Tips for Growing a Garden - A Fantastic Homegrown Solution 

Growing a garden at home full of your own fresh vegetables helps you provide for your family. Eating homegrown food can also help offset your household expenses at the grocery store.

A garden helps utilize unused land on your own property. Watching seedlings spring into action is awesome to behold! Digging in the dirt may not sound too great but the fruits of your labor will be extremely gratifying!

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Buying produce from the grocery store has its own set of challenges. Sometimes, what you see is not what you get! That's why its so great to have your own garden!

The first year designing your garden will be one of the tasks you must perform. There are many things to consider and there will be some extra work that has to be done in order to have gardening success. The efforts you make today however, will pay off for many, many years to come, so take your time and enjoy the process!

Tips for Growing a Garden Full of Your Own Fresh Vegetables

  • Before you get started growing a garden, you’ll need to pick a spot to plot. Is the site you’ve chosen water accessible? Does the plot get plenty of sun for at least 6 hours a day? These are very important considerations you must make before growing a garden!

    If you have trees that block sunlight in the area you've selected, you need to have those removed beforehand. This may seem like a big hassle but it's necessary for photosynthesis. You can cut down trees with a chain saw or ask a friend or neighbor to help out. If tree stumps are in your way, you’ll have to remove those too before you can utilize the land.

    This may seem like an expensive venture, but tree stumps can be killed off with a granular tree stump killer, pulled up by a tractor, or ground down by a stump grinder. It’s really a small cost when you think about how good your own food will taste!

  • When you’re growing a garden, you’ll also need to decide how much land you’ll need to grow the type of vegetables you want. Of course, it goes without saying! The more vegetables you want to grow, the more space you’ll need. If you need help creating a plot, call a reputable landscaper in your area! There's no shame in that, especially if don't think you can accomplish the task all by yourself.

    It's a moot point but overcrowding a garden can lead to blight. The second year of my garden, my okra plants got much larger than I expected and ended up crowded out my tomatoes. I also planted my tomato plants too close together but that's exactly why planning ahead is necessary. It all worked out but it was hard to collect the fruit off the plants at times.

    overcrowding a garden image

  • Once you’ve decided on a plot you’ll use, you must remove grass and weeds from the area. You can cover them with plastic over winter months, which works very well and is au naturelle! If you must, you can use a broad-spectrum herbicide but then you'll be putting toxic chemicals into the soil. NOT good! You can also opt to remove the top layer of the soil. That will require some digging and shoveling but it’ll be well worth it when you’re finished.

    *Transplant any grass you've removed or throw it into your compost pile for added nitrogen!

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  • Once you have the plot ready, you’ll need to check the quality of the soil and the pH. Do not skip this step! Your local County Extensions Office can test soil samples. They will also tell you how to take soil samples so they can analyze the soil for you... for a wee fee. They will tell you exactly what you need to amend your soil to make it ‘healthy’ for planting vegetables. OR, you can test your own soil for alkalinity and give the County Extensions Office a call. Ask them for some tips for your type of soil.

    *Tip - Find the phone number for the county extensions office in the government pages of your local phone book.

  • The next step, also too important to skip, is tilling the soil. Before you till however, grab a fistful of soil and squeeze it to see whether it's dry enough. If water oozes out between your fingers, it's too wet and you'll have to wait. If it's powdery, it's overly dry and you’ll need to add moisture. Water the plot thoroughly or wait for a good solid rain to till. Ideally you'll be able to form a ball of soil that crumbles when you poke it. Also, you’ll need to till at least one foot down, which is the deepest that most vegetable roots grow.

    Tilling the first time will help remove rocks and roots that are in the way. You’ll need to bring up the dirt from underneath, to aerate and mix up the soil.

    * If you dig up rocks, use them to help outline your garden bed!

    Now its time to till the soil again but this time you need to fold in as much compost as possible and add the recommended nutrients that were given to you by your soil test samples. Compost gives your plants a loose garden bed that holds just the right amount of moisture and boosts nutritional needs. You'll want to replenish the compost in your soil periodically (plant growth and warm weather will speed its decomposition), so you may also want to consider starting your own compost pile. You can also buy a composter at a very low cost! Prices have really come down on green products over the years!

    You might also want to add manure to your soil, which adds nitrogen. Local horse, chicken, or cow farms can supply all the seasoned manure you need or you can purchase it from home improvement stores.

    * If you add raw manure to your garden, you must cover it well to keep it cool! You can add it one of two ways. One way is to dig down below where you want to plant your seeds/plants, cover the manure with soil, then plant your seeds/plants on top. You may optionally add manure around your seeds/plants and cover it well with a thick layer (4" or more) of pine straw or mulch. The point is to keep manure cool! When you water your plants, be sure to water the manure too. This helps keep it cool, which helps with decomposition and ensures that the manure won't burn up your tender plants.

  • Its much easier growing a garden in raised mounds but you can use flat plots of soil as well. It really depends on the soil you have. The advantage of mounding rows is that excessive water from heavy rains will run off of vegetables and not drown them. This takes a little hoeing but may be well worth your time.

    *Mounding clay soil works perfectly, especially as rain water takes time to absorb into the soil.

    *Mounding in sand-based soil is frivolous.

    *Mounding amended soil works well but is not a necessity.

    *Make your mounds as wide as possible. In between mounds, spread newspapers and cover with pine straw to help hold them down. You should also wet them down to help hold them in place. This gives you plenty of space in between mounds to water, check on, or harvest your vegetables.

    *This past year, I decided that weeding was for losers and bought four large bales of hay for a low cost. ($10) I placed the hay 6 inches deep down my rows and along the garden walkways. Weeds were NOT a problem which gave me peace of mind and loads more time to work on other chores! The thick layer of hay also made my garden much warmer! This is fantastic in any location but especially when you're growing a garden in an area that has cooler temps.

    using hay to stop weeds image

  • Next step in growing a garden is to plant your vegetables! Its may have been a long wait, which makes planting so especially fun to do! Spread a light application of basic 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil. Pay attention to the information on the seed packets if you're using them. Remember, you won't get good results from planting the wrong vegetables in the wrong season! Refer to the plant zone map for more planting information!

    plant zone map

    You'll also get better crops if your plants are the right distance apart. They must also be trellised or caged if plants grow more than a couple of feet tall.

    Here are a few beginning pictures of the garden we started a couple of years ago. Its not very glorious but it worked well! Its truly a simple, small garden and gave our household lots of delicious fresh veggies and leftovers to freeze and enjoy throughout the winter months. In full growth, our okra plants were over 7 feet tall!

    garden starting to grow image

    garden starting to grow image

    garden starting to grow image

    Tips for Growing a Garden

  • You’ll need to water your garden several times a week, unless you are blessed with good weekly rainfall in your region. Watering your garden from the bottom up is always the best way to ensure that roots get the water they need and diminish the chance of blight. This will also help diminish the amount of water that’s wasted, which is good for keeping it green.

  • Add mulch around your plants to conserve and retain water.

  • Another point to consider when growing a garden is whether or not you should fence the area in, especially if you have lots of critters around that might come in and snatch your veggies. If you want, you can buy garden fencing or edging, which really isn't that expensive or you can make your own! Its fairly simple to do with a few posts and a roll of chicken wire.

  • Another advantage to having a fence is for your climbing veggies. Cucumbers, beans, peas, and all sorts of other veggies are climbers. Plus you'll have more room in your garden for veggies that don't climb.

    cucumbers growing on garden fence image

  • Growing a garden wouldn't be complete without herbs. Most are perennials that will come back every year.

  • Root vegetables are a great addition to any garden and are a lot of fun for young children!

  • If you fence in your garden, you might think about adding a gate. If you use a garden arbor with a built in doorway, you'll get a trellis for fresh flowers and a latched door that is easy on the eyes!

  • Another consideration when you’re growing a garden is whether to have raised beds. If you want to build your own raised beds, you’ll have to buy the supplies you’ll need to construct them. This is fairly simple to do but adds more time to your project.

    * Ask your local hardware store for tips on making your own raised beds!

    cucumbers and sunflowers are companion plants image

  • Companion plants help ensure your plants bear the fruit of your labor by protecting them from garden pests. For example, marigolds are companion plants for tomatoes and melons, catnip is a companion to cabbage, and beans are a companion plant for corn.

  • Prevent blight before it happens! Preventing blight requires using bottom-up irrigation instead of watering down. To control blight from affecting your plants, start with regular fungicide treatment sprays and use them every two weeks. An alternative to chemicals is to use 20 grams of baking soda diluted in ten liters of water and spray biweekly or use diatomaceous earth. Quickly remove any signs of rotting due to late blight as soon as it occurs. Destroy it by placing it in a garbage bag you can throw away later so it does not spread the disease around to other plants.

    Leaf Spots or Blights

    Cankers or Shoot Blights Bud Blast or Flower Blights Fruits or Bulb Rot
    Beet Pansy Anemone Chrysanthemum Bean
    Begonia Peony Asparagus Dahlia Cucurbits
    Chicory Pepper Calendula Dogwood Eggplant
    Crucifers Periwinkle Chrysanthemum Geranium Grape
    Cucurbits Potato Fuchsia Hydrangea Onion
    Dogwood Rhubarb Geranium Marigold Pepper
    Eggplant Rutabaga Heather Peony Raspberry
    Endive Shallot Hydrangea Petunia Strawberry
    Geranium Tomato Peony Rose Tomato
    Hawthorn Tulip Periwinkle Sunflower Tulip
    Hydrangea Turnip Rose Sweet Pea
    Lettuce Violet Snapdragon Tulip
    Onion Tulip Zinnia

  • Tomatoes and potatoes are especially susceptible to Bacterial Speck. Symptoms are tiny raised dark spots, usually with a white border. Management is to spray a copper fungicide at first signs of symptoms.

    *Apply fungicide to potatoes before they flower. Apply fungicide to tomatoes soon after the first fruits set.

  • Do not use dog or cat manure when you're growing a garden. Chicken, cow, and horse manure your best bet!

  • You can save excesses of your fresh vegetables by freezing or canning them! Your family will have fresh vegetables right through the winter months!

    Growing a garden is so much fun for the entire family. Give different family members different jobs to do! You'll all take pride when you sit down to eat a meal together and you're enjoying the bountiful fruits vegetables of your labor!

  • Do you have a gardening tip you'd like to share?

    Have Any Gardening Tips?

    Do you have any tips for growing a garden? Please share them!

    Related Pages on This Site

    Healthy Vegetables - Buying Guide and Serving Suggestions

    Conserve and Use Less Fresh Water

    Save Money on Groceries to Survive a Tough Economy

    Tips to Buy Produce and Crunch Your Way to Savings

    10 Healthy Foods to Include in Your Diet Regularly

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