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How to plant a successful vegetable garden
Nothing tastes better than vegetables picked fresh from your own garden.
There’s a certain satisfaction to serving and eating food that you
yourself have grown and harvested. Although they typically demand a good
bit of space, vegetables can even be grown in window boxes. Everyone,
then, can experience the many joys of the kitchen garden.
Planning your Vegetable Garden
Advance planning is a must as there are many factors that can affect the
success and manageability of your vegetable garden as well as your enjoyment
The traditional method of vegetable garden design was to plant long,
orderly rows. Most home gardeners now opt for planting in beds rather
than rows. This method allows you to concentrate your compost on the area
where the plants are growing rather than wasting it on the paths between
the rows. Walking between the rows also ruins the soil structure, so beds
are really a better way to go. The beds do need to be small enough so
that you can easily reach in to weed and harvest all the plants without
stepping on the bed itself. Also, if you raise your beds about 8 to 12
inches, you will have improved drainage and the soil will stay warmer
in colder weather, such as early spring.
Another popular style is potager, which mixes flowers in together with
herbs and vegetables in an ornamental fashion so that the garden is both
functional and ascetically pleasing. Many vegetables also thrive in containers,
so you don’t even need a garden in order to get those garden-fresh
Location is another consideration when planning your garden. Many people
tend to want to hide the vegetable garden away in a dark corner and save
spotlight for the flowers. Vegetable gardens, however, need sunny, open
spaces in order to thrive, so you won’t reap a bounty if you are
not willing to devote some real estate. Also, think about location when
planting. You can economize space by planting vegetables next to each
other that mature at different times. This way, you have already harvested
one when it’s neighbor is becoming mature, so both have plenty of
space and sun when they need it most.
Planting your vegetable garden
Preparing the Soil
Putting some extra effort into preparing your beds before planting will
save you a lot of time and effort in the future. Dig the bed up to break
up compacted soil (this will help with drainage) and removing rocks and
weeds as you go. Try to pull out as much of the weed roots as possible
so that they will not come back to haunt you later. This is also a good
time to amend your soil.
Companion Plants in the Vegetable Garden
There are some plants that, when planted close together, will benefit
each other. Likewise, there are certain combinations of plants that will
inhibit the growth of one or both types of plants. Here are a few combinations
- Potatoes – inhibit growth of tomatoes and squash
- Beans – inhibit growth of onions
- Broccoli – inhibits growth of tomatoes
- Carrots – inhibit growth of dill
This isn’t to say that you can’t grow these plants together
in the same garden, just don’t grow them right next to each other.
Vegetables need a bit of extra care when it comes to watering. Consistent
watering will produce successful results. If you have a large garden,
you may want to consider a soaker hose. This will ensure that your plants
get an even watering without getting the leaves wet and all you have to
do is remember to turn on the house.
Assuming that you plan to grow vegetables more than one year, it is important
that you rotate your crops. Crop rotation prevents building diseases up
in the soil and preserves micro-nutrients. Rotating is not very difficult,
but does take a little advance planning as well as a basic knowledge of
the vegetable families. Vegetables are broken down into basic family groups.
These groups should be rotated together as they use soil in similar ways
and share similar pests.
Include Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Shallots, and Leeks.
I include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and Kale.
include Turnips, Radishes, Rutabaga, and Collards.
Include Cucumbers, Squashes (from zucchini to pumpkin), and Melons.
Include Peas and Beans.
I nclude Arugula, Swiss Chard, Chicory, Endive, Escarole, and Radiccio.
Include Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant.
Perennial vegetables such as Asparagus, Rhubarb and Artichokes should
not be rotated and therefore should be planted separately. The rest (most
vegetables are hardy or semi-hardy annuals) should be rotated every year
on a four year plan (so that the same family of vegetables is not planted
in the same location within four years). This is easy to accommodate if
you have planted four beds for your rotating plants and one bed for your
non-rotating perennials. See where that advanced planning starts to come
How many times have you had a co-worker or friend arrive at your home
or office with bags full of zucchini or cucumbers? If you plant all your
vegetables at the same time, everything will come to maturity at the same
time. The solution is to continually plant small amounts of short-season
vegetables throughout the growing season. That way, you can enjoy your
vegetables all summer long and not be inundated by them all at once.
Nothing, however, will save you from the dreaded onslaught of zucchini;
I just don't plant it and that way I'm happy for the occasional gift.
If they start to bomb you with bags of it, drop 'em off the Christmas
card list and shun 'em. Nothing like a good old fashioned shunning to
get those zucchini pushers in line...
Vegetable Container Gardens
Vegetables that thrive when planted in containers include: tomatoes, eggplants,
peppers, carrots, chard, lettuce, beans, peas, and cucumbers. For information
on how to get started, visit our article about container gardening (link
to container gardening article).
Who says that vegetables garden are homely? There are many vegetables
that, in addition to tasting good, are also very attractive. These include:
sweet peas, French (green) beans, runner beans, endive, kale, red cabbage,
and ruby chard.
Vegetable gardening can be great fun and it is truly rewarding to enjoy
delicious food from your own garden. With these basics tips, you are well
on your way. Enjoy!
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