Growing your own backyard vegetable garden seems to be a new trend nowadays. There are many reasons why this is a good idea: you make sure what you’re eating is organic, it may save you money, you get better at gardening etc.
Some even say that this is a better alternative to greenhouse vegetables you can buy from the grocery store. What’s more, you don’t even have to wait for a certain time of the year. For instance, you don’t need to wait for vegetables to grow in the fall, you can eat them now. But let’s see how to do it step by step.
How to Grow Your Own Backyard Vegetable Garden
1. Decide What to Plant
This is the first step in our guide on how to start a vegetable garden for beginners. It happens often that a gardener gets too excited and plants more than they need. Consider how much your family consumes. Then, consider how much produce does the plant give. For instance, if you do a little research on how to plant tomatoes, you will see that they yield vegetables all throughout the season.
2. How Much Space Do You Need?
After you decide on what plants you want to use, you must assess the amount of space needed for your backyard vegetable garden. Don’t imagine that you should employ a huge space, to begin with. If you use containers for growing the vegetables, you don’t need a yard at all. Many people use deck boxes either to plant or to store away what they are not currently using.
Besides that, it is important to have a clean growing space rather than a big one. If you plan to have a 10×10 foot sunken or raised vegetable garden, it’s better to have it clean, instead of assigning a 25×25 foot space that is filled with weeds or diseases.
3. Choose the Right Place
When choosing the right spot for the backyard vegetable garden, there are three important things to keep in mind:
Remember that most vegetables that grow in the warm season will need a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. If you don’t offer them enough light, they’re more prone to insects and diseases. Moreover, the soil temperature depends in turn on the sunlight it gets, which is even more of a reason to pay attention to this.
Most vegetables are not drought-tolerant, so you need to offer them plenty of water, especially when there are dry spells. When thinking of how to start a vegetable garden from scratch, the first and foremost thing is the water source. The closer you are to one of them, the easier it will be. Tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables from the warm season are especially affected by this.
Before planting anything, you should use a soil tester. In general, vegetables love a moist and well-drained soil. It should be rich in organic matter, so you should use peat moss or compost tea. A soil thermometer is also useful for keeping track of the temperature, which is essential for your vegetables’ well-being.
4. How to Design and Plan Your Backyard Vegetable Garden
When deciding on your backyard vegetable garden layout, you have two options:
With this method, you place plants single-filed in rows. Between the rows, you will have walking paths. This is the best option for a large vegetable garden. Moreover, it’s easier to use any mechanical equipment (for instance, if you want to use tillers to fight off weeds).
The disadvantage of this technique is the fact that in such a small place, you can’ grow too many warm-season vegetables. A big part of the soil is used for the footpaths. What’s more, this design is not that visually appealing either.
The solution? Ideally, you should allow for a minimum of 18 inches between the rows. This will leave you lots of space to work with the plants. The taller vegetables (such as tomatoes, peas, cucumbers or planting beans) should be placed on the north side of your space.
This type of planting relies on grouping the plants in wide bands. The recommended size for your backyard vegetable garden is 1 to 4 feet across. The length can be as big as you want, which is great. This method cuts down on the space needed for paths. However, the plants are placed closer to each other, which means that you must do the weeding by hand.
Keep in mind that it’s important to create the bands as wide as you can reach since you don’t have paths. With the intensive cropping method, you can design your own backyard vegetable garden. You can even put together vegetables and ornamentals.
Square Foot Method
Square foot gardening derives from intensive cropping, but it deserves its own place separately. It’s a system that relies on dividing the garden space into 4×4 sunken beds. Further on, the beds are divided into squares measuring 1 foot each. Each of the 1-foot squares is then planted with 1, 4, 9 or 16 types of plants.
Regardless of the method you choose, it’s also a good idea to leave some areas unplanted. In this way, you can plant a second crop, which can be harvested later in the season. For example, radishes, green onions, carrots, lettuce or green beans are planted various times throughout a season.
5. Testing and Fixing the Soil
Just as we previously mentioned, when taking care of the soil for your backyard vegetable garden it’s important to test your soil. After that, you need to follow these steps:
- Soak and Dig
First, you need to soak the soil with the help of a hose. Then, you need to leave it like that for a day, and then you have to dig up some of it and test it.
- Squeeze the Soil
If when you squeeze it there is a lot of water to stream out, you should add organic matter or compost for a better drainage. The soil temperature is also a good indicator of the drainage.
- Open Your Hand
There are various things that can happen at this point. The soil can be sandy, case in which it won’t form a ball. It can also form a ball that loses its shape immediately. In this case, you need some more organic matter for it. On the other hand, if the ball is too hard, there is too much clay in it. Organic matter will help as well. If the ball crumbles, then congrats, you have the perfect soil!
6. Planting Your Vegetables
If you think about what vegetables to plant in your backyard vegetable garden, you will see that it’s no easy job. There are lots of varieties out there. When choosing a warm season vegetable, make sure you read carefully the instructions and indications. Some of them may be better for your purpose since they produce smaller plants. Others are better at fighting disease or resisting in a different climate.
A good idea is to use a seed catalog. Naturally, many people go for organic seeds, but they can be more expensive. After you decide on a type of vegetables, make sure the variety you choose suits your garden. Depending on the area you live in, you can choose a heat- or cold-tolerant variety, or one that gives improved yields.
If you want to harvest earlier, it’s a good idea to start the vegetables early indoors or get some that are already started in a garden center. If you do so, you will be able to harvest earlier than if you started by planting the seeds in the ground. For this reason, many people start off by growing tomatoes indoors, for example.
What to Do If You Plant Too Much
It can happen to anybody to plant too much. Maybe you estimated the quantities wrongly or you simply though you’ll be needing more. In this case, don’t worry! There are lots of garden glut recipes out there which you can use. Moreover, many vegetables can be stored away for winter. As such, if you have enough space in your pantry, you can make pickle jars or tomato sauce, for instance.
Here you have a short clip showing the steps above:
Finally, after all this work in your backyard vegetable garden, it’s time for harvesting. The number of harvests and the period depends from vegetable to vegetable. As such, make sure you know when to do it. You can pick leaf lettuce, for instance, any time you like. However, the best indication is the way it looks: if it looks good to eat, give it a shot.
Growing your own backyard vegetable garden is not as hard as it may seem. If you follow the simple steps above, you will harvest your own produce sooner than you think. It’s important to offer the plants their proper care, and this includes taking care of the light, soil, and temperature. Moreover, you should always choose the right variety for the area you live in, that can adapt better to the conditions.
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