Tips for Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden
By Danica Dodson, Arlington Parks & Recreation
Posted on October 01, 2020, October 01, 2020

Young Girl Holding Fresh Vegetables from a garden

Who doesn’t love the taste of fresh vegetables grown right at home? Growing your own food is a healthy and rewarding experience that even novice gardeners can learn as a sustainable and worthwhile hobby. APRD’s Urban Forestry Land Manager, Wendy Pappas, presents these tips for how to get started with growing your own vegetable garden.

Survey Your Space

The first step to any garden development is to look at the area and space you have to work with. If you have a smaller area like a balcony or deck, planter pots are a great option for limited space. If you have a larger space in your yard, you may consider building planter boxes, which make your garden easier to manage. It never hurts to start in a smaller space and work your way up so you won’t get overwhelmed in your first year of growing. In any space, make sure you have ample water supply before deciding to build a vegetable garden. You’ll also want to choose a spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Build Your Garden

If you decide to build a raised planting bed, be sure the bed’s width does not exceed 4 feet so you’ll be able to reach all areas of the bed from each side. There are many materials available that you can use for building the walls of your bed. Some affordable options are natural cedar or pressure-treated lumber, which you can simply arrange in a rectangle box shape and nail together. Planter boxes can also be made from cinderblocks, which are very durable and can last for many years.

After building your raised bed, fill it with soil, preferably a 50/50 well-drained mixture of garden soil and compost. Your local garden center likely offers a suitable vegetable soil mix in small or bulk size bags for various garden sizes.

Choose Your Veggies

Deciding which vegetables to plant in your garden can be based off of the size of area you have, but it’s also based simply on taste. Think about which vegetables your family likes to eat the most and try to incorporate those. Many veggies are easy to grow in small spaces, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and carrots. Larger garden spaces can accommodate plants like okra, cucumbers, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, pumpkins, or watermelons, just to name a few.

Plant Your Veggies

If you are starting with seeds, you’ll want to plant them after the last spring frost (in Texas, this is usually around mid-March). It can take 5-12 days on average for most plants to emerge from the seed. Familiarize yourself with each individual plant you want to grow and learn the specific needs of each plant, such as the best time of year to plant them. For example, tomatoes grow in the warm season, but may not produce well in the hottest part of summer. Other plants thrive during the hottest summer days, like certain types of peppers. Veggies like cauliflower and leafy greens are best suited for spring and fall.

Water and Maintain Your Garden

After planting, make sure you water your garden regularly. Check the moisture in the soil; you may need to water every other day or even daily during the hottest months. Along with watering regularly, you’ll also want to weed your garden regularly as weeds compete with veggies for nutrients and water. Another step you can take to help your garden flourish is fertilizer, which will help your plants produce healthy and hearty vegetables. High-quality compost usually does the trick, but you can incorporate other fertilizers as well to add organic matter to your garden. Be sure to keep a careful eye out for insects that may think they stumbled across a free buffet!

Harvest Your Veggies

The hardest part is done – now it’s time to harvest your veggies and enjoy them! During harvest time, check your garden regularly for any ripe vegetables and pluck them by hand or cut them from the stem. Don’t be afraid to pick your veggies – your plants will continue to grow and produce more for later. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if the vegetable looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Incorporate your fresh vegetables into your favorite dishes and enjoy the homegrown taste you can’t buy from a store!

We hope these gardening tips help you grow a fruitful and delicious garden, add some flavor to your table, and provide a fun hobby at the same time. Enjoy your harvest!

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