A year-round guide to your vegetable garden
There's nothing quite like the taste of homegrown vegetables from your own garden. Use this guide to help you plan, plant, and keep up your garden no matter what space you have.
Step 1 - Consider the possibilities around your home.
Think about spaces you can plant a garden when spring comes around. Any sunny spot can be a place to grow something healthy, like a place in your yard, the corner of your deck, or even a container along your driveway.
Step 2 – Keep it simple: Getting materials and the seeds you want
- Plant what you like to eat. Consider native plants that naturally thrive in your area because they will require the least care.
- You can start now and plant from seed or buy young plants at the start of spring from garden centers. Some libraries and community centers have free seeds to help you get your garden going.
- You don’t need a big patch of land. You can garden anywhere – even in small places. From building a raised bed to buying a planter box to using a pot, you can start small and keep it simple.
Step 3 – Getting plants in the soil
- If you are starting from seeds, read the packet for soil depth instructions.
- If you are starting with a small plant, be sure to cover and bury the roots with soil.
- Create a small mound of soil to keep water from pooling around your plants.
Step 4 – Water and weed
- Immediately after planting, slowly soak the soil with water. Soaking the ground helps make sure the root is not just getting wet on the outside but getting soaked to its core.
- After that, water only when needed. You can put your finger in the soil or grab a handful of dirt to test. If it feels too dry, give the garden some water.
- Make watering part of your schedule. Morning is best because it gives the leaves a chance to dry out.
- When weeding, pull out the unwanted plants down to their roots or dig them out gently with a small shovel or trowel.
- Stand up or change positions often to prevent your joints from stiffening up.
Step 5 – Keeping the pests out
It’s best to avoid spraying harsh bug sprays onto your garden, since you’ll be putting the food you’re spraying into your own body later. Try these tips and ask your local garden center or farmers market for other ideas.
- Planting peppermint or spearmint in your garden can deter some ants and even deer from bothering your garden.
- Mix a spray bottle of mild soap and water. The soap won’t harm your plants, but will kill some bugs.
- Shake out a thin layer of cayenne pepper as a border along the edge of your planter pots or garden boxes. Be careful to avoid getting it on your skin and touching your eyes.
Step 6 – While you’re away
Taking a vacation? Your plants should be fine over a weekend. But if you’ll be away longer, check the weather forecast and try these ideas for keeping your garden growing:
- Soak all your plants slowly the day before you leave.
- Move hanging or potted plants out of the sun.
- Add mulch to the garden bed to help keep the soil from drying out.
- Set up a sprinkler, put a timer on it, or ask if a neighbor can water a couple of times while you’re away. You can return the favor with some veggies at harvest time.
Step 7 – Yes, more watering and weeding
Try these tips for ways to make weeding easier:
- You have to get the roots up. Grab weeds and any plant that doesn’t belong in your garden down at the soil level and pull firmly.
- Use gloves for a better grip. You might also look at special tools for prying up weeds, especially broadleaf plants like dandelions.
- Get a mat or towel for your knees. This may help your joints from getting sore.
- Don’t forget to take breaks and drink plenty of water if you have a lot of weeding to do.
Step 8 – Planting a fall crop
Extend the life of your garden by planting fall vegetables like squash, broccoli, green onions, and cauliflower. These hardy vegetables can even handle a light frost. You can remove your summer garden plants, such as tomatoes, to make room for your new fall crop.
Step 9 – The final harvest of the year
Different plants will need to be harvested at different times. Some vegetables, like broccoli, do well in the cooler temperatures, so you might be able to keep them around late into the fall. Look up your local county extension office for information on when vegetables in your garden need to be harvested.
Step 10 – Prepare your garden for winter
Congratulations! Hopefully your year of gardening has been successful and enjoyable. But winter is coming. Use these vegetable garden tips to get ready for next spring.
- Think about what plants were the hardest to keep healthy and producing. Consider replacing those plants with others that were easier to take care of.
- Pull up old vines and plants to keep insect pests down the following spring.
- You can mix compost, manure, or leaves into the soil. That will make it have more nutrients in the spring.
- Don’t forget to weed. The few weeds in the fall may become a lot of weeds in the spring. So you might as well get them out of the ground now.