PLANNING AND PLANTING YOUR FIRST VEGETABLE GARDEN
By Lorna Kring
So, you’ve decided to plant a vegetable garden. Congratulations! You’ve made an excellent choice with far-reaching benefits. Not only will you have a source of inexpensive, fresh vegetables, you’ll also be in complete command of how your crops are grown – so they can be as organic and natural as you like.You can also plant surplus amounts to can and freeze, and make your own jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves – a great way to stretch your garden’s goodness (and food budget) into the winter months.On top of all that, working with soil and plants is an excellent stress buster. It’s one of the easiest activities to practice mindfulness, and working with the earth is a natural antidote to anxiety and worry.
Clearly, there are a lot of positive benefits to the vegetable patch.If you’re new to gardening, it’s a good idea to start small.Preparing the soil and planting are just the first steps to a bountiful harvest. As spring and summer progress, your garden will need to be weeded, watered, and maintained – all of which take time and energy.To prevent overwhelm, begin with a plot that’s manageable for you and your schedule. An area as little as 8 by 8 feet will provide 64 square feet to work with, which is plenty of space to produce a good yield – and maintaining it won’t take up every spare minute of your time.
GARDEN TOOL BASICS
A few basic tools will do for your first efforts. As your expertise develops, you can add specialized pieces. To get the best value, invest in well-made tools of good quality materials that are appropriate for your size and build.
You’ll need the following:
A round-tipped shovel for digging.
A fork for turning and loosening soil.
A steel bow rake for cleaning and leveling.
A hoe or cultivator for weeding.
A hand trowel or hori hori for transplanting and weeding.
A hose and nozzle, or watering can.
And you’ll quickly appreciate these extras:
Garden gloves with nitrile-coated palms and fingers.
Bypass snips for pruning and cutting.
Sharp scissors or a garden knife for harvesting and pruning.
A lightweight landscaper bag for gathering leaves, weeds, and grass clippings.
A kneeling pad, to save your knees.
A weed torch, to save your back.
Gather some reference material, like seed catalogues or gardening magazines, and write out a list of all your favourite veggies. Once you know what you’re going to plant, refer to a planting chart for your region.This will help to determine which veggies can be direct sown, which seedlings you can start at home yourself, and which ones you’ll have to buy first. Check seed packets for information about light requirements, spacing, spread, and height Remember, the sun travels from east to west, and all of your plants will need sunlight.
Using a fork or a pointed shovel, dig deep and turn the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, preferably 18-24 inches.Remove any rocks, roots, and other debris, breaking up the soil as you go along.Once the soil has been turned, cleaned, and aerated, spread two inches of organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure over the top, and work into the soil.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Basil and tomatoes
Companion planting is the practice of using complimentary plants to provide natural pest control, improve flavor, and attract important pollinators into the garden. Marigolds top the list in pest protection, and can be planted liberally throughout the garden. Basil planted near tomatoes will improve their flavour and flowering herbs like oregano,rosemary and sage repel many pests.
SOWING THE SEEDS
It’s best to plant seedlings in the morning while it’s still cool.Set the plants in place into each planting hole and gently gather the soil around each stem. Firm the soil but don’t pack it, then settle your seedlings with a shower of water. To sow seeds, follow the instructions on the seed packet, firm the soil in place, and water gently.If any of your veggies require staking, set stakes in place sooner rather than later to prevent breakage of growing plants.
Young seedlings are tender, and require a gentle touch when watering. Use the “shower” setting on a hose nozzle and water the soil surrounding the plants, avoiding the leaves and immature stalks. The best time to water is in the morning, as an early watering provides plants with the moisture they need for the day and makes it easier for them to absorb needed nutrients. Watering in the hot sun can produce shock in young plants, and cause tender leaves to scorch.
Once plants are 4-6 weeks old, you can begin to fertilize and also follow the suggestions on seed packets.
Weeding is easily handled if you stay on top of it – even 20 minutes every day or two will help to keep these persistent growers in check. To quickly and easily lift weeds and their roots, pull by hand, use a hand cultivator, or hoe gently when the soil is moist. If the soil’s too dry, the green tops will often break off, leaving the roots to regrow.
REAP THE REWARDS
Sure vegetable gardens are a lot of hard work but the joy and satisfaction they bring is priceless. And when you’re harvesting the delicious, nutritious rewards of your efforts, you’ll forget all about the work part!
You can find the full article on https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/beginners/first-vegetable-garden/.