Anyone planning a vegetable garden knows that what you do before summer can have a big effect on how your garden grows. There are many things you can do now to ensure your vegetable gardening this summer is productive. Now is the perfect time to get started – the snow is gone, the rain is abundant and warm summer months are just ahead!
First, Decide Where to Place Your Garden
If you haven't already done so, now is the perfect time to decide where you want your garden. Watch the sunlight during the day and see which spots get 4-6 hours a day – those will be the perfect spots. Determine how large you want the garden to be and mark it off. Run the tiller in the garden to incorporate plant matter from the last year if you had one. Do you have compost? Make sure to mix that into the soil, too. Composting is a good activity for kids – teach them about the things you can mix into the soil and get some worms to go into the mix. They will love it!
You may also want to test your soil to see if it has the proper nutrients needed for a vegetable garden. Soil Test Kits (like this one) can be purchased from most plant nurseries or other stores which sell gardening supplies.
Second, Choose Your Plants
Plan what you'll plant. You may already know what vegetables you want to grow but chances are you'll change your mind at least once before the plants are in the ground. Think about the vegetables your family loves the most. Corn, tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are common plants in a family vegetable garden.
Consider whether you'll start seeds or purchase the plants partially grown. Of course, there's nothing quite like watching seedlings as they sprout and grow, but buying pre-grown seedlings makes getting the plants in the garden much quicker. Which plants can you start from seed and which ones will you purchase?
Once you know what you'll plant, think about where you'll place each one. Some plants are best planted close to others. These are called companion plants. They may either provide natural pest resistance or nutrients the other plant needs. Take time to research which plants can benefit the others in your garden.
How To Deal with Vegetable Garden Pests Naturally
You need to figure out how you're going to deal with pests in your garden. I'm sure you want to avoid chemicals in your garden, but there are some things you can do to avoid garden pests in a natural way – check out this post for more ideas!
How to Keep Weeds from Invading
Use newspaper covered by black landscaping fabric or black plastic sheeting between rows. This will reduce the amount of weeding you'll have to do. You can also use the black landscaping fabric in the rows themselves by cutting an circle where the plants will go. This fabric allows the rain to get through and yet blocks much of the sunlight so the weeds can't grow.
Add Beneficial Insects and Bugs to Keep the Pesky Ones Out
You can add beneficial insects to your garden to keep away harmful bugs. These would include ladybugs, praying mantis and earthworms.
Don't forget to check your garden tools. Give your tiller and other mechanical equipment a spring-time tune-up. Ensure your rakes, hoes and other hand tools don't have loose handles. You'll also want to ensure they aren't rusty. I've been using the Fiskars 3 Piece Softouch Garden Tool Set for years and I love them! They are ergonomic, well-made and do not rust.
And that's not all! Do you have a large-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck? What about something to sit or kneel on while you're planting? I like those foam pads you can kneel on. They are inexpensive and work well. Wal-Mart sells gardening hats for around $7, and I like that price!
Make sure to check out more garden planning posts here!