Ever wonder how to start a garden? Here are the basic tips to veggie gardening success.
Sun and Soil
Picking the correct location to garden is probably the most important step in ensuring a successful harvest.
A vegetable garden should get six to eight hours of sunlight each day and have good drainage. If you have clay soil, it won’t drain well. You can amend the soil by tilling in organic matter such as compost.
No matter your soil type, working compost or fertilizer in before planting will provide your vegetables the nutrients they need. It is important to wait until the soil is dry before tilling and planting to avoid changing the soil structure.
Choosing what to grow is the next step. A lot of people pick vegetables that they think look "cool" or interesting. Before you purchase a seed packet or starter plant, make sure it is a vegetable that your family enjoys eating. Better yet, find a few recipes (before or after purchasing the veggie) to best utilize your harvest. Most vegetables come in dozens, if not hundreds of varieties. Make sure to choose the one that suits your needs. If you prefer to have a tomato for slicing, choose a Beefsteak or Mortgage Lifter (among thousands of other great slicing tomatoes). If you prefer a quick snack, try the Sun Sugar or Sweet 100 varieties of cherry tomatoes. Make sure to set your goals (like salsa canning or pickling) to help narrow down your options. Or an easy goal of a simple weeknight dinner from the garden. Take squash, tomatoes, onions, and peppers from the garden. Add some protein and a grain for a perfect, balanced meal that you can feel good about eating!
At Culver's, we make sure to pick plants that perform well in Iowa's climate. The internet can be a tempting place for exotic varieties, just make sure the growing conditions needed match those that you have in your garden.
Once you know what you’re planting, you’ll want to know how much room you 'll need. Small seedlings can be deceiving — research how big the mature plant will be so you don’t overcrowd your garden.
You also want to be mindful of the way the sun will hit your plants. Avoid planting a tomato that will reach five feet right next to a sun-loving pepper. Put taller plants on the garden’s north side or wherever they won’t block the sun from shorter plants.
If you are short on space, try vertical gardening — growing cucumbers or squash on a trellis or fence will save room. Shade loving plants like lettuce and spinach can go under the trellis to optimize space even more.