Planning This Year's Vegetable Garden
Spring is fighting its way to our landscapes and the first green leaves are popping up, so naturally it’s time to think about what to plant in the garden this year!
If you had a garden last year, think about what did well for you and what didn’t – if raccoons got to the sweet corn before you did and the birds ate the strawberries instead of you – plan for defensive measures in your landscape design or choose a different crop entirely. A simple internet search will provide plenty of landscape solutions for various garden maladies, both store-bought and creative DIY, so giving up on your garden entirely isn’t necessary.
Sometimes it’s not garden predators that spoil our home-grown bounty, but our growing site. Our soil’s high-clay content is excellent at holding nutrients but lousy at draining water quickly – a necessity for most vegetable plants. Building some simple raised bed gardens not only increases good drainage, it makes gardening easier on your back. Including in your landscape a raised vegetable garden can be as simple or as elaborate as you want and finding plans or ordering kits eliminates the guesswork involved and makes construction a snap so you can get to the fun part – planting!
If this is your first vegetable garden, choose a location to ensure success: the fullest sun possible and close to your water source! Veggie gardens are often banished to remote corners of the yard, making them difficult to water and frequently neglected. Have a small yard? Mix some vegetable containers in with your pots of flowering annuals (organic potting soil is an excellent choice for growing edible plants on the deck or patio). How exciting will it be to watch your cherry tomatoes ripen right outside the window?
Seed catalogs have been arriving and they fill our heads with visions of lush, abundant vegetable gardens. If you have ample indoor space to start plants from seed, order away! Some plants, like nasturtium, sugar snap peas, beans, and lettuces germinate quickly and do best when seeds are sown directly into the ground. Others, like tomatoes and peppers, take so long to get going that it makes more sense to buy them as small plants from your local plant nursery. Choosing different varieties from one year to the next at your plant nursery and experimenting with seeds versus plants can be a fun way to get kids involved, too.
Perhaps the biggest lesson you learn as you garden is patience – with your space, with your plants, and with yourself. Don’t get discouraged if one variety of garden plants didn’t work for you – try something else! Or utilize your resources: the internet (of course!), your friends, and the staff at your local plant nursery (they have years and years of experience!). Gardeners are typically an enthusiastic, sharing kind of people who love to get others excited about gardening, too.