential back troubles. Raised beds can be purchased from your local home and garden store, starting at $50.
- Keep your garden free of destructive insects. Not all bugs are bad for your garden. The presence of earthworms, for instance, is a sign of healthy soil. Take time to learn which insects in your area are actually beneficial and which ones will do harm. Sprinkle flour and salt around your plants to keep away slugs and snails. Encourage pest-eating animals, such as birds and lizards to visit your garden. Regularly check the health of your plants. The more robust your plants are, the more resistant to insects they will be.
- Plant the right vegetables. Talk to your local nursery about what plants are most suited to your local area. Particularly in places with extreme winters or summers, finding the right plants can be a challenge. Some popular cool weather crops include lettuce, carrots, spinach, and onions. In warmer seasons and climates, consider planting peppers, tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers.
- Avoid overwatering plants. Watering your plants too much is actually a bigger problem than watering them too little. If your plants’ leaves are drooping and turning yellow, you may be giving them too much water. Use a moisture meter, which tells you how much water is present in the soil. Eventually, you will learn to gauge the right amount of moisture just by using your fingers.
- Plan ahead: Don’t wait until the weather is perfect to start. Do research on plants, buy raised beds, and prepare the soil by using compost to add nutrients. Be realistic about how much time you have to dedicate to your garden and plan accordingly.
- Take advantage of gardening apps: Choosing what to grow, where to grow it, and when to start can be confusing for a beginning gardener. Fortunately, gardening experts have developed a wide range of apps to remove the guesswork. GrowIt! gives you advice on good crops for your local area and allows you to show off your prized vegetables to other users. Gardenate helps you to pick which vegetables to plant, then tells you when to plant them. GRO analyzes your gardening goals and your local weather conditions to formulate achievable gardening projects. All three of these apps are available for iPhone and Android.
Starting a brand-new garden as a beginner requires hard work and smart planning. Fortunately, you have more tools than ever to make your new garden a success. Your dedication will be rewarded many times over. Don’t delay. Get to work and you will be a green thumb before you know it.