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Mar 22, 2020

Lizzie and Brian discuss the beginning steps for someone with little to no experience.

Vegetable Gardening 101 Tips



  •  Location, location, location.  


    1. Full sun.  A sunny spot is essential for vegetable gardening.  Partial shade is OK for leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuce, collards, etc), but fruiting plants (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corn, zucchini, etc.) just won’t perform in shade.  
    1. Safety:  If converting from lawn space, when was the ground last treated with pesticides/insecticides/fungicides?  -Verify what was put on it, and when/whether it’s safe to use this ground for growing a crop.
      1. How big do you want to go?  
        1. Bigger is not necessarily better.  Your garden of any size will not significantly feed your family.  This is a marvelous hobby, but unless you’ve got a tiller, an acre of good land, and unlimited time, you won’t be living off the land.  Let your space, your available time, and your desire for supplementing your diet with more wholesome food be your guide for how much to plant.  
      2. Cut out the sod.  A sturdy serrated knife does this wonderfully.  Then lift up a corner, and pull up a sheet of turf exposing the topsoil below.  Use the sod in bare spots, or flip it over to expose the roots, and compost it.  
    2. Preparing the ground:   
  1. Establishing a new garden bed.  


  • Improve the Soil. 


  1. Till the soil. All plants will do better in well-tilled soil.  Either borrow a gas or electric tiller or use a spade to turn and break up the topsoil at least 6 inches deep. 
  2. Composting.  Fallen leaves can be tilled straight into the soil to improve structure and aeration.  NON MEAT/NON DAIRY kitchen scraps can be composted and added to the soil as well.  Establishing a compost pile is one of the best investments you can make for your garden.       
  3. Fertilize.  I use 10-10-10 (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium in equal parts) bulk fertilizer in 40 pound bags, and usually use 2 per year.  Spread per instructions on the bag. Miracle grow spray fertilizer are great too throughout the growing season, but pricy over time.  


  • Planting.


  1. Seed packets tell you planting depth and spacing.  Purchased plants usually don’t but this info is readily available online for any sort of plant.  
  2. -Usually between ¼ inch and 1 inch in depth.  Space requirements vary greatly. I recommend planting as densely as recommended to crowd out weeds and conserve precious garden space.  


  • Mulch.


  1. Mulch conserves water, keeps soil temps stable, and reduces weeds.  Grass clippings (though not from herbicide or pesticide treated lawns!!) are excellent.  Pine straw is good. Straw and hay will break your heart because of all the grass and weeds you’ll get 2-3 weeks later.   Old sheets of newspaper work fine but need to be weighted down.  


  • SUPPLIES.  FYI. Pike is taking phone-in orders (and possibly online orders with delivery or pickup.  -Please, please practice social distancing!


  1. 10-10-10 Fertilizer.
  2. Seeds or plants (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant need to be bought as plants because they won’t sprout in cool soil and they have long growth requirements).  Cucumbers, cool-weather greens, and most everything else can be started from seeds outdoors.  
  3. Heavy plastic sheeting for protecting plants sensitive to cold before April 1.  (10 to 12 feet wide, by 15-25 feet long).
  4. A big bag of potting soil if starting anything in a greenhouse from seed.   I use yogurt cups or paper cups for seed starts with a drain hole in the bottom.  
  5. Plant stakes or cages.  - Most tomatoes, pole beans, and cucumbers grow 5-6 feet tall on average and need pretty sturdy support.  Peppers and eggplant only grow 2-3 feet tall and need much less sturdy support. 
  6. Cotton, jute, hemp or other natural twine.  -Cheap is fine. It’s useful all over the garden for supporting plants, and never goes bad.  -Buy plenty.     
  7. Hand trowel, shovel, and hoe.  
  8. Garden hose with an adjustable sprayer.
  9. Pyola insect spray.  - I don’t heavily use pesticides, but this is a good one for controlling the biggest offenders without poisoning yourself or the environment.  
  10. A couple of sturdy buckets for mixing fertilizer, weed collection, harvesting, etc.     
  11. Mulch of some kind if not using grass clippings.