How to Grow a Healthy Vegetable Garden (And Actually Use It!)
Growing a vegetable garden can be one of the most rewarding, healthy things you can do for yourself and your family. But as the old saying goes, "Easier said than done."
READ: How to Start and Care for Vegetable Seeds
Hold it right there! Our friends over at This Old House have put together a list of amazing looking home-grown vegetable gardens, and have included some tips from those who have reaped the benefits of having fresh vegetables right in their own backyard.
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With spring nearly around the corner, now is the time to start thinking of growing your own vegetable garden. You may never have to buy your own veggies again!
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Food for the Family Table
There's nothing like the earthy crunch of a just-picked carrot or the sweetness of a juicy tomato still warm from the sun. and the taste is even sweeter when it's one you've grown on your own.
For parents like Phil Nolan and Michele Rast, backyard vegetable gardening has intangible benefits, too. "We want our kids to appreciate the way things grow and to understand the value of food," Nolan says when asked why he dug up part of the famil'y New Jersey lawn to put in a formal 18-by-32 foot garden.
Take Measurements & Pick Your Plants
Seattle Tilth's community-garden plots are 10 feet square, a nice size for novices if you can spare the space. Create a horsehoe-shaped bed within it, and you'll be able to reach everything from the center or perimeter.
In a larger garden you'll probably want rectangular or curved beds with paths between them. Beds 2 to 4 feet wide generally work best. "Just make sure the bed isn't more than twice the lenght of your arm," says Pencke with a laugh. Make main paths at least 3 feet wide so that you can get a wheelbarrow through.
In a small garden it often works bests to divide a bed into square-foot sections. Devote each one to the number of plants that can use the space efficiently.
Build the Raised Garden Beds
There's a hard way and an easy way to build garden beds. You can skim off the sod with a flat shovel and dig down deeply to aerate the soil and mix in compost and whatever other soil amendments you need. Or you can just layer things on top. Start by mowing down any tall grass or weeds. Shovel on a couple of inches of compost. cover that with a weed-suppressing layer of cardboard of multiple sheets of newspaper. Top that with a mixture of brown and green plant material, just as if you were building a compost pile. "Mix it up, like a salad," Pencke advises.
Create Optimal Conditions with Compost
Every vegetable garden benefits from a few inches of compost each year. But what about adding lime, other trace minerals, or fertilizer? To learn what you need, get a soil test. The University of Massachusetts offers a $13 test to gardeners in all states that measures pH levels and any heavy metals, and identifies nutrients and organic matter that plants need.
Read the entire article over at This Old House