make vegetable garden

André Gonçalves - Editor & Head Of English Market

After studying and working in HR, André studied sustainability management at Lisbon's School Of Economics & Management. He is responsible for the English speaking market of Youmatter since 2018.

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How to start a vegetable garden? How to efficiently plant a vegetable garden and what design should it have? What are the benefits of a vegetable garden calendar? Let’s take a closer look at these questions.

The Benefits Of Starting To Grow A Vegetable Garden

In this coronavirus crisis period, there is an obvious reason for people to start growing their own vegetable garden: food security. As supermarket shelves are, in some places, found empty, many people start questioning the security of food supplies they have always taken for granted.

Apart from food security, other benefits come along with growing one’s own vegetable garden. On one hand, growing a vegetable garden helps reduce the environmental impact associated with the fruits and vegetables bought in large supermarkets that have often traveled hundreds or thousands of kilometers. On the other hand, you can choose to adopt more eco-friendly production methods that rely less on heavily-polluting pesticides and synthetic chemicals.

There are health benefits too. With fruits and vegetables growing right next to you, odds are you (and your family) will eat them more often and perhaps start to follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association: 4-5 servings of each per day.

It’s not only about eating but also about what it takes to grow the garden itself. Pulling weeds, working and tilling the soil, planting, and digging makes you work out your muscles and burn calories. Considering mental-health, gardening is also a good stress-relieving mental exercise that reminds people of the natural cycles and the simplicity of small things. There’s also the pleasure of (literally) picking up the (fresh) fruits of your own work.

More than words, what counts is to get your hands dirty and start growing your own vegetable garden. Below we share 10 simple tips on how to make the gardening process more efficient and increase your chances of success.

1 – Read About Permaculture And Other Regenerative Agricultural Techniques

If you worry not only about growing your own food but also about how to do it outdoors and in a way that nurtures and protects the surrounding ecosystems, getting to know the foundational ideas behind permaculture is definitely useful.

Put simply, it is a way of managing agriculture that takes inspiration from the way nature itself is organized to find balance. Permaculture helps organize farming systems in a synergetic way as it builds up ecosystem resilience. It does so by, for instance, carefully observing and organizing the land, betting on crop-diversity and rotation, managing energy cycles efficiently or using waste as a by-product for different uses like organic humus via composting.

2 – Outline A Vegetable Gardening Plan

Wherever you are planning to start growing your vegetable garden there is most likely someone in your neighborhood or local area who is already doing or who has tried doing it before. Use this collective local knowledge.

Try to find out who these people are and ask them about what works best and what doesn’t work in the specific climate you are at. These tips are gold – they might avoid disappointing first tries and help you start a successful cycle that gives you the confidence to go further.

What grows best in your area, what is the sowing and harvesting time of each vegetable/fruit, how much you want to produce of each variety or if you are also producing to sell to others, are questions that need to be answered. Keep in mind some vegetables need to be planted in warmer seasons while others are more resistant to cold weather.

Remember some vegetables and fruits can be sown several times a year, allowing continuous vegetable production. If you prepare your gardening calendar with early-season crop seeds and late-season ones you will have new growings very month, maximize the use of space and leave less room for weeds to develop.

3 – Find A Place With Plenty Of Sunlight

Ideally, your vegetable garden should get between and 6 hours and 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. In very warm climates this exposure should be reduced and the crops should have some shade.

If you are making an indoor vegetable garden identify the warmer areas in your house and where there is more light and direct sunlight. You’ll be able to grow simple herbs using a small greenhouse.

4 – Check Your Soil Inclination And Water Sources

Site your vegetable garden close to a source of water so you can easily water it, remembering you can always use a water hose to reach a further distance. Automatic irrigation systems can be a good, next-level idea – just like installing water-saving containers that allow saving and storing rainwater to be used later in dry places.

Mind land inclination: if you grow plants at the bottom of a slope, it may become waterlogged and the roots will drown. Conversely, at the top of a slope, the land will dry out very quickly. Make sure you find a good balance.

5 – Get Your Seeds And Tools

You can order them from large retailers – which probably have online stores providing home delivery services. To start you will likely need a pair of gloves and tools such as a rake, a spading fork or a wheelbarrow (if you need to cut some grass and take it away) – and you can buy them all at the same store.

At the same time, visiting (or, in times like these, calling) a local cooperative (or a neighbor) might not only mean a quicker delivery but also the opportunity to ask those questions of what grows best we spoke of earlier. They might not sell these gardening tools but they might just lend you theirs.

5 – Assess And Prepare The Soil

It is easier for plants’ roots to infiltrate in soft, loamy, sandy soil. Once you figure out the size of your vegetable garden, which should be around 200 square feet (or 1.9sq meters) of garden space per person a year, take out unwanted weeds, till the soil and nurture it with organic matter like garden compost or worm humus fertilizer. This will give the soil, and therefore your seeds, an extra boost of nutrients, allowing your fruits and vegetables to become larger and tastier.

6 – Time To Plant Some Seeds

Now that you know where to place your vegetable garden to take advantage of variables like your local climate, sunlight or water irrigation it is time to plant some seeds.

Your seed packets should indicate your the top months to plant and to pick up your fruits and veggies. It should also give some instructions about how deep you should plant your seeds. Usually, the smallest seeds can be sprinkled right on the soil surface while “larger” seeds will need to be buried 2-5 centimeters down. Follow the seed packet or other online instructions on how to sow the seeds.

7 – Water Your Vegetable Garden

Water your vegetables once or twice a week rather than every day. It will force the roots to reach further down into de soil to seek moisture, improving the plant’s resilience. In the meantime, remove undesired weeds as they come up so they don’t start reproducing and getting stronger.

8 – Patiently Wait As Your Vegetable Garden Grows

There’s not much to do at this time – apart from reading some food recipes to start planning ahead how you will cook your growing fruits and veggies.

For those with an outdoor vegetable garden, it is important to keep the watering routine, clean undesirable weeds and check for any diseases or bugs. Keep checking your gardening calendar from time to time to check if the time to plant new crops is getting closer.

9 – Patiently Watch Your Garden Grow And Don’t Hurry

Growing takes time. On the surface, you will start seeing the first signs of development as, for instance, the first lettuces or tomato stems come out of the soil. It may look like a small start but hidden underneath the soil there’s a whole root structure developing.

Hurry not, that’s just the beginning – surface growth will take its own time. Don’t pick up the (still) small vegetables and fruits while they’re still green at the risk of losing flavor. Be patient, the time will come.

10 – Start Harvesting Your Vegetable Garden

The time has finally come! It is now time to collect the fruits and vegetables as they become mature. Read about the best methods to harvest each crop – some like scissors better, others can simply be hand-picked. If they are not perennials – like basil – you will need to repeat the process to have them growing again.

[Image credits to Shutterstock]

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