Starting a vegetable garden from scratch takes a lot of work but is fulfilling and worth all the effort put in in the end. Here is a quick and easy guide to the basics of planning, preparing and maintaining a vegetable garden. The first step in establishing a garden is picking out your plot. Be sure that the location you choose gets full morning sun and full sun for most of the day. Vegetables love sunshine and thrive in full sun. Other factors to consider in picking out the perfect spot for a vegetable garden are protection from damaging westerly winds and being conveniently close to your house or to the nearest water source. If you have animals, small children or tons of birds and deer in your area fencing or netting your garden can help protect it from being eaten or damaged.

The most important phase of any gardening endeavor is soil preparation. The soil is the life blood of your plants. It is where they get all of the nutrients they use to grow. Follow these easy steps to prepare your garden for planting:

  1. Clear your chosen plot by removing all grass, debris, weeds, sticks and branches.
  2. Fertilize the plot 6-8 weeks before you plan to plant seedlings. We recommend either using Blood & Bone or your favorite garden fertilizer.
  3. Dig over the soil to break up clumps of dirt. Next, add a 5-7 inch layer of compost on top and then dig the compost into the soil. Finally, rake the garden bed to create a level smooth surface.

It is important to plan out which plants you want to grow and where to place them. In addition to thinking about types and number of each vegetable plant you want to grow and their respective sun requirements, it is important to consider which plants play well with each other. Companion planting refers to the practice of planting plants that work well together and help each other grow vigorously together while avoiding detrimental combinations. Below is a table of plant companions for 10 common vegetables:

Here at Hook’s we have tons of vegetable seedlings that are $14.99 per flat or $1.69 for a pack. Seedlings help to give your garden a head start on the growing season. We recommend transplanting seedlings to the garden either on a day with showers or in the afternoon because the cooler weather helps to decrease the stress on the plants. After transplanting water your garden in the afternoon for the next two days. Then you can drop down to watering every other day for the next week. Once the plants have started to grow and are established water as needed making sure to keep the soil evenly moist. A layer of mulch can help deter weeds and retain water.

All that’s left is maintenance and harvesting. Maintenance involves tasks such as checking on moisture levels, keeping weeds to a minimum and keeping an eye out for signs of pests and disease. If a pest or disease problem appears you have to choose between organic and chemical approaches. Organic gardening has many benefits such as minimizing the harsh chemicals around your home and family. Additionally many pesticide chemicals harm beneficial insects including important pollinators such as bees and butterflies. An organic approach to pest and disease control involves careful planning and techniques including paying attention to the balance of the soil and companion planting. Some aromatic herbs are natural insect repellants that can help to keep pests out of the garden without the need for chemicals. Another strategy is to plant native trees nearby the garden to attract birds that eat pests. Finally, be sure to harvest ripe produce promptly. This will encourage the plant to continue producing fruits/veggies.

If you have any questions about vegetable gardening feel free to ask our knowledgeable staff. Whether you have a question when how or what to plant we are happy to help!