In the height of the season it's so satisfying to go out in the yard and pick dinner. Start planning your vegetable garden now.

In the height of the season it’s so satisfying to go out in the yard and pick dinner. Plan your vegetable garden now.

If this the spring that you’ve said “I want to grow vegetables this year,” here are a few tips for you.

    1. Most importantly: do it. Jump in and don’t worry too much about doing things the wrong way. Sure, there are general guidelines for success but a great deal about gardening is learned as you go along. Did you know how to use your cell phone from the minute you bought it? Were you instantly informed about how Facebook works when you signed up? Of course not…you picked up the information as you needed it. Gardens are just the same.
    2. Choose the sunniest place you’ve got. There’s a reason that farmers aren’t growing their crops in the woods. Although a few vegetables tolerate some shade, they grow much, much better in the sun.
    3. Think out of the box! You don’t have to have a raised bed. You can try veggie growing by digging up a part of the lawn and see how you like it. The shape can be rectangular, square, oval or completely free-form. If you ultimately decide that you want your beds raised you can do that at any time. But if you find that you’ve chosen the wrong place in the yard, or if life serves up something unexpected and you have to put the veggies on hold, that area can quickly be put back into lawn.
    4.  Loosen and improve the soil. The easiest way to do this is with a rototiller. You can rent one or hire someone else to till your garden. After turning the soil add some compost or composted manure and turn it again. (Note: you can till the lawn into the soil but it works best to let the newly turned turf and dirt dry in the sun for a few days afterwards. Pick out the biggest hunks of grass after a week or so and then turn in amendments. If you amend and water right away those pieces of grass will grow and you’ll be weeding grass out of the garden all summer.) Note: if you don’t want to dig, there are great Smart Pots that can be used to grow veggies successfully. See photo below.
    5. Plan on preparing the soil at least two or three weeks before you are ready to plant. Too many first timers think they’ll prepare the soil and plant on the same weekend…that’s like being a complete computer novice and expecting to be able to use html the same day you take the computer out of the box. Ask at your local garden center when most people in your area plant their tomatoes and plan to prepare the bed three weeks earlier.
    6.  In each part of the country some vegetable plants do better than others. Ask area gardeners what their “no-brainers” are. Where I live in the Northeast the most problem-free plants are chard, Tuscan kale, beets, lettuce, herbs, and sugar-snap peas. With a little organic pest or problem control, these are followed by green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, broccoli, eggplant, peppers and potatoes. We don’t grow corn because it takes up so much room. The list might be different in your region so check with other gardeners who live near you.
    7. Don’t start with too large of an area. Better to begin on the smaller size and add to it than to feel overwhelmed later on. Remember that the soil won’t stay clear and freshly turned as the summer goes on: nature doesn’t like bare soil and the weeds will move in. The garden is like the baseball diamond in Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come. Only it will be weeds, not the great players of baseball that show up.
    8.  Water deeply but less often. After you first put the plants and seeds in the soil you can squirt things by hand with the garden hose, but after the first week or two you’ll want to water more deeply. Running soaker hoses or a sprinkler every three to five days for a longer period of time will soak the soil better and this creates deeper root systems. If you’re hand watering, you’ll get bored long before those plants get a through watering.
    9.  Put down a mulch early so that weeds are less likely to grow, or pull them when they are small. Those weeds that look so tiny and innocent in June will explode in July. Cover them up or hoe them down before they go viral.
    10. Know this: in the garden (as in so much of life) it’s an imperfect world. Just as computers sometimes crash and software might malfunction, gardens too have glitches. Don’t let that stop you: there is nothing more life-affirming than going out to the garden in the evening and asking, “What’s for dinner?”

      Last year in Quebec City I saw Smart Pots being used all over town to grow veggies in the most unlikely situations. My husband and I use these to grow potatoes and other crops.

      Last year in Quebec City I saw Smart Pots being used all over town to grow veggies in the most unlikely situations. My husband and I use these to grow potatoes and other crops.

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