Vegetable Gardening Basics

The five basics steps of vegetable gardening are:

  1. Planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Selection
  4. Planting
  5. Eating

 

Planning

Consider the conditions of your site.
– Does it receive 6-8 hours of sun daily?
– Is it near a source of water?

Consider what the size of your garden will be.
– Base the size of your garden on what you will realistically eat, and
– On the space available

Consider what type of garden to install
– Will this be a row garden tilled straight into the ground?
– Will it be a raised bed garden?

Design a plan for your garden first
– It is helpful to use graph paper to draw out where each plant will go. Keep in mind in which direction the sun rises and sets so that taller plants do not the block the sun that the shorter plants receive.

 

Preparation

Have your soil tested
It is highly recommended that you have your soil tested before planting. This can help you ensure the soil is perfect for growing veggies! For more information on having your soil tested through the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Lab, click here. If a full soil test is not possible, we recommend at least testing the pH. The optimal pH for vegetable gardens is 6.8

To adjust the pH of your soil, use:

Lime Wood Ashes Sulfur Gypsum
Adds calcium and magnesium to the soil while increasing soil alkalinity Increase the alkalinity of soil. Be cautious with wood ashes, as they may contain lye – a caustic agent. Increases soil acidity. Increases soil acidity. Adds calcium and sulfur to the soil. Can help break up clay and neutralize salt.

Till the soil
It is recommended that the soil be tilled twice – once in the spring and fall to a depth of 6-8 inches. When tilling, incorporate organic and non-organic nutrients, such as worm castings, compost, humus, vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, and fertilizers.

 

Selection

Choose your plants with care to achieve the greatest success
– Read the seed packet carefully to ensure your site accomodates for the particular plants’ needs.
– When buying from a garden center or other source, buy only healthy plants.

 

Planting

Weather and Frost
– The last frost in the spring is generally around April 15th
– The first frost in the fall is generally around November 15th
Seed packets will tell you when to start planting based on the last frost date for the region

Depth
– Do not plant stems too deep to prevent rotting.
– If growing seeds inside before planting, harden them off (or acclimate) before planting them outside.

Watering
– Critical times to water are: 1) When plants are just getting started and 2) when they are setting their fruit
– Take the time to water deeply. Deeply watered plants develop well-established root systems that prevent plants from wilting on dry days. Shallow waterings make plant roots grow near the surface, making the plant suceptible to even mild drought.

 

Eating

Harvesting
– Harvest fruits and vegetables when ripe, but not overripe.
– Keep picking beans and fruits from continuously producing plants like cucumbers, okra, beans and peas, or they will stop producing.
– When picking squash or similar vegetables, keep a small portion of the stem attached. This will encourage them to reach full maturity and will also protect them from disease.