How-To Have a Vegetable Garden

Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest

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Have you ever tasted a tomato picked fresh from the vine, still warm from the summer sun? If you did, I’m sure you look forward to more. If you have to think about it, then most likely you haven’t, for you would clearly remember.

Food fresh from our own gardens is a growing trend. By producing our own food, we are also helping the environment by reducing “food miles”; we need only to step into the garden to get seasonal veggies. This season you can prepare your garden space and start to enjoy fresh vegetables from just a little patch of land. Best of all, you get to choose what you want to grow and eat!

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Lucky is the gardener who has some space to grow veggies. They can be planted in separate beds, raised or in the ground, or co-mingled with existing ornamental plants. You can plant your vegetables in neat rows or circles or zig-zags. As long as you don’t have to maximize your harvest, let your imagination run wild.

Vegetable gardens do have a couple of requirements. You will need a sunny spot with at least six hours of sun for your plants to grow strong and healthy. Many veggies can even be grown in containers making it easy to move them around, if necessary, in order to keep them in sunlight or if you have in limited space such as a balcony garden. It’s a good idea to locate the garden near the end of the hose or near a harvested rain source. Watering is a must in your vegetable garden, so plan ahead and have water easily accessible; you will need it on days that it doesn’t rain.

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I’ve set up my vegetable garden in a spot where I can direct the rain from the roof to my bed. The garden, however, needs a consistent supply of water, and in the absence of rain, I provide supplemental moisture. Fortunately for us, our garden is in the front yard, keeping it visible so we can readily see if the garden needs watering.

Once you have identified the area for planting, prepare your ground by amending the existing soil—or soil you’ve brought in—with organic matter. No matter what type of soil you have, adding organic matter will improve the soil’s texture by helping clay soils drain more easily and retaining moisture in sandy soils. Adding a layer of mulch over the entire area of your garden prevents weeds from sprouting, keeps soil moist, moderates the soil temperature, and gives a tidy look to the garden.

Some great vegetables for a beginner’s garden are tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, squash, peppers, and lettuce. Grow what you like to eat. No need to grow tomatoes if you don’t like them. When I make my plant selections each year, I choose varieties that are not readily available in the grocery store. Summer trips to the farmer’s market provide me with common varieties. My precious space is used on varieties that are difficult to find.

Pest control plays an important part in any vegetable garden. The best pest control is to hand-pick the bugs right off the plant and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Remember, you’ll be eating this food. You wouldn’t want to put into your mouth some food that is coated with a chemical that just killed a bug, would you? Adding a birdbath and flowers near the vegetable garden will also encourage birds and beneficial insects to aid you in pest control.

Often, if you are having a problem with pests, others in your area are having similar problems as well. Your regional cooperative extension office is but a phone call or a website visit away. Take advantage of this resource in your area.

Plan today for a bountiful vegetable harvest tomorrow. Once you taste the sun-warmed produce from the vine, you will be a vegetable grower for a lifetime.

SIDEBAR

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There’s no reason your vegetable garden can’t be productive and stylish. Too often vegetable gardens are relegated to the farthest part of the back garden—a place you can’t monitor routinely and most likely requires you to drag a hose over for watering. Put your vegetable garden into the hub of your garden. Make it part of your daily, active life. You will find you use the garden more and can manage better if it is located in a place where you can keep an eye on things. Staying on top of weed pulling, watering, and pest control goes a long way toward making it possible to enjoy the vegetable garden beyond the bounty of harvest time.

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