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How to Grow a Vegetable Garden--Part 1

April 3, 2014

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So you want to plant a garden this season. Perhaps you read my earlier post, Why 2014 may be the year to plant a garden. If you need more motivation that post may do the trick. Maybe you want to have organic veggies or save money or eat local. Whatever gets you going. 

And now the soil is warming or the snow is finally melting where you live and you’re ready to get started. But where to begin? 

This is the first in a series of posts on how to grow a vegetable garden–perspectives and techniques learned in three decades of gardening. I’ll also be linking to edible garden experts on pertinent topics.

Today, I share some suggestions that can lead to abundant harvests from your garden. In my experience, these are key to success with first vegetable gardens. (You’re getting the advice I give to clients).

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Focus on the soil  Build healthy soil to grow vegetables that thrive, produce and are more resistant to disease and insect attacks. Read How to Build Healthy Soil from University of California Master Gardeners. Most states will have similar Master Gardener resources specific to your region.

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Start small  Better to succeed with a small garden than overcommit and not be able to keep up with a larger one. A 4 x 8 foot raised bed can be productive and manageable for most first-time gardeners.

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For some, a  few containers of greens, herbs and a patio tomato may be the place to begin.

Consider raised or mounded garden beds  This is essential if your soil is poor, very compacted or contaminated. You don’t need to buy expensive kits or construct permanent beds the first year. Establish your growing bed and paths around it. More ideas in How to Make Instant No-dig Garden Beds.

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Grow what you like  What vegetables do you or your family like best? What do you buy at the farmers market? What vegetables say summer to you?  Photo credit: Ann Hix

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Add flowers  They bring beauty and attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Flowers look good growing next to vegetables. Choose edible flowers like calendulas or johnny-jump-ups that work well as edgings and in your salads. Zinnia and cosmos are two other favorites.

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Just grow it  The advice of edible garden designer, Leslie Bennett should encourage novice gardeners. “If something you grow dies, it doesn’t mean you have a black thumb. There are lots of reasons that plants die–disease, bad weather–so don’t give up. Keep at it, and the veggies will come! It just takes commitment and a bit of confidence, both of which grow with the time you spend in your garden.”

Planting Peas--An Early Start

Beat Inflation with Cultivation