9 Steps to Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden

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Back in our grandparents (or great-grandparents) day everyone was encouraged to grow a garden. At the time there was a war going on and much of the produced food (and materials) ended up helping the war effort.

This made certain that there was enough food for the soldiers fighting for our cause around the world and helped families feed their own. The government rationed some foods such as sugar, butter, milk, cheeses, eggs, coffee, meat as well as canned goods. Did your elders ever show you one of their ration books? Many ladies saved up their sugar rations for the holidays so that they could make baked goods.

ration coupon
ration coupon

While it’s unlikely that you’ll want to attempt to grow sugar beets or sugar cane that doesn’t mean that you can’t help your own effort by growing some of your own foodstuffs. Every thing that you can grow and harvest is something that you didn’t have to purchase. This saves your family money and they get fresh nutritious homegrown food!

There are basically just nine steps to growing your own vegetables.

Steps to starting a vegetable garden
Steps to starting a vegetable garden

(1) Planning

Get out that seed catalog, peruse your pantry, look at your menu lists, and decide what vegetables that you use on a regular basis. Then determine IF those desired items will grow in your planting zone. Northerners probably can’t grow okra and watermelon. The USDA has a handy chart to help you determine your planting zone. Then look at your proposed garden patch. Does it get full sun or partial? Knowing these will help you decide what to plant.

(2) Selection

If you’re a beginner gardener don’t go hog-wild and order one of everything! Start small. Once you’ve determined planting zone, sunlight availability, and narrowed down what you’ll actually eat then it’s time to narrow it down again. Take into consideration the space available as well. Beginner gardeners should start small and choose just two or three different kinds of vegetables to plant.

Most everyone eats or uses tomatoes in their menus. You’ll be surprised how many tomatoes you can get with just one plant! More seasoned gardeners and those with more space are capable of growing more. My grandparents planted enough garden to grow foods for later canning. Grandma put back enough canned jars of food to last until the next summer. Her cellar was filled with jars!

What’s easy to can? Green beans. Tomatoes. Corn… …

garden seed
garden seed

(3) Preparation of the Beds

Your proposed garden spot should be prepared ahead of time. You may want to use a tiller or have the plot tilled. Some folks prefer raised beds and there’s a growing movement of growing in large pots (the wicking method). You may even want to do a soil test to determine if your dirt needs anything added to it for a good garden. These can often be done rather inexpensively through your county extension office. Fertilize as necessary and/or add compost to the beds.

Know someone with a pet bunny? Rabbit poo is a ‘cold’ fertilizer and can be added directly to the bed. Chicken poo on the other hand is ‘hot’ and has to be composted first.

(4) Planting
Read the instructions on the seeds you’ve acquired. Some seeds like to be barely in the ground with just a minimum of dirt raked over them. Some seeds like a bit more depth and some need to be either stratified or soaked before planting to insure a good germination.

sowing seed
sowing seed

(5) Marking
Unless you’re a seasoned professional you may not recognize the little seedlings when they pop up. In order to make certain that when you’re pulling weeds that you don’t accidentally pull up your veggies one should always mark their beds. You can use a marker on popsicle sticks, on plastic spoons, or purchased seed markers. Just mark the spots so that you don’t forget what you put where!

(6) Watering
While nature does provide rain for plant growth it’s unlikely that you’ll get rain often enough to keep the veggie happy. In my neck of the woods this means watering everyday. Don’t drown the plant, like a houseplant, the dirt should be moist or damp but not soaking wet. Those with sandy soil like me will need to water more often than those with rich or clay based soils. (Peanuts and melons grow great in sandy soil!)

watering hose
watering hose

(7) Pests
Yup, there’s gonna be pests. One way to curb the attraction is to plant something that deters the buggers. You can plant garlic and onions as well as marigolds and nasturiums around the bed. It does help but it’s not 100%.
hornworm
hornworm

(8) Care
When you water your plants be sure to check for a sudden change in the plants. Yellowing could mean you have a pest issue or are watering too much or even not enough. Wilting could be caused by heat or a boring insect. Weeds in the bed drain the nutrients and moisture away from the plant you’re trying to grow. Get those weeds early before they have a chance to take over.

(9) Harvesting
The best part, besides eating of course, is the harvest. It’s extremely satisfying to walk the garden and pick something for dinner. A nice yellow squash, some tomatoes, fresh crisp lettuce, hot peppers are all a delight and quickly consumed. Some gardeners even keep a salt shaker in the garden (YES it’s a thing) so that they can pick a tomato, add a dash of salt and enjoy it right there in the garden, juices running down their chin.

harvest
harvest

Gardening can be very satisfying and enjoyable. Gardening is a great way to broaden your palate, expand your families tastes and stretch your grocery budget. Gardening is also a great skill to possess in your preparedness arsenal and can obviously help you/your family in times of less.