Growing your own vegetable garden is a great way to save money and eat healthier, but it’s not as easy as scattering around some seeds and setting the sprinkler dial to 20 minutes.
No good kitchen creation ever came about without at least a little bit of prep work, whether that is thawing out some chicken breasts or preheating the oven to 425 degrees. The same is true for gardens. Before letting your plants stretch out their roots to relax, you want to make sure their new home is well built and inviting.
The most important prep work you can do is load your soil with organic matter such as leaves or undecomposed manure. Your plants will pay you back tenfold with plump and delicious fruit worthy of your dinner table if their roots are able to crawl their way through deep, organically rich soil. The general rule of thumb is a 1- to 2-inch thick layer where you intend to plant, but lean closer to 2 inches if your garden is new or your soil is abundant in clay or sand. To put this into perspective, you need about 3 cubic yards of compost to spread a 1-inch thick layer over 1,000 square feet. Work your organic matter into your soil to a depth of about 6 inches using a shovel or rototiller a month before you plant so it has a chance to break down and breathe new life into the soil.
Manure at work.
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Start small if you are a first time gardener. Gardening can take up a good chunk of your free time. There is water to be poured or sprayed, weeds that need to be yanked and fruit that needs to be harvested. No need to overwhelm yourself your first time through. Remember, we all needed to learn to crawl before we could walk.
Different regions of the country, as well as times of year are better suited for growing certain produce. Vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli and peas like to get a head start and grow best when planted in the beginning to middle of April, but carrots, cucumbers and beans like to be fashionably late to the party with a planting date not until the middle of June. Be sure to check which zone you live in for the best results.
Zone 3 planting schedule
Zone 4 planting schedule
Zone 5 planting schedule
Since you put in all this hard work, it would be a shame for you to not reap its rewards. A fence is a great way to keep out any uninvited guests such as rabbits, raccoons and deer looking for an easy snack to nibble on.
Wire-mesh fences are great for keeping out critters of all sizes.
Companion plants are another terrific option for protection. Think of them as Batman to each other’s Robin. Together they look after one another by providing support, preventing disease and drawing in beneficial insects to help repel those pesky bugs looking to tear your spoils to shreds.
Finally, harvest as often as possible. Plucking off your vegetable’s fruit as soon as its ripe allows your plants to retain nutrients and energy that will fuel new and continuous growth.