Freshly picked vegetables on a table

Growing Vegetables in the Backyard Garden

Growing vegetables in your backyard can provide you with the tastiest produce and at a much lower price than you would find in the store. It’s also a great activity that all members of the family can enjoy together.

Growing Vegetables in a Raised Bed

When planning for growing vegetables, consider that most plants producing fruit will require full sunlight. There are a few leafy varieties that can take partially shady conditions, but for the most part the more sun in your garden the better.

Choose a site that is close to the kitchen so that it is easy to nip out and pick what you need. When considering the size of the plot, it is better to have a small well-maintained area rather than a large neglected one full of weeds.

Planning the Vegetable Garden

Growing vegetables amongst your other garden plants gives an interesting effect as many are ornamental. If you don’t have a nice sunny location, you can grow many vegetables in containers. Look for dwarf or bush varieties, and ones that take up little space such as carrots, radish, and lettuce. Just remember that containers need watering frequently, a good idea is to use a self-watering planter. Greenhouses are also a popular place for growing vegetables.

Permanent crops like asparagus or rhubarb need to be planted in a position where they will not interfere with the annual cultivation of the soil. A hotbed or cold frame is best located in a corner and ensure that tall crops will not shade smaller growing vegetables.

Some good vegetables to grow in the home garden include:

  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Potato
  • Rutabaga
  • Tomato

Should You Go Organic?

As more people are become aware of the use of pesticides in commercial growing and begin to realize that many of our natural resources are in limited supply, organic gardening is becoming a popular alternative. Growing vegetables in an organic garden will produce fresh vegetables that are produced naturally and cleanly. It may however, take a bit more creativity when dealing with garden pests.

hand picking large tomato from the vine
One of the benefits of having your own garden is the ability to grow organic food for much less than it would cost to puchase them in the grocery store

Preparing the Garden Soil

The soil is usually prepared in early spring by tilling or digging with a spade to create a friable, fertile, well-drained medium for growing vegetables. It should be reasonably free of stones and well supplied with organic matter which improves the soil and helps release nitrogen, minerals and other nutrients for the plants as it decays.

Commercial fertilizers can be used if desired before or at the time of planting. The amount required will depend on the crops being grown and the composition and pH level of the soil. The county Extension Agent can supply information on soil tests for your locality.

Some soils with a naturally high fertility may only require the addition of nitrogen or compost. Fertilizers containing small amounts of copper, zinc, and manganese are necessary only in areas known to be deficient in those elements. Leafy crops like spinach, cabbage, kale, and lettuce often require more nitrogen while root crops such as potatoes, carrots, beets, and turnips need more potash.

Selecting Greenhouse Seeds and Plants

It is best to buy seeds from a reputable seedsman which are disease free and also buy disease resistant varieties. They can be started indoors, in a greenhouse or cold frame, if you want to get a headstart, or in warmer areas sow directly into prepared beds in the open. If you want to purchase seedlings, look for strong plants with healthy green leaves. Start planting in spring and continue all summer, so there is always something fresh and tasty to harvest.

potatoes growing in the ground
A row of potatoes growing in the vegetable garden

Tending the Vegetable Garden

Vegetables require about 1 inch of water a week. Some of this may come from rain, but you will probably need to water the garden yourself either by hand or with an irrigation system. It is better to give the garden a good soaking less often than water sparingly, every day, which will cause the roots to come to the surface where they can get burned by the sun.

Any weeds that sprout should be hoed up or removed by hand. Weeds will rob plants of water, nutrients, and light and some may harbor disease insects and nematodes that will reinfest the garden in the succeeding years.

A few good quality tools such as a spade, rake, hoe, trowel, wheelbarrow, and hose will make growing vegetables much easier. All these tools can be safely stored away from harsh weather and crooks in a garden shed.

Protect Your Newly Sprouted Veggies

Growing vegetables is very rewarding, so you should take steps to prevent damage by garden pests. Fences are useful for keeping out dogs, rabbits, and deer and can double as a trellis for crops that need support such as beans and tomatoes.

Find more information on how to control garden pests.

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