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Start Your Own Vegetable Garden
Growing your own vegetables can save you money, and it also can provide you with food that is fresher and more flavorful than you find in a store. Here are the basics of starting your own vegetable garden, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
Pick the place. Your garden should be on level ground in a sunny location; most vegetables need six to eight hours of sun a day. When you are scouting for a site, think about whether it still will be sunny when the trees are fully leafed out. Make sure that the area drains well, so that your plants are not sitting in water after a heavy rain. At the same time, find a place that is close to a water source, such as a hose. Even a well-sited garden will need watering sometimes.
Choose your size. The Almanac warns against being too ambitious. Keeping a garden watered and free of weeds can be a fair amount of work. It is better to start with a relatively small plot and, if you like gardening, expand as time goes on. The Almanac suggests a plot that is no more than 16 feet by 10 feet. Plant 11 rows that run the 10-foot length. Your rows should go north to south so you get the best sun. You can break up the soil with a hoe and rake, of course, but you might want to borrow or rent a rototiller, at least the first time. You also can put lumber around the perimeter of your plot, which can help keep the soil in the garden.
Check your soil. You need soil that drains well and is rich in minerals. You can take a soil sample to your USDA extension office or to many local garden centers for testing. Based on the tests, you might need to add things to the soil.
Pick your veggies. Obviously, don’t plant things you don’t want to eat. And don’t plant too many of vegetables you do like. Go for a nice variety with plenty of space between rows and plants. Remember that some things, like melons, pumpkins and other squash, require lots of space. Others, like cucumbers and climbing beans, do better on a trellis or planted along a fence where they can climb. And others, like tomatoes, need to be staked or they will fall over. The Almanac suggests these beginner-friendly plants: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cabbage, bush beans, lettuce, beets, carrots, chard and radishes. You also can plant some marigolds, which can help deter pests from bugs to deer.
Choose good seeds and plants. You can plant seeds, seedlings or started plants. Whatever you choose, though, make sure to pick a high-quality source. Then plant according to directions. Water and weed when needed, and keep an eye out for pests or disease. Then when the veggies are ready, harvest and enjoy!
Consider containers. Do you only have a balcony or a deck? You can still grow vegetables. Just choose a sunny spot, and don’t overload your pots.