Vegetable Garden Planning
So you want to plan a home vegetable garden? Depending on your garden’s size, you can provide a large part of your family’s diet year-round if you freeze or can your produce. This is also the best way to obtain fresh vegetables of superior quality, since you already know exactly what was applied to your food to control insects and diseases.
If you don’t already have a vegetable garden, you’ll need to select a site that gets at least 8 hours of sun daily and is close to a water source. Your garden should be large enough to produce enough food and small enough so it’s not a chore to take care of. One quarter of an acre (about 10,000 square feet) should yield enough food for a family of five.
Be sure to test your soil fertility and pH level. The best soil pH for vegetables is 6.2 to 6.8.
Then list your favorite vegetables in order of preference. Don’t plant what you won’t eat. Once you’ve decided what vegetables you want to plant, draw a map. Place tall crops like corn, pole beans and indeterminate tomatoes on the north side of your garden to reduce shading. Place perennials, such as rhubarb, asparagus and hops, on the edge of your garden for easy tilling. It’s hard to till your garden with an asparagus bed right in the middle of it!
Group plants according to their cultural requirements and growth habits. For example, keep the root crops together and the leafy crops together. Keep short-season crops together so that when you harvest, you can plant another crop in that area or a cover crop to reduce weed pressure. If you had a garden last year, be sure to rotate your crops so you don’t get a buildup of insects and diseases that prefer specific crops in certain areas.
How many vegetables you plant will depend on your available space. Check spacing requirements for individual plants as this varies. It usually takes a little experimentation to determine how much you and your family will eat each year. Keep a journal. Write down how vigorous and productive each plant was in your garden, if there were any particular pests that you should watch for next year, and also “notes to self” for suggestions to follow for the next year.
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