How to start a vegetable garden from scratch!
1. Map out the area of your garden. Decide what you want to plant and how much space you will need to grow those plants. Also, the amount of sunlight is very important in choosing the right location for your garden. You will want an area that receives more direct sunlight during the day. Something else to take into account is the drainage of the land. You don’t want your garden in a depressed area because water will tend to flood those areas and it won’t drain properly. I prefer to use slightly sloping terrain or flat terrain that will retain and drain water properly. Once you have chosen the location and size of your garden, you will want to mark the boundaries of the garden with stakes or flags.
2. Next is the part of the job that will probably take the longest, preparing the soil. Preparing the land means two things to me:
A. Mowing and removing grass. You have several options when deciding how you want to get rid of the grass and get to the ground. If you have a very large garden, you may want to hire someone or rent the equipment (bobcat) to start the lawn. If you own a rototiller (you can rent one), you can use it to remove the grass. There are two main types of cultivators, front tines or rear tines. Rear tine cultivators have the blades at the back of the machine and are generally a bit easier to use due to the fact that you (as the operator) get more weight / leverage on the blades. Front tine cultivators have the blades at the front and can be a bit more difficult to use on hard grass or compacted soil as there is not as much weight / leverage on top of the blades to make them bite as good as a rear tine rudder. If you have a very small garden area, you can also choose to use a shovel to break up the grass. Personally, my brother and I use a cultivator to pull up a fairly large piece of land for our garden. We’d run the tiller over the grass to break it up, and then we’d rake the clumps of grass into a big pile in the corner of our yard, eventually breaking down on flat ground. We had to pass the tiller over the garden area several times and rake lots of grass each time before we had a viable area of land. This can be a tiring task, so be sure to take your time and rest every now and then.
B. Prepare the land for planting. Plants will do their best when they have healthy, somewhat loose soil to grow. This means you want a nutrient-rich soil that will retain just the right amount of moisture. You can take soil samples to many garden centers for testing. A soil test will tell you what you need to add or balance in your soil. The three key nutrients in the soil that you will have to worry about are: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Each and every one of these nutrients can be easily added using organic or non-organic methods. Ask your garden center what to use for your soil. I was lucky with my garden because the land we put our garden in used to be old farmland and it was great soil. We simply tilled the soil several times to loosen it before creating rows.
3. Next, you will want to create your rows and plant your seeds or seedlings. To do this, follow the instructions for row and seed spacing on the back of your seed packets (you can also find all of your planting information on the website listed in the resource box below). Many plants require 24 “to 36” between rows. Make sure you leave enough space between your rows so that you can walk and / or till between them. I like to mark where my rows will be by driving stakes into the ground at each end of the row and tying string between the stakes (I use a tape measure to mark the distance between my stakes).