Are you thinking about starting your first vegetable garden this year? Or maybe you have tried gardening in the past with limited success? Here are a few tips for beginning vegetable gardeners:
Choose a few basic vegetables to focus on the first year, then expand your selection as you gain more experience. Some good choices for beginners are tomatoes and peppers, since these plants are hardy and prolific. They’re also pretty difficult to kill, even if you neglect to water them for several days at a time. (Hot peppers would actually prefer it.)
Prepare your soil.
Some people have fantastic soil that’s ready to go with very little effort. However, if your soil is like ours (lots of clay), you may need to till in some top soil in order to make an area suitable for vegetable gardening. If the area is small, you can probably till it by hand. Otherwise, you may need to rent or borrow a tiller. While we’re at it, we also usually mix in some Preen, which is an amazing organic weed preventer. The less time you have to spend pulling weeds, the better… right?
Protect your harvest.
If you have a lot of small animals like rabbits in your neighborhood, you’ll probably want to put up some sort of fencing around your garden to keep your plants/vegetables from getting eaten. Deer will require a much taller fence, since they can theoretically jump as high as 6 feet. However, if you don’t like that idea (or have strict zoning laws), you could also try surrounding your garden with marigolds or clumps of human hair from the local salon in order to keep the critters away.
Note: Many garden/home improvement stores sell animal repellent sprays, which are effective but smell absolutely horrible. I got a drop on my hands once and almost threw up. So unless you plan on staying several feet away from your garden at all times, I don’t recommend this.
Monitor your garden.
The most common mistake beginning gardeners make has to do with neglect. Vegetable gardens don’t have to be super high-maintenance, but they do need some regular attention if you want a good harvest. Assuming you don’t get rain on a daily basis, make sure you’re watering the garden regularly. You should also check for weeds and remove any dead leaves/stems from your plants, as needed.
Experienced gardeners: What other advice would you offer a beginner?