Starting a Vegetable Garden – What Every Beginner Should Know

Starting a vegetable garden is not as easy as it looks. There are some definite things that a beginner should know before embarking on the task. Without this initial knowledge, a beginner puts his garden at risk of pests and diseases, and you may even prevent your plants from growing altogether. If you want to start a vegetable garden the professional way, there are four phases you need to go through.

1) Observation

This is the stage that most beginners forget when starting a vegetable garden. They often think that they can just break the soil and start growing what they want – but this is rarely the case. There are many things you need to note about the location of your garden before you start planting. Here are some things you can start with.

* Temperature. What is the average temperature in your garden? Note that this is not a fixed number. The temperature in your garden changes throughout the day, as well as the seasons. Plus, some spots are hotter than others.
* Water flow. How much rainfall does the location receive? How does it move through the space? Are there spots that flood?
* Creatures. There are insects, birds, and other animals that share the garden with you. What do they eat? Where do they stay?
* Sun. How much sunlight does each area receive? How does the sun move across your garden? Are there shady spots caused by trees and tall buildings?
* Soil. What is your existing soil like? Check out the soil quality in all areas of the garden.

Observing your garden in detail sounds like hard work, but investing some time making these observations will pay off in the long run.

2) Analysis

After you have noted your observations, it is time to analyze them before starting a vegetable garden. What do your observations mean? How can you use them to ensure that you will have a thriving garden?

This would also be the perfect time to note any possible problems or obstacles that you will be facing. For example, if you have a spot in your garden that regularly floods, note that the water needs to be channeled elsewhere or has to be prevented from collecting there in the first place. Or, for another example, if roaches are gathering in your garden at night, you need to find ways to prevent them from coming, or to neutralize them when they arrive.

At this point, do not set firm solutions yet. Keep your proposals vague and open so that you will be more creative when solving them in the planning stage. In other words, referring back to the roaches problem, you want to put “neutralize or prevent” rather than “pesticide”.

3) Planning

Now is your chance to get specific. Review your analyses and observations together and see how you can use them to create the best possible vegetable garden from what you already have. Judging from the movement of the sun, what is the best position for your fruiting plants? Based on the current status of your soil, what specific things does it need to be optimized? More Nitrogen? More silt? More clay? To get rid of your roaches, will you use insecticides, naturally repelling plants, or a predator such as a chicken? This is the stage where you propose specific solutions to each of your problems, as well as how to utilize your existing opportunities.

4) Execution

This is the part where you finally get to start your vegetable garden. After all the hard work you have done observing, analyzing, and planning, the execution will become so much easier and simpler. You will just be putting in practice what you already know in theory.

Of course, this is also the part where you might discover that you had not planned or interpreted things perfectly. That is fine, as long as you make adjustments as you go along. Gardening is such a dynamic activity that it is very rare for anyone – even professionals – to predict what will happen after starting a vegetable garden.

Tim Warren is an expert in starting a vegetable garden. He owns and maintains Vegetable Garden Guide, a resource for beginning vegetable gardeners.

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