Growing a vegetable garden

The Container Garden

Growing your vegetables in containers may be the best method for you if:

  • This will be your first garden
  • You do not have a lot of time to devote to gardening
  • You are for some reason not able to do much more due to space or other restrictions

The strong point for container gardening is the control you have over your garden -- you can move your plants where and when you want, you can mix your plants' soil to their exact requirements and containers may be the only alternative if all you have is a patio or balcony.

Almost any kind of container may be used, be it plastic, metal, or terracotta as long as it has good drainage.

Planting a container garden is easy, simply select a container, keeping in mind the mature size of the plant you will put into it. Put some gravel or pottery shards in the bottom of container for drainage, pour in the potting soil then plant your vegetable seeds or vegetable plants. Water well and feed as required.

Raised Beds

Growing your vegetables in raised beds may be the best method for you if:

  • You want control over your garden plots
  • You have some time to devote to gardening
  • You are reasonably handy and can hammer nails or lay bricks

Raised beds contained by bricks, landscape timbers or treated lumber are suggested as you can have more control over the soil you will grow your plants in (you mix it yourself to their needs), less water is required because like a large pot the water is contained longer and more available to the plants, you stoop less when gardening, it looks neater, you are better able to organize your garden (peppers in one bed, herbs in another...) and of course weed and nematode control is easier.

Planting a raised bed garden is a little more involved than a container garden as you first need to build the edges to form the bed (4' in width, by whatever length you desire -- a 4' width allows easy tending of the garden from the sides without having to step into the soil). After that, if you blend your own planting mix from compost, peat moss, perlite and coarse, clean sand you can avoid or limit the problems inherent in the native soil such as nematodes and weeds.

After mixing then adding your soil, simply sow seeds or set out transplants as recommended for the variety, water and fertilize as required.

Garden Plots

Growing your vegetables in plots may be the best method for you if:

  • You have plenty of land you want to plant
  • You have considerable time to devote to the work
  • You intend to sell, trade or barter the fruits of your labor

Plots require a great deal of work and labor, a great deal of time, and a lot of resources (water, soil, compost, mulch, seeds or transplants). If you have your plot cleared from earlier seasons then the exercise is as simple as adding compost, manure, muck or humus and turning the soil weekly until planting time. If you are just starting out, the work is more involved:

  • Choose the site for your plot, if possible not too wet, too dry or in the shade.
  • Stake out the boundaries of the plot and begin clearing all weeds, grass, etc.
  • Till the soil as deep as possible to remove roots, rocks, etc.
  • Add top or potting soil, mulch, compost, muck, humus, peat, manure, etc. to give your soil body and fertility.
  • Turn the soil weekly and keep the soil evenly moist until planting time.

The goal of any garden is to get the highest yield possible per square foot of garden. Various techniques have been discovered to achieve this goal.

Wide Rows -- Beds are made 2 to 4' wide and as long as needed. Seeds of a single crop are sown over a section of the row to create the garden plot. Seeds are sown more thickly than usual then thinned to normal spacing as the crops grow. Because the plants are grown so close together they create a dense cover which helps to shade out weeds, keeps the crop's root zone cooler and helps to slow evaporation of water from the soil. Crops best suited for this technique are -- carrots, turnips, mustards, beets, onions and radishes.

Double Cropping -- This technique requires that multiple rows of the same or similar crops are planted in the space that normally would be devoted to a single row. Each of the rows is spaced about 6" apart and the several rows are treated as one. Crops best suited for this technique are -- carrots, lettuce, spinach, beets, mustards, collards and turnips.

Square Foot Gardening -- This technique eliminates rows and each square foot of garden bears a harvest from 1 or more plants to maximize production