Vegetable gardening is a wonderful hobby.
It’s not only fun, it’s rewarding to grow your own food! Gardening does come with it’s own challenges though. Weather is a big factor. There’s unexpected late freezes, high winds, hot temps, and the scourge hail. Plus those that have never grown anything might find it a little bit difficult to get that ‘green thumb’ a workin’.
Everyone’s gardening experience will be different and it might take a few seasons to learn the ins/outs of your own gardening plot but the rewards and sense of accomplishment are worth it
Hard Thing #1: Growing Plants from Seed
The cheapest way to start a garden (aside from someone gifting you seedlings in starter pots) is growing your own vegetables from seed. Some plants grow really easily from seed. It’s not hard to grow squash and lettuce. They’re practically foolproof.
Beginners might want to sow a few items from seed and then purchase their main crops from a nursery in little pots.. Tomato seedlings are prone to becoming spindly and weak unless you know what you’re doing. Some seeds ‘can’ be started indoors but grow best when sown outside. (Think okra and corn for instance.)
Once you’ve gotten the hang of things you just might start everything from seed! There are tons of great seed catalogs available online (and by printed catalog – oh please don’t do away with printed catalogs! They provide hours of enjoyment on a cold winters day…) Not to mention racks of seeds everywhere you go, even the grocery store has racks of seeds.
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Hard Thing #2: Soil Preparation
For best results you’ll want to make certain that you have good nutrient rich soil to work with. There are soil testing kits available and most county extension offices offer a soil testing kit as well. Once you know what’s needed, per the test, you can then add the appropriate nutrients to your garden spot.
You’ll also want to take into consideration how well your chosen spot drains. Poor drainage can be caused by clay soils, hard packed soil, or because you chose a low spot in the yard for your plot. If you live in a very sandy area, like me, you’ll want to amend your soil with organic matter (aka compost) to help retain moisture
Hard Thing #3: Location Location Location
Choosing a spot for a vegetable garden is like choosing a spot for a new business. Location is everything. Your garden required sufficient sunlight. Now some plants do like partial shade but in general most vegetables require full sun. Choose a spot that has adequate drainage (as mentioned above) as well as a spot that gets several hours of direct sunlight each day. It also helps to have a close-by water source. You don’t want to have to haul 5-gallon buckets of water very far!
I’ve also found that it’s best to have garden rows running north and south with the taller plants on the western-most side. For me that means corn on the west side so that I can plant veggies that prefer a little shade on the adjacent row. North and south rows will allow sun to get to every plant (as the sun crosses the sky in a east/west direction.) If you plant east/west you’re depriving ‘full sun’.
Hard Thing #4: Watering
If you have a garden, you need a close by water source. Preferably right next to the garden so that you don’t have to haul water, or run multiple water hoses. It’s also important to supply adequate water when it’s needed and on a consistent basis. Not enough water and the plants will wither and die. Too much water and the roots can rot causing early death.
It’s also important to ‘softly’ water your plants. A spray nozzle on your water-hose will allow you to water softly, like a gentle soaking rain. You don’t want to blast ‘em!
Some plants will need more water than others. Frequent gentle watering is better than a once a week drowning. Too much water all at once can cause the vegetable to split (this happens frequently with tomatoes).
Gardening is a learning process with great rewards. That first pepper or tomato you pick out of your own garden is so rewarding (and tasty!) Garden mishaps happen even to seasoned gardeners. You learn from your gardening mistakes and then each growing season can be bigger and better than the last. Don’t be afraid to get in there and get your fingernails dirty!