1. Choose an area with good sun exposure. You should have at least half a day of full sun. If sun exposure is limited remember that morning sun is best with full exposure from dawn until at least noon.
2. First timers should not start out with too large an area. Even a small garden of 10X10 or 10X15 feet can produce substantial crops.
3. Choose your crops carefully. In a small garden space is the most limiting factor. Select crops that produce the best return for the area you have. Seeds and plants have risen in price like everything else over the last decade but they are still inexpensive for what they can produce.
4. Some of the best varieties for a 10X10 garden are:
• Beets •Broccoli •Carrots •Cauliflower •Collards •Cucumbers- bush varieties • Eggplant •Green Beans- bush varieties •Kale •Lettuce •Mustard •Onions •Peppers •Radishes •Spinach •Squash •Tomatoes •Turnips •Zucchini
Larger plots can include other crops like corn, potatoes, and melons.
3. If you order your seed by mail, place your order as early as possible. Crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, and onions should be planted from plants purchased during the season at your local nurseries, farm stores, and garden centers. You can grow your own plants but it is difficult without a good cold frame or greenhouse. Mail order plants can be successful but the extra expense is normally not justified.
4. Once you settle on garden size, location, and crops, it's time for soil preparation. Start as soon in as weather allows after the first of the year by adding soil amendments and compost so you will be ready to plant.
If you are carving a plor from a flowerbed or area with foundation plantings or small trees remove as much as you can. This will be the hardest part and save work later. Dig out all the roots you can. If starting a plot in the lawn, remove the surface grass and all the roots you see as you work the soil.
Renting a tiller is the best way to save labor or you can work with a good spading fork. If you have heavy clay soil a tiller is the best way to go. Rental companies and the most home improvement stores also rent them. Rear tine mounted “Troy Built” type tillers are the easiest to handle and do a good job on previously un-tilled soils. Small tillers of the “Mantis” type are a great investment and major labor saver for anyone with a vegetable garden. They are good for all types of landscape chores. One of these small tillers will pay for itself in produce in a year or two.
Set the tiller on a high setting and make a couple of passes then rake up all the debris. If you are working on a lawn area with St. Augustine the roots and stems can be added to the compost pile. Bermuda grass, common in the Southern states can be a problem. Pull up and remove all the roots you can and dispose of them. With each successive pass set the tiller deeper and deeper as the resistance becomes less and less. The idea is to remove all the roots, rocks, and other debris at this stage.
After you have tilled as deep as you can it is time to add soil amendments. See our web site section on Soil Amendments to determine what is best for your soil. All Nature’s Guide Soil Amendments are 100% natural and add no toxic chemicals or waste of any kind to the soil. The mineral amendments work with the soil to separate clay particles and improve the moisture retention capabilities of sandy soils. When you have thoroughly mixed the soil amendments into the area with the tiller spread compost up to three inches deep to add more organic material to the soil. Nature’s Guide Organic Compost is perfect for this stage. Anytime is a good time to start your own compost pile. There is no better substance to add to the garden than good compost. Fall leaves and other organic debris are never wasted when turned into compost. See our website for instructions on composting and do not waste a minute starting your own. To give the garden a head start broadcast one 5 lb. bag of Nature’s Guide Tomato and Pepper Food evenly over each 10'X10' area when you add the compost. Till it all in to mix thoroughly. That’s it! You are done till spring planting begins. NOTE: If you live in the South with warm winters watch for winter weeds that can find a home in your beautifully prepared plot. You can cover the entire area with newspaper. It makes a good mulch and chemicals from regular newspaper do not present a problem. See the article on newspaper as mulch from West Virginia University at www.wvu.edu/‾agexten/wastmang/msw8.pdf. Water will penetrate the paper. If it breaks down just add more. Before planting remove what you can or you can or just till or spade the rest into the soil.
Because Nature’s Guide is a national brand we will not try and tell you when to plant. Your local agricultural extension service is the best place to go for planting dates. In many of the Southern States there are two distinct planing seasons. Hot dry summers can be just as difficult as winters for vegetable growing. In the most northern climes there may be only one short season.
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