People have been gardening for thousands of years, creating beds, channeling water, and caring for the plants that maintain their life. A large vegetable garden not only provides food for your family, but also gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Things You'll Need
- Graph paper Gardening tools (shovel, rake, hoe, water hose) Support cages, stakes Vegetable seeds and/or seedlings
Preparing the garden
Plan your garden completely on paper during the winter. Make a list of the vegetables you wish to grow. Research your favorites to find out how many plants you will need and the requirements of care for each type of plant. Some plants require more room than others and may take up more space with the same number of plants. Different plants also do well to be planted at different times in the season. Know your plants and their individual needs. On your graph paper, chart out how your garden will look, taking into consideration the movement of light and the height plants will reach.
Select your garden site and prepare the soil by removing any grass (sod) from the area. Till the soil by hand or use a motorized tiller. Check the consistency of the soil and add any amendments or soil additives necessary to start with a nutrient rich soil. Good soil will clump in your hand and not fall completely apart when released, but maintain some solidity. Any soil testing you do for the pH of the soil should be compared with the preferences of the plants you plan to grow. While there are different products to relax or beef up your soil, consult your local garden center to find out what you may need to add nutrients and support the correct amount of water drainage. The best possible additive is compost and is exceptionally cheap if you make it yourself.
Consult your graph paper chart to prepare the garden into beds or rows and be sure to use your plant list and spacing needs as a guide. Create specific pathways to use for garden maintenance so you aren't walking on your soil; compacting it. Be sure your pathways can allow a wheelbarrow to pass through without disrupting the plants. Set up stakes, tomato cages, and any other support structures before you have plants to work around.
Planting your garden
Start seeds indoors in mid to late winter. Acclimate seedlings to outdoor temperatures by putting them outside during the day or storing them in a grow box. This allows the plants to become accustomed to the wind, temperature, and humidity fluctuations. You lose all of these factors when removing the plants from an indoor controlled environment and the plants will need to recover.
Plant your seeds and seedlings according to your growing zone, planting timetables for the specific vegetable, and their spacing requirements once they are hardened off and ready for outdoors. Be sure to consult your garden zone to know the first frost free date for your area. If you choose to plant early, be prepared to protect your plants when frost threatens.
Water thoroughly and be sure to keep well watered throughout the growing season. A large garden can consume several gallons of water a day. Know which crops are your thirsty plants, such as corn, and which ones don't need as much to drink. Consider using a drip hose or timer mechanisms to conserve water and allow most of it to go straight to the roots instead of on the leaves and eventually into the air.
Keep a garden routine
Visit your garden daily or as often as possible. There are lots of activities and upkeep that can be done on a regular basis. Daily visits will keep you in tune with how the garden is growing and what kind of attention different plants may need. Treat pests and diseases as soon as you see them. A home improvement store, such as Lowe's or Home Depot usually carries a variety of pesticides and fungicides. Choose the one that is right for your situation or consult with their garden center associate if you aren't sure what you need.
Encourage the involvement of family and friends to help with garden activities. In a large garden, constant care will be needed and sharing the work will enhance the experience. Small children can pull a wagon full of supplies, hand dig in the dirt, pick easy to identify vegetables, and help water the plants.
Have a plan for your vegetables. Know where, if, and how you are going to store the produce once you harvest it, otherwise you may have a house full of rotting food. Consider canning, freezing, gifting, or selling your vegetables and be prepared to do so. A well tended garden should also result in a full freezer or packed shelves of canned vegetables.
Tips & Warnings
- Research the plants you want to grow and learn as much as you can about how they like to be planted, when to harvest, and what plants they don't grow well with. The more you know about your vegetables the better they will produce. Use graph paper to plot out where your plants will go. Take into account which areas of the garden end up in the shade or if there are areas that don't soak up water as well. Lay out black and white newspaper over your walkways and cover with grass clippings if you want to avoid stepping in mud on wet days.
- If untreatable diseases begin in your garden, pull out the infected plant as soon as possible. It is far easier to extract one plant quickly than to lose your whole crop for the season. Wear sunscreen. It's easy to get sunburned burned while you're having fun in the garden; protect yourself from the dangers of the sun. Use correct posture when using tools and don't overexert your back, shoulders, or arms.