Vegetable Growing Basics
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Choose a site that is:

  • Sunny. Receives at least 6 hours of direct sun daily.
  • Well-drained. No standing water after heavy rains.
  • Relatively level. Or build beds or terraces that run across the slope.
  • Away from trees. They can shade and compete with crops for water and nutrients.
  • Protected from high winds. Good air circulation, however, helps prevent disease. You may want to avoid low-lying frost pockets.
  • Close to a water source. You'll need water, and it's too heavy to haul.

Plan ahead:

  • Prepare your soil in the fall in anticipation of planting next spring. Consider growing vegetables in 3- to 4-foot-wide beds with paths in between instead of just creating one large area for your garden. Contact your local Extension office for information about testing your soil's pH and nutrient levels.
  • Think about what you and your family really like to eat before planning your garden. Vegetables will go to waste if what you grow doesn't match what you eat.
  • Start small. There is nothing more discouraging than planting more than you can take care of. Each year, plant more of what you didn't have enough of, and less of what was in surplus.
  • Make a map of your garden plan to help you visualize what it will look like and to make the best use of space. Avoid planting tall crops where they'll shade out shorter ones.
  • Group perennial crops -- ones that come back every year such as rhubarb and asparagus -- together along one side of the garden so they will be out of the way.
  • Order seeds early. Studying seed catalogs during winter is a good way to get acquainted with the possibilities. If you forget something, you can always purchase seed later locally.
Introduction to Vegetables
If you start improving your soil the season before you establish your garden, you can have rich, plant-friendly earth in time for planting.