Preparing the garden site can and will take some time and effort on the gardeners part. Of course, depending on the size of the garden plot will depend on how much time and effort will be spent not only preparing it but also for later with weeding and watering. Tilling or turning your soil and compost material into the existing soil will help distribute the nutrients deep into the site for the vegetable roots to draw on. Once the site has been tilled, rake it out to a smooth, flat area — this also gives the gardener a chance to remove debris, such as rocks, twigs, etc. It also allows you to break up large clumps of soil. Have a plan for your rows of vegetables or as I like to call it “My Map”.
Always put onto paper what plants are grown where and how many you have placed in each row, where possible. Small seeds such as carrots are not counted, but potatoes, onions, and larger seeds can be.
The vegetables should be rotated (moved) each year, as this allows the plants to gather the different nutrients to be used (left by last years vegetable growing season). If you grow the same crop in the same patch of soil for several years, it will deplete the nutrients essential to that plant and your yields will decrease. Also, pests and diseases that attack a particular plant will build up in the soil and the crop will always be under attack.
When designing your vegetable garden remember to leave walkways between your rows. Since nothing is planted in the walkways they will get weeds growing and will have to be tended, by hoeing, tilling or pulling the weeds by hand.
Try not to crowd plants into less space than they require. Melons and Squash can spread their “vines” out for many feet, so if your garden is small you may want to try growing them up onto a trellis. Corn grows tall and will shade other vegetables growing nearby. Radishes and lettuce take little room and can be planted in amongst other vegetables that will be harvested later in the season. Interplanting vegetables can yield a high harvest even in the smallest of gardens. Planting fast-maturing vegetables (lettuce/spinach/radishes) with slow growing vegetables (peppers/tomatoes) enables you to save on space and yet gives you a variety of vegetables at the same time.
Watering is essential for your vegetables. Young plants have shallow roots but as they mature their roots will go deeper into the soil where moisture remains even if the surface is dry. Watering in the morning is best, as is deep watering. A thorough deep water will encourage the roots to go deeper, where a brief, shallow watering will keep the roots at the surface where they can dry out from the heat of the sun or be damaged by hoeing or tilling. Plants require between 3 to 4 centimeters of water each week. Have a container placed in the garden where you can gauge the amount of water. If there has been rain then the watering requirements will be less.
Some gardeners like to mulch their gardens. A mulch is a soil cover composed of different organic materials. Good mulches include grass clippings and leaves, or if available, hay. Mulch around plants will help conserve moisture and also helps in keeping weeds down. Organic mulches will decompose slowly and will add nutrients back into the soil once it is incorporated into the soil. Placing mulch on the walkways will keep weeds down.
No matter your garden size, it is always a tasty treat having fresh vegetables straight from your own garden.