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How to Start a Vegetable Garden the Easy Way

I’ve distilled down almost forty years of vegetable gardening experience into a few easy steps.  Follow the directions below and you’ll be knee-deep in yummy veggies before you know it!

Location – Choose a spot with at least six hours of sunlight and access to water.

Method – Decide on in-ground or above-ground.

In-Ground Vegetable Garden

  1. Use stakes and string to lay out size and shape of the garden.  Beds 3-4 feet in width (depending on your reach) with paths 18 inches wide between work best.  Garden size is up to you.  Mine is 25 x 40 feet and easily feeds a family of three, including winter storage veggies such as garlic, onions, potatoes and butternut squash.
  2. Remove sod – insert a square-bladed shovel 4 inches under the grass and peel back.  Place grass side down in a pile to rot.  This is a good way to start a compost pile, layering grass clippings, shrub prunings and household veggie waste as you go.  By the end of summer, you’ll have dark, fertile compost to spread on your new vegetable garden.  If your area is large, a tractor with scoop will make short work of removing the sod.
  3. Optional:  Use plastic edging, wood, concrete blocks, stones, etc. to define outer edges of the garden.
  4. Add compost, preferably organic, to a depth of at least 6 inches – a foot would be better.  Look in your local newspaper or yellow pages for sources of compost.  Check to see if your town has a composting program.
  5. Do not plow, rototill or dig in.  That will only bring billions of weed seeds to the surface.
  6. Rake the paths free of compost, piling excess in the planting beds.
  7. Lay either soaker hoses or drip irrigation lines in the beds.  This step will make your life so much easier!
  8. Mulch both beds and paths with at least six inches of material.  Use straw, not hay, or any weed-free organic mulch.
  9. Plant seeds and transplants by pulling back mulch.  Water well.

Above-Ground Vegetable Garden

  1. Choose building material – cement blocks, safely-treated wood, etc.  Beds can be 15-30 inches high and 4-5 feet wide.  Experiment to see what size is most comfortable for you.  Decide whether to build one long bed or several shorter ones.
  2. Use stakes and string to lay out beds.
  3. Build the beds.
  4. Fill with compost (see #4 above) – no need to remove grass.
  5. Lay soaker hoses or drip irrigation lines in the beds.
  6. Mulch beds (see #8 above).
  7. Plant seeds and transplants by pulling back mulch.  Water well.

It really is that simple.  So what are you waiting for?  Those of you living in the south can begin your garden today.  Everyone else starts planning and ordering seeds – spring will be outside your door in a few short weeks.