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A Complete Guide to Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Starting a vegetable garden is not actually as difficult as what a lot of people might think. You only need to follow simple steps and you will eventually be successful in your gardening venture. So if you are new to vegetable gardening and you are not sure where to begin, here’s a comprehensive article that will guide you in every step of the way.

How to Plant a Vegetable Garden

vegetable garden in wooden frame

Starting your own vegetable garden at home is a great way to save money. In fact, growing one tomato plant is enough to provide you with up to ten pounds of fruits in the entire course of the season. In most cases, the flavor and the texture of homegrown vegetables exceed those that are being sold in a grocery store. By growing your own vegetables at home, you will not only save money, but you also get to enjoy the pleasure of eating highly nutritious meals. So here’s how to plant a vegetable garden.

  • Decide what to plant in your vegetable garden – when it comes to deciding on the plant to grow, it is a good idea to start small. A lot of gardeners often get too excited at the start of the season and will plant warmer season vegetables than they actually need. Certain types of vegetables tend to produce so much fruits. Therefore, you need to think about how much your family will actually eat. Remember that vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and squash will keep on producing all throughout the season and you may not need so much plants to serve what your family needs. Some vegetables, such as radish and carrots, only produce once.
  • Determine how much space you will need – as soon as you have decided what to plant, the next thing to figure out is how to plant a vegetable garden with just the right amount of area or space. You do not really need to have an ample space to begin gardening. If you will choose to grow in pots or containers, then you do not even need to have a yard. A balcony or deck should be enough. Remember that regardless of the amount of space you need, it’s very important that you keep your growing space healthy.
  • Choose the right spot – regardless of how big your garden is or what type of vegetables you will grow in it, there are three important requirements to achieve success in gardening – sunlight, water and good soil. Most of the warm season vegetables will require up to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Moreover, most vegetables are not drought-tolerant. Therefore, you need to give them enough water during the dry season. And just like with any type of garden, success often starts with a good soil. Most vegetables will do well in moist and well-drained soil that’s filled with organic matter like peat moss or compost. The temperature of the soil is also vital to keeping your vegetables well and alive, so you may need to make use of a soil thermometer in keeping track of the temperature of the soil.
  • Designing your vegetable garden – there are two basic approaches when it comes to planning your vegetable garden layout, and that’s row cropping and intensive cropping. Row cropping means planting in a single file in rows, with walking paths in between each row. Row cropping can work best for larger gardens, and will make it easier to use mechanical equipment like battle weeds and tillers.

On the other hand, intensive cropping will require grouping vegetables in wide bands, about four feet across, and as long as you prefer. For this method of growing vegetables, the amount of space needed for paths will be reduced. However, the closer spacing of the plants could mean you may need to weed manually.

  • Testing and fixing the soil – it’s important that you test your soil before you begin planting. First off, soak the soil and dig up a handful to be tested. Squeeze the soil hard and if the water will stream out, then you may need to add organic or compost matter in order to improve the drainage.
  • Digging your beds – to dig your vegetable garden, begin by loosening the soil. You can use a tiller or you can dig through using your hands. Next, spread the soil out and work them into the soil. Make sure you avoid stepping into a freshly tilled soil. Otherwise, you will be compacting the soil and you will have to undo all of your hard work. Next, smoothen the surface using a rake and then water thoroughly. Leave the bed to rest for several days before you start growing new vegetables again. Test the soil temperature using a soil thermometer to check if it is already at a proper place to start growing your vegetables.
  • Choosing the varieties – when you decide on the vegetables to grow in your garden, you will probably realize that your choices are endless. For instance, if you go for tomatoes, you will encounter more than a thousand varieties of this vegetable. When choosing the warm season vegetable varieties, pay attention to the description of the packet. Each of the variety of vegetables will be a bit different. Some produce smaller plants that are great for small gardens and containers, while others offer great resistance to diseases, improved yields, as well as a better tolerance on heat and cold.
  • Care and feeding – most of those warm season vegetables would prefer steady moisture, but not to the extreme that they could end up standing in water. Almost an inch of water each week should be sufficient. Water the vegetables if you notice that the top inch of the soil is dry. For the in-ground crops, this could mean watering at least once to twice in a week. Raised beds could drain faster than the sunken beds and might need to be watered every other day.
  • Harvesting – most vegetables can be harvested at various stages. For instance, leaf lettuce can be picked while it is still young, and it will continue to grow and produce right after you snip off some leaves from it. Cucumber and summer squash can be harvested once the fruit is about a few inches long. Otherwise, you can leave it to grow up to a full-size. The rule is that if the vegetable looks good enough to be eaten, it probably is!
  • Preventing diseases and pests – diseases and pets are among the most common problems you will encounter in your vegetable garden. Although certain problems will require special solutions, there are certain principles that you need to follow for each type of diseases and pests.

Layout Ideas

vegetable garden

Certain vegetable garden layouts may work well for a particular garden space and there might be far more variation during the harvest because of certain factors that are beyond your control, like the weather and pests. Most gardeners will go for the complex companion method of planning, and if you’re one of them, here is your guide to coming up with your own vegetable garden layout.

  • Mix-up vegetable plants in order to confuse pests – vast areas of a single crop could attract pests while mix planting could confuse them. An exception to this is when plants will require special protection, for instance, the broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages, need to be grown together in order for them to be protected against caterpillars in a tunnel of horticultural fleece or netting.
  • Grow insectary plants – there are certain well-known flowers that will attract beneficial insects, such as hover flies, ladybugs, etc., which could control pests naturally.
  • Consider the shade as well as the support – tall plants could shade others and can also be used to provide support for others. For instance, climbing beans could grow up a sweet corn.
  • Vertically climbing plants should be grown strategically – anything that will grow up, such as beans, peas, squash and cucumbers, must be grown in an area where they will not end up shading other vegetables. The only exception when it comes to this is areas that have very hot summers where cool season crops like spinach and lettuce could benefit from the shade under the heat of the day.

It is usually important that you rearrange the plants in a plan until such time that you will achieve a perfect layout for your vegetable garden. Make sure that you will consider both the size of the plants once they are fully-grown as well as their needs. For instance, sprawling squash plants must be planted at the edge of the vegetable beds so they will not smother other vegetable crops and leafy crops, such as summer lettuce, that could benefit from the shade cast by the much taller plants. Moreover, the sweet corn must always be grown in blocks instead of a single row so they will be able to wind-pollinate properly.

Free Garden Planner Software

vegetable garden seen from above

The easiest way to come up with your own vegetable garden layout is to use a free garden planner. Here’s some of the best software for planning your garden.

  • Marshalls Garden Visualiser – this software does just what you would expect a garden planner would do. It allows you to visualize the garden through a 3D space, similar to a video game. When building your garden, you can also move around through it, like you are actually in there, which helps you to easily understand how your garden will look like in real. The software also allows you to specify how big you want your garden to be.
  • Gardena’s My Garden – this is an interactive online planner that comes with zoom, drag and drop features, and even gives you an option to resize the layout to help ensure that your garden is planned out exactly how you want it to be. It also allows you to draw various landscapes, such as lawn, gravel, soil, water, and even structures, bushes, trees, etc.
  • Online Garden Planner at SmallBluePrinter.com – this online planner is similar to that of Gardena in the sense that it allows you to draw several different objects into the scene along with your plants. This also allows you to edit the width, color, as well as length of every object that you will include into the plan.
  • Smart Gardener -this is similar to the other planners that were mentioned above, however, it is not as detailed in terms of the landscape. Instead, it allows you to build your own planting beds, lay your preferred plants in them and print off a detailed list of everything that you want to include in your garden.
  • Plan a Garden by Better Homes and Garden – this software is easy to use since it supports the drag and drop feature. Moreover, all the objects that you will add into the garden are 3D, thus, making it look more realistic than merely a simple bird’s eye view, like some other software.
  • Gardeners.com online garden planner – this free online garden planner by Gardeners.com is just so easy to use. You just simply scroll through the different plants and then drag and drop those that you want to be in the grid. The grid could be up to 5 by 12, and there are also several plants you can choose from, such as cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, cilantro, carrots, lavender, and many more.
  • Vegetable Planner – this software is so easy to use and it functions like that of the software from Gardener.com. You just have to click the arrows in order to scroll through the various plants where you will find lettuce, garlic, onions, spinach, peppers, pumpkins and more.

Ideas

seeds being put in the ground

Some vegetable gardens are small, while others are massive. Some people manage to grow veggies right at their balcony, while others prefer to grow in a yard. Whatever your choice is, here are some ideas to consider.

  • Vertical vegetable garden – if you live within the city, then you probably have a limited space in your home for a garden. The best solution to this is to consider planting up, instead of planting out. A vertical garden makes use of small footprint and can lead to a beautiful garden wall.
  • Doghouse with green roof – if you wanted raised beds, consider adding some walls to give your dog a cozy retreat. This will save you lots of space and will give your garden a nice and comfortable height to work in.
  • Hanging container garden – baskets are not only for flowers. In fact, you can plant an assortment of your favorite veggies and herbs in a hanging basket. You can perhaps, grow tomatoes and some herbs. This unique container garden is perfect for those who have limited spaces in their yard.
  • Tin can vegetable garden – you can repurpose some of the old tin cans and convert it into a garden. You can then hang the containers in a wall and you will have an awesome looking and unique garden.
  • Raised garden with enclosure – a raised garden bed also comes with an enclosure that can help to keep your garden protected against frost and help to prevent the squirrels and rabbits from raiding into your garden. The enclosure also allows you to plant your veggies early in the season and protect the plants in the event of a late frost.
  • Create a bean house – growing beans vertically using a trellis can help to save some space, while also helping to make picking the beans much easier.
  • Upside down tomatoes – you can make your own upside down garden of tomatoes with the help of heavy-duty buckets that you can then hang from a wooden beam at the garden. Not only will this keep the plants out of easy reach, but also the vines that will come off it can make for a beautiful wall.
  • Use old pallet for herbs – when it comes to DIY vegetable garden, pallets are often being used. Indeed, the pallets can make for a great way to hang planters in the wall outside, which keeps everything well within reach.

Raised Vegetable Garden

Raised bed is one of the best ways to grow vegetables in your garden, most especially if the soil in the garden is poor or compacted or that it does not have proper drainage. If you are thinking of planting a raised bed, here are the steps that can serve as your guide.

  • Fill your vegetable bed with high quality compost or potting soil and then rake the surface smooth and leveled. Make sure to remove any debris or rocks.
  • Plants on raised beds can be spaced a bit closer to each other since manure and fertilizer can be concentrated within a small gardening area.
  • Plant the lettuce by poking holes into the soil using your finger at about six inch intervals, and then sprinkle a few seeds into each hole. As soon as the seeds will germinate, thin them to about one seedling per hole.
  • You can also choose to broadcast the seeds over the surface of the raised bed. If you are thinking of growing carrots, you can apply fine textured potting soil right above the seeds. The carrots tend to attract certain species of butterflies into your raised beds.
  • Cucumbers can be planted at the edge of the raised bed, where they could trail over into the side. They can be grown above your patio.
  • Water your garden well immediately right after planting.

How to Build A Raised Vegetable Garden Yourself

Here are some steps on how to build a raised garden bed in our backyard. These are actually fairly easy to build and much easier to maintain.

  • Place wooden stakes in every corner of the bed in order to support the timber beds. Place one inside the bed so that the stakes will be less visible.
  • Drive the stakes into about two feet to the ground and leave the rest exposed.
  • Make sure that the stakes are leveled so they are in the ground in the same height and in order for you to have uneven beds.
  • Set the lowest boards about a couple inches from the ground level. Check that they are leveled well.
  • With the use of galvanized screws or nails, fix the boards into the stakes.
  • Add any additional rows of boards and fix them directly into the stakes.
  • You can now fill the bed with a mixture of compost, topsoil, as well as other organic materials, like manure, in order to provide your plants with more nutrients.
  • Take note that the soil in a raised bed could dry out fast. During spring and fall, this should be fine. However, during summer, consider adding mulch, straw or hay above the soil.
  • Remember that frequent watering is important for raised beds, most especially during the early stages.

Indoor Ideas

You may not be aware of this, but there are actually several vegetables that you can grow indoors easily. If you are thinking of growing your own vegetables indoors, here are some ideas you might want to consider.

  • Carrots – this is one of those vegetables that love a lot of sun. Therefore, look for a sunny spot inside your house that receives about eight hours of sunlight. Partial sun should be fine, however, the plant may not be able to grow faster. The best range of temperature for your carrots is between 70 and 80. Simply fill a pot with sandy potting soil and leave about three inches of headroom. Then sow the carrot seeds about 1/4 inch from the ground.
  • Microgreens – this refers to shoots of salad vegetables, like the basil, Swiss chard, radish, dill and more. You can buy a seed mix of these veggies and sprinkle them over a tray with potting mix. Cover them with a thin layer of soil and mist the soil by spraying some water. Place the tray right next to your windowsill. Maintain the moisture of the soil and in about 3 to 5 days, the seeds will start to germinate.
  • Tomatoes – you can choose to grow a single plant of tomato in a six-inch pot. Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep with the use of a starter mix. Water the pot, but make sure that it will not become soggy. The seeds will germinate after about five to ten days. Once the seedlings are already about three inches tall, transplant them outdoors. It’s important that you choose the right variety of tomatoes to grow indoors, since not all tomato varieties are ideal for indoor growth.

Aside from vegetables, you can also grow some fruits indoors. Examples are avocados, lemons, oranges, etc. Do your research well and find out which varieties of these fruits you can grow in your indoor vegetable garden.

Soil Preparation

plants being planted

Healthy soil is important in order for your vegetables to grow in the garden. If the garden soil is in excellent condition, then you can be assured that your vegetable garden will be a success. So here’s how to prepare the soil in your garden.

  • Determine the soil health – among the most important nutrients for plant growth are phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, etc. Plants will normally take these nutrients from the soil in large amounts. Calcium, sulfur and magnesium are the secondary nutrients that are also important for your garden soil. Another critical component is the acid-alkaline balance, which is also known as the pH level reading.
  • Testing – you can determine the type of minerals that are abundant or lacking in your soil by testing it. There are some local garden centers that offer these services. The test will involve measuring the pH level of your soil, including other nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sometimes, nitrogen. They might also report the micronutrient content of the soil, but this is not anymore essential if you will add several organic matters to your soil.
  • pH Level – the pH level is critical to your vegetable’s ability to be able to absorb the right nutrients. Most of the nutrients and minerals are best available to plants with soils having a pH level of about 6.5 to 6.8. If your soil is acidic or alkaline, it does not matter how rich the nutrients are, the plants will still not be able to absorb them. pH will usually be included in the soil test. Otherwise, you can buy your own pH meter so you can determine the acid and the alkaline balance of the soil by yourself.
  • Soil Texture and Type – aside from knowing the pH level of your soil, mineral levels and macronutrient content, you also need to determine its texture. Normally, the texture of the soil will depend on the amount of clay, silt and sand that it holds. Sandy soils do not have enough nutrients since the water and nutrients will drain rapidly in between the large spaces of the sand particles. These soils are also low in beneficial microbes and organic matter that the plants will thrive on. On the other hand, silt soils are dense and are not able to drain well. They’re more fertile than the clay and sandy soil. Moreover, heavy clay soil is dense, and does not drain well enough, and gets hard when dry.

Best Mulch

A lot of gardeners that have not tried using mulch have been wondering for the best type of mulch to use for their garden. The answer really depends on what’s available readily in your backyard and the type of vegetables you’re growing in your garden. Here are some of the best types of mulches you can use for your garden.

  • Sawdust – about a two-inch layer of sawdust mulch is enough to provide proper weed control for your garden. Fresh sawdust contains carbon, but only a little amount of nitrogen. Thus, its breakdown will require that the microorganisms will take nitrogen from the soil. A thin layer of sawdust should be enough to use in starting seeds, as it can help to keep moisture in.
  • Hay or straw – about a six to eight inch layer of hay or straw is sufficient to provide proper annual weed control for your garden. All these materials tend to decompose quickly and should be replenished so as to keep weeds down. Moreover, these mulches will simply stay in place and will help to improve the soil when they decay.
  • Pine needles – these can be found in various garden centers and can be used as mulch. However, pine bark and pine needles should be closely watched in the vegetable garden since they also have the tendency to raise the soil’s acidic level.
  • Glass clippings – a two-inch layer of grass clippings are also able to provide your vegetable garden with proper weed control. Simply build the layer gradually with the use of dry grass. But remember that a thick layer of the green grass can give off excessive heat and foul odor instead of decomposing as other organic materials would.
  • Leaves – a layer of leaves can provide good weed control for your garden. The leaves could decompose quickly and can be obtained easily. Once the leaves decomposed, they can help to greatly improve the health of your soil.

Natural Fertilizer

person caring for plants

You may not be aware of this, but there are actually several materials in your kitchen or backyard that you can use as natural garden fertilizers and here are some of them.

  • Banana peels – banana is known for having lots of potassium. Certain types of vegetables love potassium. Therefore, consider throwing some banana peels into the hole of the soil before you start planting your seeds.
  • Coffee grounds – plants that love acid will also benefit from coffee grounds. Among these are blueberries, tomatoes, azaleas and roses. Usually, it is the nitrogen content of the coffee ground that the vegetables love.
  • Egg shells – wash the eggshells first and crush them to fine pieces. Apply the shells into the soil near your peppers and tomatoes. The calcium from the shells can help to fend off end rot blossom.
  • Seaweed – fresh seaweed does not to be washed before using as organic fertilizer. You can also use the dry version, and both the fresh and dry varieties can be excellent for your garden soil.
  • Molasses – using molasses can help increase microbes, as well as the bacteria where the microbes feed. Simply mix about three tablespoons of molasses into a gallon of water and apply this directly to the plants, helping them to grow even bigger and healthier.

Small Vegetable Garden Ideas

If you are thinking of growing a one in your home, then here are some tips and ideas to consider.

  • Container garden – a container garden can work best if you have limited space in your home for a vegetable garden. You can grow several containers of vegetables in your patio, terrace, or beside your window. Container vegetable gardens can sure provide you with an abundance of nutritious and fresh vegetables.
  • Sunny border or flowerbed – you can also choose to grow vegetables in an existing flowerbed and even use it as a border. You just have to look for a sunny location for this garden and of course, use a bit of your imagination.
  • Raised garden bed – with a raised garden, you can grow plenty of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and peppers without the need to have an ample garden space. It can be perfect for your vegetable gardening needs and they could become really attractive if you use unique designs and materials.
  • Square foot garden – if you have a very limited space in your yard, then come up with a 4 by 4-square garden. You can use untreated lumber to form a square. Nail the ends together, making sure that the inner area is around four feet. Diving the square to about 16 small squares with the use of some strips of woods or strings and you can then grow your plants in rows within the smaller squares.
  • Use a trellis – this is a great option if you are growing vine crops. Instead of allowing vine crops to crawl across your garden, you can send them to grow skyward using the trellis. This will surely save you so much space. Some of the best vegetables to grow in a trellis are cantaloupe, cucumbers and watermelon.

When To Plant

outside garden

One of the most common questions that new gardeners have in mind is when would be the best time to grow vegetables. With the help of your handy garden tools and supplies, you can actually grow vegetables at almost any time of the year. You can visit your local garden supply store to look for garden grow lights and other supplies that can help you with your indoor vegetable garden.

You can grow container vegetable garden indoors at any time of the year. Click To Tweet

You can grow container vegetable garden indoors at any time of the year. Moreover, a potted vegetable can be grown indoors all year round. If you need to grow your potted vegetable outdoors, it is best to wait for the planting season. A raised vegetable garden, which makes use of vertical vegetable gardening in order to save some space, can be started outdoors during the spring season when there is no longer freezing weather.

Take note that if you live in an area where there is a freezing winter, you might need to adjust the planting schedules of your vegetables. Your local garden center should be able to give you an advice on the best time to grow vegetables in your place, given your climate and the weather in your local area. There are also online vegetable planners that can assist you in deciding for the best time to grow particular vegetables.

Summer

picture of backyard

When summer is about to start, certain vegetable plants will naturally outshine the others. If you are wondering which vegetables to grow this summer, then here are some of them.

  • Sweet potatoes – this can grow well during summer and is capable of producing an abundant supply in only a matter of 90 days. Wait to plant them until such time that the weather is good to achieve the best results.
  • Southern peas – these are wonderfully versatile plants that are also called the cowpeas. They can thrive in heat, making them one of the vegetables that can best grow in the summer. Once they mature and dry, they can be stored easily for several months.
  • Hot peppers – these plants grow well and produce well during spring and fall. Although some of the bigger varieties will slow down their production when the warm summer nights arrive, most of the smaller and hotter types produce well straight during this season.
  • Green beans – the beans are so easy to grow and are really productive, even during summer. You can choose to grow the bush varieties for a quick production of crops or the pole beans for a longer season of steady production.
  • Okra – this is another self-sufficient vegetable that can thrive well in summer due  to its love of heat and its ability to adapt to the dry weather conditions. You can harvest the pods every other day in order to keep the production and quality at high level.
  • Eggplant – this is also among the summer producer of the crops that belongs under the solanaceous group. You can go for the globe shaped Mediterranean varieties, or you can go for the elongated Asian varieties.

Fall

In most areas, growing vegetables should be done ideally in July until August in order to allow for enough time for the seeds and the plants to mature before the autumn freezes. But most of the vegetables you can plant in the spring can also be grown in fall. These are usually cool season plants that means they are able to tolerate light frost, could thrive in short daylight hours and will be at their best in mild temperatures. Here’s a list of some of the best vegetables to grow in the fall.

  • Broccoli – the seedlings of the broccoli must be planted ten weeks before the first frost in your area.
  • Brussels sprouts – these are ideal to be planted during fall since they taste great when left to mature in the cold weather.
  • Cabbage – you can plant cabbage seedlings about six to eight weeks before the start of the first frost.
  • Cauliflower – you can plant seedlings of cauliflower about six to eight weeks before the first frost starts.
  • Kohlrabi – this vegetable is a part of the cabbage family and it will take up to 60 days before it reaches its maturity, although it also depends on the variety.
  • Lettuce – you can sow lettuce seeds during the late summer, and it will take up to 60 days to harvest, depending on the variety you choose to grow.
  • Mustard greens – you can sow mustard seeds about six weeks before the first frost starts.
  • Radish – you can sow radish seeds about four weeks prior to the start of the first frost.
  • Spinach – sow spinach seeds about five weeks before the first frost date.

Winter

person holding box of vegetables

Tending to a winter vegetable garden is almost similar to that of the warm weather vegetables, except for some exceptions. First, when the temperature drops, most of the warm weather diseases and pests will disappear. Moreover, in most regions, winter vegetable gardens will not demand as much water since the winter rains can help with the irrigation. If you are thinking of growing vegetables in winter, here are some of the cold hardy winter vegetables to consider.

  • Arugula – this grows best when the weather is cold. Try growing it under a cool weather to achieve a milder crop.
  • Broccoli – the broccoli plant will continue to produce side shoots as soon as the main head has been harvested. Once the plant has fully established, you can enjoy your vegetables during the early winter.
  • Brussels sprouts – these are the most cold hardy plants in the entire cabbage family.
  • Endive – this vegetable is a great addition to your winter salad, so grow plenty of these veggies during fall.
  • Garlic – you can harvest some of the garlic scapes in winter in place of the green onions.
  • Kale – along with other heart greens, kale is best grown in winter.
  • Spinach – it’s great to grow spinach in cold weather. You can then harvest and add to your salads for a winter feast.
  • Swiss chard – just like the beet greens, Swiss chard is known for its mild flavor. Its beautiful color can add a bit of pizzazz into your garden.

How Often Should You Water It?

growing plants

An ideal guideline to watering your vegetable plants is to provide it with about an inch of water each week, either from rain or through manual watering. During arid climates however, you should double the amount of watering. In hot weather, veggies would need more water, about half an inch each week for every ten degrees that the average temperature will become above 60 degrees.

By definition, an average temperature refers to the daytime high and the nighttime low, and then divided into two. Thus, if the high is 95, while the low is 73, the average would be 82.5. As such, your vegetable garden will therefore need about another inch of water.

This is the reason why most gardeners during hot climates will not mind the recommendation of an inch of water for every week. This just does not work in hot weather climate for eggplant, tomatoes, squash, as well as other crops that will require a lot of water and come with huge leaves that will easily wilt.

You can measure one inch of water by placing a rain gauge or a plastic container below your sprinkler, drip, soaker and other watering systems. You have applied an inch of water if the vessel will collect water that is also an inch deep.

Balcony Vegetable Gardening

These days, more and more people are opting to live in apartments and condominium units. One thing that they will miss however is a land for gardening. But if you have a balcony, it is actually possible to grow a vegetable garden in there. The process is not really that difficult and if you do things right, you will surely achieve a fruitful vegetable garden in no time.

Almost any vegetable plant that you can think of to grow in your backyard garden can also thrive well in the balcony, as long as it has the right conditions. Here are some examples of vegetables that can be grown in your balcony:

  • Beans
  • Eggplant
  • Green onions
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes

The vegetables above can be grown in containers and placed in the balcony. Container gardening is becoming popular these days, especially for those who do not have enough space outdoors. You can choose from the list of vegetables above for growing in the container. You can go for clay pots, plastics or any containers. Make sure however, that you use something that has drainage. If not, consider drilling holes manually.

When you’re growing vegetables in containers at your balcony, it is a good idea to use synthetic soils. These soils are best suited for container plants, and are made out of peat moss, wooden chips, sawdust, perlite and vermiculite. You can then fill the bottom part of the container with coarse gravel and then pour over the synthetic soil. This can help to improve the drainage of your potted vegetables.

Vertical Vegetable Gardening

Vertical vegetable gardening is another great option for those who live in apartment complexes and condominiums that have very limited space for gardening. With this type of gardening, you should be able to produce the same amount of fresh vegetables without the added space. It’s easy to create a vertical vegetable garden and here are some tips to guide you through.

  • Determine the conditions – first of all, you need to know the conditions in the area where you want to place your vegetable garden. For instance, if you will have it in your balcony, then determine the amount of sunlight that gets to your balcony, considering factors like the surrounding buildings, your neighbor’s houses, trees, etc.
  • Decide on the vegetables to grow – if you are lucky enough to have an abundant sunshine in the area where you plan to grow the vegetable garden, then your choice of vegetables are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, radishes, etc.
  • Use a shelf – although there are various ways in which you can come up with a vertical garden, the easiest and the most common of all is to use shelves. The shelves offer the benefit of growing several different types of vegetable plants in every shelf and you are free to go as high as you can, depending on how much space you have in your balcony. You can position the shelf in such a way that the plants will be able to receive enough amount of sunlight at the same time.

Aside from the shelves, you can also use hanging baskets in growing your vertical vegetable garden. Simply hang the baskets in the balcony or you can use hangers. Another option is to use a trellis, which can work well for vine crops such as cucumbers and squash.

How To Get Rid of Ants

Garden ants are the typical black or red colored ants that are so tiny. They can actually benefit your vegetable garden in some ways since they can act as pollinators by crawling around from one plant to another to look for nectar and they can even kill harmful caterpillars. The only time that these ants will pose a problem is when their population becomes enormous that could result in an outright infestation in your garden.

In this case, something that you need to watch out for is the aphid, which could kill some of your leafy vegetables. If you do find these garden ants in your garden, look out for the aphids and if you found them, treat them as soon as possible.

Aside from the garden ants, another type of ants that you should be mindful of is the fire ant. These are really large ants that are colored red and are capable of building extremely large mounds. Moreover, a colony of fire ants usually have about a million of ants inside so be careful if you end up hitting it as you could get bitten.

So how do you get rid of these ants in your vegetable garden? Sure, you can use commercial ant killers that can be used for the garden, but the organic means is a preferred choice especially since you are dealing with vegetables. One natural recipe for killing ants is the use of one cup of borax and 3 cups of sugar. You can simply mix the two ingredients in a cup, then sprinkle the mixture around the anthills or on any places where you find the ants.

The ants cannot tell that borax has been mixed with sugar and will carry this into their ant colony. Borax is poisonous to ants, and in only a couple of days, it could wipe all the ant colonies away.

How to Keep Deer Away Naturally

Deer present a unique set of challenges for your vegetable garden. Those who have been gardening for a long time know the challenges that come with having a deer to attack your garden. If you have this problem in your vegetable garden, here are some ways on how you can keep the deer out of your garden.

  • Grow deer resistant garden plants  – to keep deer away, grow some deer resistant garden plants along with your vegetables. Consider growing plants with fuzzy and hairy foliage because deer do not like these textures against their tongue. You can perhaps grow these plants as borders in order to discourage the deer from getting into your vegetables.
  • Install a garden fence – another way to keep the deer away is to install a fence. Putting up a suitable deer fence around your vegetable garden is the best yet the most expensive solution to your problem. If your vegetables are so precious to you, then it is definitely worth investing on a deer fence to protect your vegetable garden.
  • Scare the deer away – using motion-activated sprinklers is one way to scare deer out of your garden. When these sprinklers sense motion, it will immediately get activated and this will sure scare the wits of the deer away, sending them running far from your garden.  The range of the sprinkler’s aim can also be adjusted in order to achieve a fairly accurate target. You can buy this device at any of your local garden supply store. They might be a bit more costly, but is definitely worth it.

How to Get Rid of Weeds Naturally

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Are you seeing some weed in your vegetable garden as of late? If so, then here are some of the natural ways to get rid of weeds. These are not only effective, but can also save you some money.

  • Newspaper – using a carpet of newspaper can help to block the oxygen and the sunlight from ever reaching into your soil and this will smother weeds that have already sprouted while also preventing the new ones from growing.
  • Old shower curtains and carpet – spreading these materials on your vegetable garden in between rows can help to keep the weeds from ever showing up.
  • Corn Gluten meal – these corn byproducts can help to stop the seeds from growing into the weeds. Since it prevents germination, you can spread them around the established parts, right after the seedlings and transplants have already taken hold into your soil.
  • Vinegar – the acid in vinegar can help to suck out the life of the plant leaves. It is even more destructive to younger weeds that have immature roots, although it can just simply roll off weeds with waxy leaves, such as the thistle and pennywort.
  • Vodka – vodka can actually make the weeds to fall down dead. An ounce of vodka mixed in two cups of water as well as a couple drops of dish soap can help to dry the weeds out.
  • Soap – the oil from the soap could break down the hairy and waxy weed surfaces, making them vulnerable to desiccants.
  • Boiling water – after you have made yourself a cup of tea, you can then take the kettle outside and then pour the remaining boiling water into the weeds. That will surely burn  them up.

How to Amend Clay Soil

Clay soil is common in various parts of the United States, however, it can really be a pain if you happen to grow your vegetables using this type of soil. Basically, the clay soil comprises mostly of clay particles. These are soils that have more than 50 percent of clay in them.

Improving your clay soil to make it suitable for your vegetable garden will take a lot of hard work. But the good news is that all your efforts can greatly help to improve the overall structure of your soil and will make your garden much easier to work with. To improve the soil, you need to add up to eight inches of organic matter in the entire bed. You can choose to add any organic matter that you have readily available, such as grass clippings.

Spread your organic matter above the clay soil and mix to the top six to twelve inches of the clay soil. Dig and mix it well using a shovel. When you’re done, your garden bed will now be several inches higher than it was before. This will settle over the course of the season, however, the soil structure will keep on improving since the microorganisms and the soil will work hand in hand to break down the organic matter you have mixed.

You can now plant your vegetables to the bed. You may need to add more organic matter on top of the bed at least once or twice a year. Doing so can help to continue the process of improving the structure of the soil and offset any settling that will happen.
Check out this video on the topic too

Drip Irrigation

A drip irrigation system can be as simple as a soaker hose or perhaps two hoses that you can snake into your vegetable garden. For gardeners who are too busy, the biggest benefit of having a drip irrigation system is the ability to save both money and time. Drip irrigation systems, as you know, can eliminate the need to have to drag the hoses and sprinklers around. With a soaker hose, you can just install them once and let them be.

For drip irrigation systems that make use of a timer, gardeners will only need to spend a few seconds of their time to turn the system on, and immediately the timer will automatically shut down. This system is great for vegetable plants and vegetables that are watered with soaker hoses are said to be able to grow quickly enough and more productive in the long run since they will be provided with all the water that they need. Moreover, their growth will not be hampered by any kind of stress.

The easiest way to experiment on drip irrigation is to purchase a couple of the soaker hoses that ooze water on the entire length of the hose. The water will even be able to seep within the tiny pores, right along the entire length of the hose. You can then snake the soaker into garden beds of your vegetables, where the hoses can be stretched in parallel to the rows of vegetables. You can leave the soakers in place all throughout the entire growing season. If the time comes to water, simply attach them to the nearest faucet using a hose.

Grubs

Grub worms are not exactly worms like the earthworms. But unlike the earthworms, which fertilize your soil in order to make your vegetables healthy, grub worms will otherwise ruin them by munching into the roots of your flowers, grass and plants.

So how do you get rid of these worms in your garden? The beetles will usually lay their eggs early in summer. After the eggs will hatch, they could turn into pests, and these are the grub worms. These worms will then tunnel underground and will feast on the roots of your grasses and plants until the fall and winter season.

There are ways in which you can get rid of the grub worms. However, you should know that there is not really a permanent solution to this. The key is to be very vigilant and know when exactly the beetles in your area will start to lay eggs.

There are also pesticides that you can buy and use. However, you may want to avoid using commercial pesticides filled with harmful chemicals, especially since you are going to apply it in your vegetable garden. Understandably, most gardeners will prefer the natural way of getting rid of the grubs.

Using milky spore in your lawn is one of the most effective and natural ways to get rid of the grubs. Simply spread it in your lawn and your grub worms will eventually be killed. To offset the damage that the grub worms have done into your garden, keep your garden watered at all times. Abundant water can help the damaged roots to be able to absorb water more easily. Robins as well as other songbirds would love to munch on grub worms so you may want to encourage these birds into your garden. In fact, having lots of birds in your garden can help to eliminate all types of worms.