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How to Plan Your First Vegetable Garden

 

I grew up in a family that loved to garden.  This picture was taken in the 80's and behind me is a picture of my grandparents' garden.  It was huge, in perfect rows (thanks to my grandma and her meticulous nature), and consisted of so many great veggies.  Starting a garden is so much fun, but can be sooooo overwhelming.  So I am going to share with you how I started mine and what I do to maintain it.

Sun: The first, most important part of planning a garden is location.  You need to find a spot in your yard that will give you full sun for at least 6 hours a day, since most veggies require this.  My best advice is on a day you are home, go outside a few times, starting in the morning until late afternoon/early evening to see how much sun each spot of your yard gets to determine where the best place to start a garden is. You will also want to choose a spot that drains well.  

Plants: Next, think about what you want to grow.  The size of your garden depends on what you are growing and how much you are growing.  For example, peppers need to be spaced about 1.5 feet apart while tomatoes need to be spaced about 3 feet apart.  Some questions to ask yourself:

What do I want to grow?

How much of each do I want to grow?

Am I growing all annuals or will some perennials be mixed in? 

What are the spacing requirements for what I want to grow?

Spacing: The internet became my best friend when trying to figure out the spacing for each plant.  One website I love love love to use is https://www.almanac.com/wow-our-2021-garden-planner-will-transform-your-garden They have an amazing garden planner that will also tell you when to start seeds inside to be ready to plant outside based on your grow zone.  They also give you so many tips, tricks, and SPACING REQUIREMENTS for all of the plants you are growing.

Let's recap.  We have chosen a spot that gets plenty of sun.  We have selected what veggies we want to grow.  We have researched spacing for each plant.  Now what do we have to consider or figure out?  The next two topics we will discuss when mapping out a garden are crop rotation (if you choose to do it) and the style of your garden (rows or sporadically planting).

Crop Rotation:  Crop rotation is something that I do in my garden and here's why.  Sometimes, sadly veggies get diseases and these diseases can live in the soil.  In addition, certain veggies eat up A LOT of nutrients where they were planted and despite amending the soil the following year, sometimes it is hard to get them all back (at least in my experience).  Here is a great article from Farmer's Almanac that talks about crop rotation and the different groups that each vegetable/fruit is categorized in: https://www.almanac.com/crop-rotation-tips-vegetable-gardens  In my garden, I mainly plant from the nightshades group (tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes) and the cucurbits (cucumbers, pickles, zucchini) and swap their spots every year.  Some suggest rotating crops in a 3 year schedule meaning if you plant cucumbers on the left side of your garden in 2021 you would not plant them there again until 2024.  I find that hard to do because of what I am planting and the amount of room I have so if I plant cucumbers to the left in 2021, I will not plant them there again until 2023.  For me, it is not perfect, but it is better than nothing.  Something to keep in mind are perennial plants.  They will typically stay in the same spot every year unless you decide to transplant them, so if you are planting perennials, keep that in mind if you are doing crop rotation. I have a separate, smaller garden for my strawberries and asparagus which are perennials in grow zone 6, so that is another option too.  

Style of Garden: Are you planning on planting in rows or maximizing garden space and just planting specifically to spacing requirements?  I used to just plant sporadically and water my garden with my hose.  But.... between watering with my hose (the water hits the leaves all the time despite me trying to avoid this) and the rain coming from above, my tomatoes were beginning to develop some diseases, which ultimately can kill the plant.  I bought and installed a drip system myself.  I have three rows of tubing that are 50 feet each, therefore I was forced to plant in rows.  What I like about planting in rows  is that it gives me more room to walk in my garden and harvest my crops when the time comes.  This is a link to the drip kit I got: https://www.dripdepot.com/customize_irrigation_kit/premium-drip-irrigation-kit-for-row-crops  Below you will see the start of my garden with the three black tubes going all the way down.  That is my drip system!

Drawings: I created a drawing for my garden to help me visualize what it would look like, in addition to remembering where I was going to plant everything.  Since I do crop rotations, I have two different gardens drawn for each year that I will alternate.  Below is a copy of mine, just as an example, if you can even read that :).

Some thoughts... What I love most about my veggie garden, outside of eating everything, is the fulfillment I get to watch it grow.  The amount of veggies I get is unbelievable that I have harvested for such a small cost.  Also, friends and family really look forward to you sharing some of your homegrown veggies (and in my case, my pickles and pesto made from my garden)!



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