Creating an organic vegetable garden doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow these easy steps and start growing your own healthy produce!
Planting a vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. When you grow your own garden, you can harvest fresh seasonal fruits, veggies and herbs as you need them. And there are physical and mental benefits to gardening besides just the end results.
Here are four simple steps to planning an planting your organic vegetable garden.
Pick a Location for Your Vegetable Garden
Some people want to jump straight to picking the plants, but that’s like buying new furniture before you know the size of the room.
Just like in real estate, planting a successful vegetable garden is all about location, location, location. If you want your plants to thrive, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Sunshine. Pick a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
2. Water. Make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You will need to water your plants whenever Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, so make sure you have a convenient source of water nearby.
3. Accessibility. Gardens need care, so position your vegetable garden in an area that is convenient to get to with the tools you need to work in it. If you place it too far from the house or garden shed where you keep your tools or in an area difficult to reach with a wheelbarrow, you will make tending it a chore.
4. Good Drainage. You may have to do some work for this one, especially if you live in an area with heavy clay or compacted soil (ME!!!!). If you find the area you want to plant tends to collect standing water, you will want to build your beds up to protect your plants from overly wet feet.
Decide What You Want to Plant
This is the fun part. Start by making a list of all the recipes you frequently make. Note which vegetables and herbs you use over and over again, because this will tell you not only what you should plant, but also in what quantity. If your kids won’t eat spicy foods planting 4 kinds of hot peppers doesn’t make sense.
Once you’ve made a list of plants you want to grow, collect mail order catalogs, search online or stop by your favorite garden center to find seeds and transplants.
Before buying calculate how much space each plant will need to determine how it will fit in the area you have. Square foot gardening, companion planting and vertical gardening can all help you fit more plants into limited space.
Create Your Garden Beds
Once you’ve identified where you want your garden, you will need to decide where you want the individual beds within it. As you are doing so, keep in mind the orientation of the sun throughout the day because taller plants or those growing on trellises can shade plants behind them.
To create the individual beds, many old school gardeners swear by the traditional practice of removing heavy layers of sod, then tilling and amending the soil beneath it before planting your vegetable plants.
Although this method will certainly work, you simply don’t have to work that hard. Instead, you can use the Lasagna Gardening method of building your beds UP instead of digging down to create them. This methods works equally well with raised garden beds or directly on the ground.
To get started, add flattened cardboard or a thick stack of newspapers on top of the ground and then add alternate layers of peat, topsoil, aged manure or barn litter, organic mulch, yard clippings and/or compost.
You can either prepare these beds months in advance or right before you plant. Either way, the layers will meld together into a beautiful, rich soil for your plants.
This year I am trying a variation known as Hugelkultur, with logs and branches on the bottom and building it up to form a hill that can be planted on both sides. Because of the sun exposure in my yard mine may not be actually mounds, but sort of a lasagna Hugelkutur hybrid.
Once your beds are ready, it’s time to start planting! Sort of.
Once you have decided the plants you want, you will need to decide if you are going to sow seeds directly in the ground, start them indoors or just plant transplants. All have their benefits.
Some plants require direct sowing, while others need to be started indoors several weeks before the frost-free date in your area in order to perform well.
While you are creating your list of plants you want to grow, make a note of the growing requirements for each so you can give your plants the best chance of survival and have them ready when you want them. In Southern California if I want pumpkins for Halloween, I do not need to plant them until May or June. But this may be different in your climate.
Even reading through these steps you may feel overwhelmed by starting a vegetable garden. But, with a little research, planning and effort you will soon be rewarded with an abundant supply of fresh and healthy produce. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you did it with your own two hands.