Planning Your First Vegetable Garden

Here's all you need to know about starting a vegetable garden.

Why Grow Vegetables

growing a vegetable garden

Starting a vegetable garden at home is an easy way to save money -- that $2 tomato plant can easily provide you with 10 pounds of fruit over the course of a season.

It also gives you the pleasure of savoring a delicious, sun-warmed tomato fresh from the garden. In almost every case, the flavor and texture of varieties you can grow far exceed the best grocery store produce.

Plus, growing vegetables can be fun. It's a great way to spend time with children or have a place to get away and spend time outdoors in the sun.

Growing vegetables is probably easier than you think. If you plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of the fruits of your labor -- without having to spend hours and hours tending it. Vegetables and flowers are natural companions, and the combination can turn a potential eyesore into an attractive landscape feature. Read on for more!

Deciding What to Grow

Potting shed with vegetable seedlings

It's best to start small with your first garden. Many gardeners get a little too excited at the beginning of the season and plant more than they need -- and end up wasting food and feeling overwhelmed by their garden.

So first, take a look at how much your family will eat. Keep in mind that vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing throughout the season -- so you may not need many plants to serve your needs. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn, produce only once. You may need to plant more of these.

Determining How Much Space You Need

Tomatoes, Basil, Nasturtium, Pepper

Once you know what you want to plant, you can figure out how much space your garden will need.

Keep in mind that you don't need a large space to begin a vegetable garden. If you choose to grow in containers, you don't even need a yard -- a deck or balcony may provide plenty of space.

In fact, a well-tended 10x10-foot garden will usually produce more than a weed-filled or disease-ridden 25x50-foot bed.


Picking the Perfect Spot

Vegetable garden with tomatoes

No matter how big your vegetable garden is, there are three basic requirements for success:

1. Full sun. Most vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of direct sun. If they don't get enough light, they won't bear as much and they'll be more susceptible to attack from insects or diseases.

Here's a hint: If you don't have a spot in full sun, you can still grow many leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. And if you're in a hot-summer climate, cool-season varieties such as peas may do better in part shade.

2. Plenty of water. Because most vegetables aren't very drought tolerant, you'll need to give them a drink during dry spells. The closer your garden is to a source of water, the easier it will be for you.

3. Good soil. As with any kind of garden, success usually starts with the soil. Most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter (such as compost or peat moss).

Many gardeners like to have their vegetable gardens close to the house. This makes it easier to harvest fresh produce while you're cooking. It can also be handy to keep a few favorite potted vegetables next to your grill.

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