Deciding the vegetable plant locations is one of the first things you want to do in planning your garden design, if not the first. You need to find a location that gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight to maximize their growth potential. Some leafy vegetables, like spinach or lettuce, can get by with less sunlight. You also want to ensure the vegetable plants are not located near trees and shrubs, as their roots can steal nutrients. Test the soil preparation of your chosen location. You want the soil to be loose, level and fertile. Clay and sandy soils are not optimal, unless you add organic matter to the soil. You can buy a kit online or many local hardware and nurseries will test a soil sample for you. Make sure the location also has good drainage. Have a water source nearby. The location should also be convenient to you, likely near the house, as you will be spending a good bit of time there.
A good size to consider for beginners who are growing vegetables is 25 square feet, taking into consideration how many vegetable plants you’d like to grow. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It may help to draw a diagram or plan of the garden site. Mark what vegetable plants you’d like to plant and where. Making a journal can also be helpful. You can record any information regarding growing vegetables in your garden, like when they need planted, dates planted, last watering, estimated harvest, and so on.
You may even want to think further ahead about what you plan to do with any surplus crop. Some people choose to can or jar their crops, some give it away and others make meals that can be frozen for future use, like in a soup. Vegetable plants can also be the foundation of a delicious vegetable stock.
Garden soil preparation
Growing vegetables and not sure when to start preparing the garden soil? Soil should be tilled in early spring or fall, when the soil is not overly wet. You can test the soil by grabbing some from the area you plan to plant, and try to form a ball with it. It should not be sticky. The ball should easily crumble. Here are the basic tools you are going to need for growing vegetables: Spade (for digging the garden), hoe (for weeding), trowel (for digging holes for transplants), rake (to break up and prepare the soil), and a ruler (to measure the vegetable garden bed).
Once the garden soil is ready, then you may want to consider adding some fertilizer or organic matter as well. According to the University of Illinois, fertilizer for a vegetable garden should be 5-10-5, 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. They also advise that the first number stands for the percent of nitrogen, the second number stands for the percent of phosphorus and the third number stands for the percent of potassium. Fertilizer can be found in dry or liquid forms. Do not use regular lawn fertilizer for your home vegetable garden. Lawn fertilizer could contain herbicide or improper nutrients for growing vegetables. Dig the soil 6 to 10 inches deep and rake 1 pound of the fertilizer in for every 100 square feet of your planned garden design. If you are not planting the garden right away, you will need to rake again before transplanting the vegetables to prevent weeds. These are important in green, root and fruit development as well as disease prevention. Organic options include a compost of peat moss or cow manure.
If you’re planting vegetable garden seeds, they generally are created on a raised bed. The raised bed is good to keep the soil fertile and for water drainage. Don’t forget to pull out any weeds you come across.