Sure the keys to a successful vegetable garden include appropriate sunlight, proper soil fertility and pH, good drainage, consistent water, appropriate vegetable varieties for your area, weed management, and pest management. But, there several other ideas I would like to share with you that involve some careful consideration before you even get your hands dirty in the garden.
Determine The Goals For A Successful Vegetable Garden
In order to have a successful vegetable garden you need to identify what success looks like to you. Will your vegetable garden save you money on groceries? Does your garden provide you with fresh and organic produce that you would not have access to? Does your garden allow you to grow unique varieties you otherwise would not be able to find? Are you trying to improve your health by eating higher quality foods and more of them? Are you hoping to share the experience of growing food with your family and children?
Perhaps you just don’t want to kill anything this year. Or maybe you are growing all of your own plants this year rather than buying them from a nursery. Maybe you even intend to save your own tomato seed to develop a variety best suited for your very own garden. Whatever your reasons, it helps to be clear about what you trying to achieve.
Identify Available Resources
Based on the goals you identified, think about what it might take to achieve those goals. Each of these resources help you determine the appropriate size of your vegetable garden, quantity of plants, and your level of involvement. Starting small is a general recommendation.
How much time do you have to maintain the garden throughout the season? If time is a limiting factor I recommend involving your family as much as possible. Perhaps you hire out the initial establishment of a new garden or the initial spring preparation. Think about ways to automate routine gardening tasks. Automatic watering can easily be configured with a timer and various irrigation supplies. Thick mulching will conserve moisture while simultaneously limiting weed germination.
A new garden will likely take at least a little bit of money to establish. Do you have some funds set aside for materials to build a raised bed, soil, amendments, plants and seeds? If money is a limiting factor there are plenty of creative options that allow gardening to be accessible for everyone. You don’t need expensive raised beds. You may just need to work the native soil more and carefully amend what you already have. Instead of buying all of your plants you buy just a few and buy packs of seed for the rest.
Time is one thing, but how much energy do you have to establish and maintain your vegetable garden? If energy is limited, again involve your family as much as possible. Perhaps hire out some garden maintenance. And perhaps you grow very low maintenance vegetables. Perennials come to mind here, and there are plenty of options including sorrel, good king Henry, asparagus, and rhubarb. Not to mention perennial herbs and fruits.
Finally, based on your goals, how much physical garden space do you actually have available? You may literally only have a small four foot by four foot space that gets good sunlight throughout the day or you may an acre.
Be realistic about how the time, energy and money relate to the amount of space you have and your goals.
Develop A Plan For Your Successful Vegetable Garden
In order to achieve the success you identified, I suggest you write out a plan to achieve these goals based on your available resources. This could just be a rough sketch of your garden and layout. This could be a schedule or calendar with a few dates identified to prepare the garden and to plant. If you are starting your own seeds you may need to add a few more dates to the calendar to do so. Otherwise, pick a weekend to go to a local nursery to buy your starter plants.
Collect Your Experts
Grab your version of a vegetable gardening bible, a go-to resource you can trust when you run into a problem or when you need a little inspiration. This could be a book or two, a website you have bookmarked, your notes from prior gardening seasons, or maybe even a friend or family member you can bug with questions. The point is, your expert should be something or someone you can trust, and have quick access to when you really need it.
While Google is great, the problem is often that you can easily find just as many reasons to do something one way as you can to do it the exact opposite. This can easily lead to frustration so if you have already identified a great source ahead of time, you can go right there when you need to.
If you haven’t already been jotting notes down as you have been reading, now is the time to begin.
Write out your goals for what a successful vegetable garden means to you.
Schedule a date to prepare your garden for planting.
Develop a plan that will allow you to achieve your goals.
Order any seeds needed from an online retailer or visit a local nursery. Buy a new gardening book, subscribe to a magazine, talk to an expert gardener in your family, or hire us to be you gardening coach or build your raised beds. Wherever your are in the process I am sure you can find 5 minutes to brainstorm, write out a to-do list, search for new books or gadgets, or reach out to an expert.
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