Vegetable Gardening for Beginners – Small Vegetable Garden Ideas

One hundred pounds of tomatoes just 100 square feet. Twenty pounds of 24 square foot carrots. Delicious vegetables from a plot of 15 feet by 20 feet. Believe it or not, it is not impossible to grow your own vegetable garden with yields of this nature. All it takes is patience and smart tactics to get the most out of your garden. Follow these tips and tricks to plan the vegetable patch of your dreams.

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners
Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Make a practical plan.

The first step in growing a healthy garden is to mark exactly where you want the beds to go. Consider the size, shape and location of your garden to determine the best configuration for you. Keep in mind that it can always be changed over time if necessary.

Plant in raised beds with rich soil.

vegetable garden

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Expert gardeners agree that the accumulation of soil is the most important factor in increasing yields. Deep soil rich in organic matter promotes the growth of healthy and extensive roots capable of reaching more nutrients and water. The result: extra-lush, extra-productive growth above the ground.

The quickest way to get this deep layer of fertile soil is to create raised beds. Raised beds provide up to four times more than the same amount of space planted in rows. This is due not only to their loose and fertile soil, but also to effective spacing. By using less space for paths, you have more space to grow plants.

The raised beds also save you time. A researcher tracked the time it took to plant and maintain a 30-by-30-foot garden planted in beds, and found that he had to spend only 27 hours in the garden from mid-May to mid -October. However, he was able to harvest 1,900 pounds of fresh vegetables. This represents a year of food for three people for about three days of work in total!

How do raised beds save so much time? Plants grow close enough together to crowd out competing weeds so that you spend less time weeding. The reduced spacing also makes watering and harvesting more efficient.

Complete the floor in your beds.

Gardener preparing raised beds with rake in the vegetable garden

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The shape of your beds can also make a difference. Raised beds become more space-efficient by gently rounding the floor to form an arch. A rounded 5-foot wide bed on its base, for example, could give you a 6-foot-wide arch above it. This foot may not seem like much, but multiply it by the length of your bed and you will see that it can make a big difference in the total planting area.

In a 20-foot-long bed, for example, buttering up the soil in the middle increases your total planting area from 100 to 120 square feet. This represents a 20% gain in planting space in a bed that occupies the same amount of floor space. Lettuce, spinach and other green vegetables are perfect crops for planting around the edges of a rounded bed.

Consider the worm casts.

Worm casts, aka poop, are a natural fertilizer that can stimulate plant growth. It also helps the soil to retain water, which is essential for a healthy vegetable garden. Work in screw molds when you turn and break up clods. If you don’t already see a lot of earthworms in your soil, be generous with the casts. Your local garden store can advise you on how much to add.

Aim to plant crops in triangles rather than rows.

carrot, croissant, vegetable patch

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To get the maximum yields from each bed, pay attention to how you arrange your plants. Avoid planting in square or row patterns. Instead, spread out the plants by planting them in triangles. In doing so, you can install 10-14% more plants in each bed.

Just be careful not to space your plants too far. Some plants will not reach their full size – or yield – when they are overcrowded. For example, when a researcher increased the spacing between romaine lettuces from 8 to 10 inches, the crop weight per plant doubled. (Remember that the weight yield per square foot is more important than the number of plants per square foot.)

Tight spacing can also stress plants, making them more susceptible to disease and insect attack.

Try climbing plants to make the most of the space.

plants in a garden

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No matter the size of your garden, you can grow more by going vertically. Grow space-hungry vine crops, such as tomatoes, green beans, peas, squash, melons, cukes, etc., straight, supported by trellises, fences, cages or stakes .

Vertical cultivation of vegetables also saves time. Harvesting and maintenance go faster because you can see exactly where the fruit is. Fungal diseases are also less likely to affect upward-facing plants due to improved air circulation around the foliage.

Try growing vine crops on trellises along one side of the raised beds, using sturdy end posts with a nylon net or string in between to provide a climbing surface. Attach the growing vines to the trellis. But don’t worry about getting heavy fruit. Even squash and melons will develop thicker stems for support.

Choose the right chords.

ear of yellow corn with grains still attached to the ear on the stalk in the organic corn field

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Transplanting compatible crops also saves space. Consider the classic Native American combination, the “three sisters”: corn, beans, and squash. Robust cornstalks support the white beans, while the squash grows freely on the ground below, omitting competing weeds.

Other compatible combinations include tomatoes, basil and onions; curly lettuce and peas or brassicas; carrots, onions and radishes; and beets and celery.

Know how to plan your crops well.

View directly above fresh garlic in wicker basket

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Succession planting allows you to grow more than one crop in a given space during a growing season. In this way, many gardeners can harvest three or even four crops in the same area. For example, follow an early crop of curly lettuce with quick-maturing corn, then grow more greens or wintered garlic – all in one growing season. To get the most out of your estate plantations:

  • Use grafts. A transplant is already about a month old when you plant it and matures much faster than a seed sown directly in the garden.
  • Choose fast-maturing varieties.
  • Restoring the soil with a ¼ to ½ inch layer of compost (about 2 cubic feet per 100 square feet) each time you replant. Work it in the first centimeters of the ground.

 

Cover the beds to extend your season.

landscape mulch yard work

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Adding a few weeks to each end of the growing season can save you enough time to grow another successive crop – such as a lettuce, kale or turnip plantation – or to harvest more late-season tomatoes. of the season.

To get those extra weeks of production, you need to keep the hot air around your plants (even in cold weather) using mulch, bells, row covers or cold frames.

Or give warmth-loving crops (such as melons, peppers and eggplants) a very early start in the spring using two “blankets” – one to warm the air and one to warm the soil. About six to eight weeks before the last frost date, preheat the cold soil by covering it with infrared transmission mulch (IRT) or black plastic, which will absorb the heat.

Then cover the bed with a split transparent plastic tunnel. When the soil temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees Farenheit, place the plants and cover the mulch with black plastic with straw to prevent it from trapping too much heat. Remove the clear plastic tunnel when the air temperature warms up and all danger of frost has passed. Install it again at the end of the season when temperatures get colder.

But remember the disadvantages of mulching seedbeds with straw.

One drawback to straw mulch is that it provides a hiding place for slugs during the day. Suze Bono, an accomplished farmer, likes to collect them by hand at night with a headlamp and a tub of soapy water to throw them away. Planting companions with alliums, which naturally repel slugs, is also a good idea.

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