Once you have decided to begin growing a vegetable garden, it’s human nature to want to plop those plants right into the ground and start eating fresh vegetables. You will acheive much more sucess if you lay the proper foundation first, this being soil preperation. Lets face it, you would not build a home on a shaky foundation where improperly installed concrete would make the rest of the house fail in the future.
Location, location, location. Some of your plants will want full sun, while others partially shaded for them to thrive. Ideally, it would be great to pick a spot that gets different types of sunlight throughout the day. Tall trees such as Oaks will provide this type of lighting. Depending on the time of day, your plants will receive full light, then filtered light. Think of it this way, many of us love the sun, but eventually, want to sit under our beach umbrella or palm tree for a break from it. If you do not have the advantage of mature trees on your property, consider placing your garden close to your house or deck. Watch carefully where the sun shines on these areas at certain times of the day during the late spring and summer months. This will help you with placement of diffrent plants down the road.
Once you have chosen your location, you will want to use a rota tiller to churn up the ground. This is a hand held tool, handled like a lawnmower, but narrower, that digs the ground up with a rotary blade. You will want to pick out any rocks as they would inhibit the root growth of your plants. It’s a good idea to till twice the first year to really lossen up the ground. This process will become much easier in years to come. You can rent a rota tiller from a local vendor that rents construction tools, or you may decide it’s best to buy one. Some people purchase one to share it with friends and family. It’s a great tool for new flower beds also. Since it’s a tool that is only use for a day or two a year, this may be the best route for you. They can be purchased at your local hardware store for an avereage of $300.
Planting your garden the first two years will be a little different because it takes a few years to get the soil excellent for direct planting conditions. It’s a good idea to begin creating the perfect condtions the first year although, not always possible if you have not planned ahead. If not, it’s okay. There are easy ways to make your vegetables grow the first year, then improve the soil for years to come.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, save all of the ashes. Wait for them to cool completely in the fireplace and store them outside in a tin bucket. After a week, or when you are positive they are completey cooled they can be transfered to another container for storage until spring. You will want to sprinkle these ashes covering the top of the garden area before you till the garden area. This promotes better drainage and gives the ground the same nutrients back to the soil. Lets face it, those trees came from the soil.
You will also want to add some type of manure during your initial tilling. You can buy soil with manure at your local nursury or home improvement store. A way to save you a nice chunk of change is to go to a local farm that raises cows or even horses. Many are happy to let you haul their manure for free. This is usually very fresh and you can take as little or as much as you with. You really won’t need much. Just enough to sprinkle around the top layer before you till. You want to be able to bury it so you won’t smell the odor too much. A good rain should wash it down into your soil.
You don’t want to spend a fortune making your soil a perfect soil condition the first year. You just want to get the ball rolling. You will need to invest in some good growing soil the first year. You should dig the holes in your tilled soil 3 times larger than your plant roots, and place your first year plants in this soil. This should include peat moss for proper drainage.
Next year, when you till the excellent soil, along with your ashes and manure with be tilled into all together. After a few years you will see your vegetables thriving at no additional expense to you. You will have your ashes, free manure, and all the soil you purchased mixed together aiding your plants to grow and produce. Then you will be able to plop them directly into the ground and see improved results each year.
Also, if not too thick, till in the leaves that have fallen off the trees. They give that soil the same composte effect that the ashes do. This is easier to do in the fall when they are not so thick and wet. and you are preparing for next springs harvest.
Remember, you can have great results your first year, but as the years pass, they will only improve.