So you want to grow your own vegetables? Well, here’s my tried and tested Vegetable Garden Tips to help you keep on track when you are launching yourself into growing vegetables. It is important that you do things right at the beginning so you don’t get disappointed and let the whole project go to weeds.
In saying that, many years ago when I first started growing vegetables, I just jumped in and did whatever I thought was good and ended up with crops of wonderful chemical free food. Now I know I made many mistakes, but you can still grow vegetables even if you don't do everything right. Hehe. But ultimately, what you want is a highly productive vegetable garden that will produce the best quality organic produce for you year after year.
Here we go…
The very first of my vegetable gardening tips is to get yourself a couple of good books to get you started, because before you start any new project you make plans right? If you want information about organic gardening for beginners or seasoned gardeners, the organic vegetable gardening books I recommend are:
You will refer to these books over and over again for years to come.
Know Where the Plumbing and Wiring Is Now here is my very best vegetable garden tip, and from the photo you will see why! When you are making your vegetable garden plans, please make sure you find out exactly where the water pipes and any underground power lines are.
We were a bit gung-ho and just dug where we wanted the garden and whalla! We hit not one but two water pipes. The plumber's bills were a couple hundred dollars. So as you can see, these tips come from my actual experiences in growing vegetables and all these photos are from one of my own vegetable garden designs.
Grow an Organic Vegetable Garden The
advantages of organic food are many and it just pays off, both
nutritionally and environmentally if you are growing organic vegetables.
An organic vegetable garden has as its number one priority, healthy
soil. It has no harmful chemicals added, so it has earth worms,
beneficial insects, bees, ladybugs, lizards, and ants at normal
population numbers. I had a blue tongue family in my vegetable patch for
years – they eat some pests that others would just spray or bait with
poison and you don't want that poison in your garden. So don’t chase
away a blue tongue lizard! These lizards can become your friends; they
are slow moving, unassuming little critters that don't hurt anyone,
except the snails :)
Growing organic vegetables also helps you lower your carbon footprint and lead a more sustainable lifestyle. The pesticide and fertilizer industry is a very high energy consumption industry with many pollutive waste factors.
Organic vegetables taste SO much better too. You can actually see, smell and taste the higher nutritional content in most organic vegetables. If you have never eaten them, try to get a hold of some from your local grower, Whole Foods store, or a friend who grows them without chemicals and you will see what I mean.
Vegetable Garden Design Whether you are just growing some vegetables for yourself or launching
into urban farming you really should work out a vegetable garden design
on paper before you start. We started a garden journal in which we
drew up our vegetable garden plans; the layout of the garden, what we
were going to plant, where we were going to plant it, and when. You can
also include your results for your future vegetable garden plans. Buy
the Organic Food Gardening Beginner's Manual and you get a Garden Journal as a bonus download.
The best way is to just start small and build your skills and knowledge through experience.
Decide what you are planting in the beds, and what will need to be grown in containers. Growing vegetables in containers can work well if you have limited space, especially for many of the herbs as I do.
Trim Back Trees and Shrubs
You must have maximum sunlight to be successful with your vegetable growing. This is especially important in winter. So if your back yard has trees and shrubs you will need to watch or ascertain where their shade falls in summer and in winter, because they will be different.
If there are shrubs that need cutting back do it in autumn and get in a mulcher to mulch the clippings if you can, and those clippings will go a long way towards getting your first compost heap going.
Begin with the intention of creating a “closed system” garden. This is permaculture. Grow your food at home, return all the residues (peels, seeds, waste) back to the soil. Let as little as possible leave your system as those wastes are a valuable soil resource. It should be composted and returned to the soil.
Grow your own fertilizers by having a bed devoted to growing composting plants and this means that very little comes in from the outside too, especially if you save your own seeds.
Get the Right Tools If you don’t get a really good quality digging fork, then they will just break. I went through 3 digging forks (took them all back broken) before I hit on one that was stronger than the rest. So ask around to find the best one and never, never get the cheapest. Really, it will pay for itself in the long run as the cheap ones will break very quickly. This applies to all your gardening tools. Rubbishy tools are not green, as you will buy more of them in the long run. Get tools that will last many years, and old solid ones from second hand stores or garage sales would be worthwhile grabbing too as they really don’t make them like they used to :]
You will need, a spade, digging fork, hand fork, transplanting trowel, a bow rake (not a grass/lawn rake), and sturdy gardening gloves. The gloves are important for a few reasons. If you need to have clean nails for work and life, then gloves will prevent them getting stained with the soil. It is best to use gloves when handling manures and the best tip; put the gloves on before you start digging or you will get some nasty blisters :]
Companion planting is the system of planting of different plants and crops in proximity because they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary for a good harvest. For example: alternate rows of onions and carrots confuse onion and carrot flies and so deter them both. Marigolds will deter beetles and other insects that are harmful to your vegetable plants, but runner beans and beetroots stunt each others growth. Knowing which plants should be together or further apart is valuable knowledge. For a quick (but incomplete) list of companion plants Go to Wikipedia For a complete guide to companion planting that will see you through years of vegetable gardening you would do well to invest in the Companion Planting Guide.
Remember to grow some edible flowers to color up your salads and entice bees and birds into the garden. They are marvelous at keeping away unwanted pests too.
Have a read of my Companion Planting page.
Vegetable Crop Rotation
A 4 year crop rotation plan incorporated into your vegetable garden plan is a must. If you keep growing the same crops in the same bed it will become depleted in exactly what the plants need and then diseases and pests will march in. You see crops enjoy different soil conditions and this is also a basis for companion planting.
For example, corn and pumpkin really enjoy an organically rich soil, but that richness will cause your carrots to be stunted, twisted and forked. Pests and diseases tend to effect vegetable groups and sometimes they remain in the soil for years unless you follow a rotation system so these pests and diseases can't build up in your soil, and your soil is your greatest asset.
Soil Preparation and Fertilization
Really the best direction I can point you in is to the book How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine The advice and detail this book contains is second to none.
It will take you through the planning, placement, the "double-dig" method we used, where you should plant what, and rotating beds and placements for all your vegetables.
Composting Compost improves the structure of the soil and reduces the need for fertilizing. This means that the soil will be easier to dig as it makes it looser and less likely to compact, and its organic acids make nutrients in the soil more available to the plants. Soil that has been dug over with compost has good aeration and water retention properties. Compost also provides nutrients to the soil for the plants growth. A compost heap must be constructed in the correct way for optimum results. Into the compost can go some leaves and clippings, grass, natural fiber clothes, bones and hair, vegetable scraps, wood, and paper and once it has broken down humus is formed. It should make up to between 1 and 8% of the soil structure.
Gardening by the Moon Gardening by the Moon is a great way to organize all your gardening tasks so they are done in accordance with the Moon's rhythms. Getting into a rhythm like this means that no chore gets monotonous and every thing gets done every month. Speaking of rhythm and getting things done, make sure you read the page on Vegetable Garden Plans for the year's and season's gardening "things to do".
Planting by the Moon
This is an important part of the cycling of the vegetable garden and can help your garden grow faster and more abundantly if you plant, transplant, weed and water according to the moon’s phases. This takes advantage of the full forces of nature, like light, gravity and magnetism. Read more about the rules of traditional planting by the moon. Get yourself a moon phases gardening calendar for your hemisphere and cycle with the moon. You can also bookmark my Moon Phases Calendar
Plant in Season
Get yourself a planting guide for your area and climate so you know you are raising plants that are actually going to grow in each particular season. For example, planting tomatoes outside in autumn or winter is a waste of time as they need increasing warmth to germinate and grow.
Save Your Own Seeds
After a couple years of cycling through crop rotation and composting, you will want to look at growing and saving your own seeds. This is an extremely rewarding and self-sufficient thing to do, but you will need a good book to lead you through the processes. Order Organic Food Gardening Beginner's Manual and you will receive a free bonus Seed Saving Tips & Techniques ebook.
Watering and weeding can also be cycled with the moon phases and will be indicated on a good moon phases gardening calendar. Also do not do overhead watering of zucchinis, tomatoes, peas, squash and melons because they will suffer from mildew and rotting of the fruit. So just water the soil around those plants. Cabbages on the other hand like to have their leaves wet.
Watering of maturing plants should be done after the heat of the day subsides, about 2 hours before sunset. Seedlings and seeds should be lightly watered morning noon and late afternoon. Adjust your watering according to the weather; you won’t need to water if you have had rain and you may need to water more after very hot days.
Always water the edges of the beds more as they are subject to greater evaporation than the middle of the beds.
In hot arid areas, plant closer together as the shade produced under the plants then reduces the evaporation of the moisture.
Remember you are watering the soil not the plant, so keep the soil alive with nutrients like compost and you will have to water less.
If you use the intensive farming method in the book I have recommended, How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine there will be very few weeds as the plants provide a living mulch. The beds will need weeding in the early stages until their leave all start touching and block off the light to the soil. Also the soil will become richer and more alive and weeds tend to thrive more in poor deficient soils.
Remember some “weeds” like stinging nettle are actually beneficial to the soil and surrounding plants, and to yourself. It is very high in iron and is why people used to eat it regularly. Never let grass grow into the beds as it will compete with your plants for nutrients and moisture.
Enjoying your Garden
A page of vegetable garden tips is not complete without a word about
enjoying your new organic vegetable garden. I always make sure my
vegetable and herb garden is near the back door. I like to be able to
see the garden as this gives me much enjoyment. Many people delegate
their vegetable patch to a distant corner of the garden as if it should
be hidden. I don’t understand this as I find the vegetable and herb
garden to be as attractive as any other garden, if not more so. The
plants flower AND fruit and it is very exciting to watch your food grow
right before your eyes!
When you are tending your garden, you can feel the cool breeze and the warm sun on your skin (don’t get burnt), be amazed by the butterflies and bees, and I love the smell of the freshly turned earth. There is nothing else like it.
Remember the kids love the process of growing and then eating the food so give them regular tasks in the garden, but be out there with them so it doesn’t become like a chore for them. They especially love the digging, the worms and the harvest time.
So that's it for my Vegetable Garden Tips!
Enjoy your vegetable garden and may you
Be Blessed with abundant harvests.