5 Step Plan to Growing a Thriving Vegetable Garden

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5 Step Plan to Growing a Thriving Vegetable Garden

As summer approaches, new and seasoned gardeners alike are planning strategies for bountiful gardens. Your local plant nursery or greenhouse is a good resource for information from how to grow heirloom tomatoes to ripe watermelons, so you’ll soon be enjoying fresh produce straight from your yards. Planting and caring for a thriving garden starts months before the actual harvest. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your summer planting.

Deciding what to grow

Planning what’s going to go into your garden is the first step. What produce do you love to eat? Are there items at the grocery store you buy often that you could grow to save money? Is your soil perfect for a certain kind of vegetable? Answering these questions will help you put together a garden wish list.

If you want a specific crop, such as peppers, but are unsure of what will grow well, here’s an insider tip: try planting different varieties. One type of pepper may struggle, while others will flourish. Trying two or three varieties of your most important herbs or vegetables ensures you won’t be disappointed in the results.

Planning your space

Once you’ve decided what you want to grow, it’s helpful to learn about those plants’ requirements. Are you considering plants that need full sun, which usually means a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day? Do plants on your list thrive best in a partially shaded area? With this in mind, select some likely areas on your property.

Scoping out the right measurements for your garden is easy. If it’s your first time gardening, start with a smaller plot that’s easier to manage. The Farmer’s Almanac wisely says it’s better to be proud of a small garden than frustrated by a large one. A 16 foot x 10 foot square garden allows for 10 rows of planting which will feed a family of four for one summer.

Prepping the soil

The first step in prepping your soil is understanding what type of soil you have. Soil is comprised primarily of three elements: clay, silt, and sand. The ideal mix is about 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. The easiest way to determine your soil type is to buy a soil test kit at your local garden store. Depending on your soil type, you’ll need to add some elements to balance it out.

To improved sandy soil, mix it with compost or peat moss. Compost and coarse sand helps counterbalance clay-rich soil. Sand and compost can be used with silty dirt. Your last step in enriching the dirt is to add nutrients. Ideal fertilizer contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Once the soil is ready, let it settle for at least 24 hours before planting. Then it’s time to plant your seedlings or starter plants.

Become a watering expert

Watering your plants is a delicate balance: you can’t let them get dry and you don’t want to over-water either. Experts recommend that you give plants a hearty watering after they’re transplanted to help them take root. After that, watch the soil and replenish moisture when the top inch or so of the soil feels dry.

The type of soil you have will determine how frequently you need to water. Sandy soil doesn’t retain as much moisture; clay-rich soil stays damp for much longer. Focus your watering on the roots of the plant. Avoid any kind of high pressure watering that might damage plant stocks or leaves. Finally, avoid watering during the hottest part of the day and instead water plants in the early morning or at sunset.

Focus on smart maintenance

Once you’ve done all the work needed to help your garden thrive, it’s important to follow-up with maintenance. Weeding keeps down the competition for resources in your garden. Some plants, such as corn, need more fertilizer during the growing cycle.

Watch for issues such as wilting or failure to grow that can signal a need to adjust your watering schedule or more fertilizer to enhance the soil’s nutrients. Keep an eye out for bugs or signs of disease. If caught early on, many of these issues can be fixed. If you’re in doubt about how to proceed most effectively with a problem, contact a specialist at your local garden store.

Throughout the late summer and fall, you’ll enjoy your hard work in the form of fresh salads and delicious side dishes. With a bit of planning and time invested in caring for your plants, your gardening efforts will be a big success.

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