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In the Vegetable Gardening for Beginners Guidewe cover how to start a vegetable garden from scratch, which vegetables to grow, and when to plant what.

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Want to learn how to start a garden, but not sure where to begin? Get ready to enjoy some of the best tasting fruits, vegetables and herbs you've even eaten. I break this rule for flowers. Edible or not, I like to see at least a few in every garden. Focus on the fruits, vegetables or herbs that your family enjoys the most.

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Make sure your top choices make sense for your area. Figure out your gardening zone and estimated first and last frost dates. In my northern garden, crops that take over days to mature or high temps are a gamble. For example, we enjoy watermelons, but I stick to varieties like Blacktail Mountain 70 days instead of Carolina Cross 90 days. My southern gardening friend, Amber, has challenges with crops like peas, which prefer cooler temperatures, and vine crops like cucumbers, which are prone to mildew in high humidity. Do you want to plan for storage vegetables, or only enough to eat fresh?

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See The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Store for more information. Most fruits and vegetables need full sun, with a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight per day for fruiting. Greens, herbs and root veggies will grow in partial shade. Southern gardens may benefit from late afternoon shade, whereas northern gardens likely need all the sun they can get. Think about how you will access the garden for picking, watering and caring for your plants. Out of site often equals out of mind — and a neglected garden.

Avoid high wind areas and frost pockets low areas where frost is likely to settle. This was very hard on new seedlings.

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Now the dog is gone, but the deer and wild bunnies come to visit, so we plan accordingly. Once you know where you want your garden, decide on the type and size of garden bed s.

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Raised beds are attractive and may make it easier to work in your garden, but they also dry out more quickly. In very dry areas, sunken beds can be used to gather available moisture. Think about planting your garden in blocks or beds of plants instead of single rows. Beds should be 3 to 4 feet across — narrow enough that you can reach the center from either side. Within the garden beds, place plants in rows or a grid pattern.

The goal is minimize walkways and maximize growing space. You only add fertilizer and soil amendments to the planting area, which saves time and money. Work with companion plants to attract beneficial insects and improve yields. Start small, and make sure to give each plant enough room to grow. The seeds and transplants are tiny, but full grown plants can get huge. Overcrowded plants have difficulty thriving.

A small, well-tended garden can produce as much or more than a large, poorly tended garden. Most raised bed kits are rectangular, but you can also plant your garden in found items like old livestock water tanks or sections of drain pipe. If you grow vertically, you can squeeze more crops into less space.

What if you have a yard with limited growing space? Consider grow bags or containers to start your garden. Self-watering containers are a lot more forgiving than terracotta flower pots, which tend to dry out quickly.

GreenStalk vertical planters are a great option to pack a lot of growing space into a small footprint. They have a tiered watering system so the whole growing area is evenly watered. Visit the GreenStalk site here to order or learn more.

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The right tools make working in your garden a pleasure instead of a chore. Basic gardening equipment includes:. Don't buy cheap plastic tools if you can avoid it. Shop yard and estate sales for bargains on real metal tools, or visit your local garden center. Get tools that are the right size for you to reduce the risk of injury. Good tools will save time and effort, and your back. Keep tools clean and sharp, just like you should treat a good knife.

Before you start building your garden beds or planting, you need to know something about your garden soil. Is your soil acidic, alkaline or neutral pH? Do you have sand, clay, silt, rocks, or a mix of all four? Is there a risk of soil contamination from nearby structures, roadways or other sources? Does it have a good amount of basic nutrients?

Some of these characteristics can be determined just from looking at the soil. Others may require home tests or professional lab tests. For instance, lead contamination from old house paint or nearby roadways with heavy traffic is a problem in some areas. Most garden crops prefer soil with a pH around 7 neutralalthough some like conditions that are slightly acidic potatoes, for instance or slightly alkaline brassicas.

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Balanced nutrient levels are also important, as is the presence of organic matter. In the U. If you're starting with sod, you'll either need to cut it up in chunks and repurpose it, till it in, or lay down wet newspaper or cardboard to smother it and build a bed on top. Preparing in fall is best, but don't let that stop you from starting in spring.

Most plants prefer a deep, well-drained, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Plant roots need good garden soil to produce good vegetables and fruit. Each year I add a combination of different types of organic matter, including compost, worm castings and mulch. Dave's Garden Watch Dog is a great place to check out a company before you order from them.

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To learn which plants grow best directly seeded in the garden and which plants are better as transplants, visit the seed starting calendar. If you want to grow specific varieties, especially heirloom varieties, you'll probably need to grow your own transplants from seed. Starting your own transplants is a great way to save money, too. Most seed packets and transplant containers come with basic planting instructions. Once you've done the ground work literallyyou just need to jump in and plant.

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Just give it a try and you can learn the rest as you go. You can also or on the image below to get this handy pdf excerpted from the USDA school garden program that shows planting depth, plant spacing, days to germination and days to harvest for a variety of common garden crops. Depending on the size of your plantings, time requirements may range from a few minutes per day to a full time job.

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A rule of thumb for watering is that plants need around one inch of water per week during the growing season. If rains fail, you'll need to water your garden.

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Over watering is as bad as under wateringso always check the soil before turning on a tap or hitting the rain barrels. Soil that is too wet can cause seeds and roots to rot. Foliar feeds like compost tea can be added to give plants extra nutrition and a dose of healthy microbes while watering.

Bugs are more attracted to plants that are stressed or in some way deficient. If you have healthy, well-nourished plants, your pest problems should be minimal. For most problems, there's an organic solution. If you're going through all the effort to grow your own food, why would you want to put toxins on it? For more detailed information on controlling everything from slugs to rabbits, check out Natural Pest Control in the Garden.

As crops mature, make sure to harvest promptly for best quality. Pick beans and peas every two to three days. Harvest sweet corn when cobs are well filled out and silk is dark.

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