Home vegetable gardening is a great way to connect with the food you are eating. It is also a great way to get an affordable, clean, and healthy supply of veggies for you and your family. Nothing is sweeter than a home-grown tomato or freshly picked sugar snap peas. With a little bit of practice and following our tips, you will be well on your way to a bountiful harvest of home grown vegetables.
Plan it out
One of the most important, and sadly the most overlooked, steps in growing vegetables at home is planning. It is important to plan the what, where, when, and how of what you are going to grow.
First, think about the kinds of plants you want to grow. You should take into account what sorts of vegetables you or your family like to eat most and make sure you grow more of them. Do a bit of research and find out when and how to plant these crops for a great harvest. It is also important to take into account the specific restrictions your climate may have on what you can grow.
For example, you are not going to be able to easily grow bushels of peppers in a northern climate but you can easily more lettuce, potatoes, and carrots than you will know what to do with. The opposite is also true as many cooler climate crops will not do well in an overly hot or tropical climate.
Next, take some time to look at the space you have and think about how you can use it. Consider things like light, access to water, exposure to the wind and how you can make your new garden fit with the existing spaces and structures in your yard. This will make a huge difference in the long run as you are tending and watering your vegetables.
After you have a plan, the next step is to start putting it into action. You can find yourself some seeds at local hardware stores, nurseries, and sometimes even grocery stores. If you are looking for very specific varieties or specialty, you may have to order online or find a mail order company. Another great place to get seed is through seed swap events. This method also gives you the advantage of getting seeds that are adapted to your local area and climate. It is also a fun way to meet other home gardeners!
After you get your seeds it may be time to start some of them indoors. Plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants need to be started quite a bit of time in advance in all but the longest growing seasons. Plants like squashes and brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc) are usually started about a month in advance of planting out.
There are also many plants that do not enjoy transplanting so they should not be started ahead of time. This includes root crops like carrots and beats, and also beans and corn. They grow fast if directly seeded and usually end up stunted if transplanted.
Be sure to plan your seed starting in relation to the last frost date in your area if you are in a place that gets frosts. This info can be easily found online or by talking to other gardeners in your area. Make sure you start with a good seed starting mix and give your little plants enough light so they are strong enough to survive transplanting.
Alternatively, if you are just starting out or want to be sure you have the healthiest transplants you can buy them from nurseries or big-box stores when they become available in the spring.
Many of the vegetables like peas, radishes, lettuce, kale, and arugula like chillier weather and can be seeded weeks before it is warm enough to put out your transplants. Your garden can be lush with greens before your tomatoes even get their first breath of fresh air.
Hardening-Off and Planting
Now you have your seedlings you started or picked up from the nursery and you are itching to get gardening. But wait, there is one more crucial step! Be sure to “harden-off” your transplants by slowly acclimatizing them to the conditions outside over the period of a few days. This ensures they are strong enough to withstand the wind and that they do not sunburn.
Here Comes The Harvest!
The harvest is by far the most rewarding part of growing your own vegetables at home! Pick the fruits (veggies) of your labor and enjoy. You may even have extra that you can preserve or share with friends, family, and neighbors! Be sure to take note of how well the different plants you planted did and where they were planted/how they were grown. This info is extremely useful in planning future vegetable gardens and maximizing your success as a home vegetable gardener.
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