The most fundamental step in gardening is planning. It is important to make a blueprint of the exact layout of plants and vegetables. Planning saves the gardener time, and also helps determine the types and quantities of seeds to buy for planting. Before the planting season starts, gardeners sketch their plans out on paper. It is important to write down what types of vegetables will be planted on the different rows of the garden, and jot down the spaces between rows. When grouping vegetables together during the planning phase, remember to group tall, stalked plants together at the north end of the garden in order to prevent shading of shorter crops.
Part of the planning process includes picking a spot for the garden. Vegetables grow best in an open area where the ground is level and well-drained, with loose, rich soil. Avoid planting where the vegetables are shaded for more than four hours during the day. Vegetable gardens planted near trees and shrubs will not thrive as well as gardens that are planted far enough way from other foliage. Plants compete for water, soil, and sunlight, so a gardener must keep that in mind when determining the spot for their crops.
Basic equipment hasn't changed much since the turn of the century. Gardeners still need hoes, rakes, water hose, shovel, and trowel to start off with. Optional equipment includes: fertilizer, crop dusters, string to mark rows, and mulch. The main difference between gardens of today and the gardens of the past is the use of rototillers instead of plows. Rototillers break up and loosen the soil efficiently and can be rented from tractor supply and gardening stores.
It is best to order the seeds early, especially if the plants are to be started indoors, from a well known, and reputable company. It is also better to use new seeds, as opposed to depending on old seeds or seeds saved from last year's crops. This is due to many of the cultivated varieties being hybrids and their failure to produce true crops. What this means is that old seeds from hybrids may not produce the intended crop the second season.
Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, and peppers are difficult to start from directly from seed. Plants that are started directly from seed take longer to reach harvest than transplanted crops. Therefore, it is better to buy transplants from a local garden supply or start the seeds indoors first.
The second most important step in the gardening process is properly planting the seeds. Timing is a critical factor in the success of a garden and gardeners should plant seeds according to the packaging. Certain preparations, planting procedures and timing should be followed to ensure that the garden produces the healthiest crops.
After the first warm days of Spring, gardeners should wait until the soil is dried out enough before planting. If the soil crumbles when handled, then it is ready to be planted. However, if the soil clings together it is still too wet and should be given extra time to dry out before planting.
Prepare the soil six inches deep, making sure all sod is turned under. Gardeners can do this with a garden spade, plow, or rototiller. Finish by leveling and smoothing the area with a rake.
Planting From Seed
Make a furrow for the seed using the pole of the garden hoe. For bigger seeds, the blade end of the hoe can be used to make the furrow. Cover the seeds with only one inch of soil. The most common mistake in gardening is burying the seed too deep. Seeds planted too deep tend not to come up.
When planting in rows, it is important to mark them by stretching cord between stakes at the ends of the garden. Alternatively, vegetables can also be grouped into bands, or blocks, using the recommended row spacing between all plants.
Setting Out Transplants
Using plants in individual peat pots are ideal to work with when transplanting. Make sure to purchase only healthy, green, transplants from a trusted supplier. When transplanting plants in peat pots, make sure the pots are moist when planting. Tear off the rim and bottom of the peat pots prior to planting. The edges, or rims, of peat pots act as a wick and draw moisture away from the roots. Removing the bottom of the peat pot helps the roots penetrate the soil more effectively.
To avoid wilting or death of a transplant, set them out in the late afternoon, avoiding the harshest rays of the sun. A gradual exposure to the outdoor elements hardens transplants and helps them stay alive. Dig a hole for each transplant that is twice as wide and twice as deep as the soil ball.