Chapter 5 : Planting Your Vegetable Garden

Once you have all of your supplies and have decided what to grow it is time to actually plant your garden.  Before you grab a shovel and charge into your yard to start digging you might want to take some time to plan out how you want to set up your garden.  You should have a good idea of what you want to plant and exactly where you want to plant it before you start digging up random holes in your garden.

The best way to organize your garden is to get a piece of paper and sketch a plan for your garden.  Decide where you want your garden to be and make sure it is an area that will receive sun for the majority of the day.  Start observing your yard a few weeks before you start planting, about the same time you start your compost pits.  Make notes regarding which areas of your yard receive sunlight during the majority of the day and which areas of your hard are often in the shade.

There are other factors that you should take into consideration when choosing where to plant your garden.   Avoid areas that have recently undergone repairs or that are near metal fences.  Chemicals, metal, and other debris might be contaminating the area which could lead to your plants being contaminated. Also be on the look out for areas that retain water after rain.  The last thing you want to do is plant your garden in a place that will become a stagnant pool of water after every rain or when you water it.   When you have picked out a suitable area make sure you stop using any chemicals on or around it immediately. 

When deciding how to plant your seeds try to plan for efficiency not visual appeal.  If you are planting beans or peas and corns plant the peas in a row in front of the corn.  That way you can use the corn stalks as stakes instead of buying stakes to support your plants on.  Also, to help cut down on pests, consider growing onions, garlic, and herbs like basil in a border around your vegetables.  These pungent vegetables will discourage certain insects from feasting on your vegetables.

Once you have decided where you are going to plant your garden go to your yard and remove all rocks or plants that are already growing in the area.  Once all large rocks are gone from the surface also remove plants and then dig up the soil a few inches to loosen it.  Dig/loosen an area that is about eight inches thick since this will provide you with a good working area.  Make sure the area you start out with is not too big.  You want to start out modestly and then build up once you are comfortable with organic gardening and know what vegetables you want to plant more of.

When all debris has been removed from the chosen area and the soil has been loosened cover your garden site with a good layer of organic mulch.  This can be the leaves from plants that were removed from the area, dried grass from your lawn, needles then place from trees, barks, and other organic material.  Make sure you do not use weeds or any material, such as hay, that could contain weed seeds.  If you are using materials that came from a neighbor’s property or another location make sure it has never been treated with chemicals or pesticides.

Next, spread the compost from your compost pits thinly over the garden.  By doing this you are creating a place rich in nutrients for your vegetables to grow.  Mix soil from your back yard or even soil that is underneath any nearby trees with this layer of compost until you have a several inches of soil and compost that are deep enough for planting.

Make sure the soil remains damp but not too soggy when you get ready to plant your seeds and also avoid stepping on it or otherwise compact the soil.  Then, when you are ready, start planting your seeds in the order you previously planned.  Pay attention to the seed instructions regarding how far apart to sow seeds and make sure you place the seeds just underneath the soil.

If this is your first time planting or are you afraid that you will plant the seeds to close together create furrows by moving aside a layer of soil and then consider making your own seed tape.  If you have some toilet paper and a spray bottle that can be used to spray water then you are all set.  Just roll the toilet paper out on a table, mist the toilet paper with the sprayer, and place the seeds out according to the seed packets directions.

Cover the seeds with another long strip of toilet paper, fold the edges and mist it again to make sure the seeds stay in place.  Then carry the seed tape out to your garden and place them in the furrows you’ve already created and cover them with soil. Doing this will help you avoid  spending time outdoors trying to figure out the correct distance between seeds and then later worrying about the possibility of planting the seeds to close together.

Another method for planting seeds is purchasing seeds that have already been started.  This means the seeds have already begun to sprout.  Seeds that have already begun to sprout can usually be purchased in any garden store and many organic seeds come in biodegradable containers.  Once you get the seeds home all you have to do is plant the containers in your garden area then place old newspaper around the sprouts and cover the newspaper with mulch. 

To save money you can also start seeds at home using your own containers and compost from your compost pile.  By starting seeds you will be letting them sprout, usually indoors with the help of a grow light, and then transplanting them to a garden.  It is best to start organic seeds in biodegradable containers since this will help you avoid damage that sometimes occurs during a transplant.  Once the seeds have sprouted you simply plant the containers in your garden and surround them with newspaper and mulch.

If you are growing the seeds directly in the ground using seed tape or planting by hand laying down the mulch and newspaper can be a pain.  In fact it will probably be the most difficult part of your new garden since you want to make sure you do not cover your seeds.  Marking your seeds when planting them is usually the best way to avoid trouble or waiting to lay mulch until the seeds have begun to sprout.

It is recommended that you mark the seed areas and lay mulch immediately because even though it is an added step it will be well worth it since the newspaper and mulch will help the soil retain its water and discourage weed growth and insect infestations.

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