10 Tips For Starting Your Vegetable Garden

Spring is here! It is my favorite time of year because it means that I get to start my summer vegetable and herb garden. To me there is almost nothing as gratifying as growing my own food from seed. Not only do I enjoy the entire process, from sowing the seed to chopping vegetables for my family’s dinner, but I love to know that my food is completely organic and natural from the very start.

Here are 10 tips for getting your garden started off the right way:

      1. I prefer to start my garden from seeds because I get a childlike excitement watching seeds grow into full grown plants. Also, it is more cost effective, and I get to choose from varieties that aren’t available as seedlings. Plant your seeds in flats filled with well drained soil. Seed depth will vary, so check your seed packet. You can also go to your local nursery if you prefer to buy plants that have already been started and are ready to plant. If you choose this route, skip to step 7.

      2. Put the flat in a south facing window so that it stays warm. Most seeds like the soil to be between 70 to 90 degrees for germination. If you don’t have space next to a sunny south facing window then put your flat on a heating pad made for seed germination or a warm surface such as a water heater.

      3. Once the seeds are planted keep the soil moist and don’t let it dry out. Seed germination times can be anywhere between 4 and 15 days depending on the type of seed.

      4. Once your seedlings emerge give them sufficient light. If you don’t have your plants in a sunny spot, use a grown light. Insufficient light will make your seedlings leggy and weak.

      5. Once you’re seedlings form their first true leaves, you can transplant into a bigger, deeper container. Plant the seedlings a bit deeper than before, and give them a little less water and more light.

      6. After the danger of frost has passed, you can put your plants outside gradually to harden them off and get them ready for plant life in the raised beds or in large pots. After about 10 days of hardening off, transplant your seedlings on a cloudy day to lessen transplant shock.

      7. Before you transplant, you need to prepare your planting beds.  As we talked about before, a vital part of a successful garden is getting your soil ready. Check out last week’s blog for information on getting your soil to optimum health before you plant. Soil health is especially important for vegetable and herb gardens because these plants take up more nutrients and water than ornamental plants do. Make sure you’re planting in an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. It’s best if these hours are between 10 am and 4pm, when the sunlight is the most potent.

      8.  With this area’s warm weather, setting up drip irrigation for your garden is helpful for a number of reasons. It saves water and doesn’t get the foliage wet, which can lead to disease. It also saves you time and you won’t run the risk of losing your plants on a hot day when you aren’t home to water. Follow this link on how to install a drip irrigation system for your raised beds. If this seems too complicated for you to do, give us a call and we will do it for you.

      9.  After making sure that your soil is ready, there is ample sunlight, and you have a convenient way to water, you will be ready to plant. Planting times will vary depending on your microclimate. For instance, north county areas like Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero have colder nights lasting to late April and can even have a late frost. South county cities like San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Los Osos are blessed with warmer nights and are ready to plant a little bit earlier. Follow this link to find out your areas last frost date.

      10. I always like to add annual flowers such as marigolds, calendula, and cosmos to the garden. These flowers add beauty and can attract beneficial insects to your garden.

Once your garden is good and growing be sure to side dress part way through the season with compost or an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer. And don’t forget to send us pictures of your beautiful work. Happy gardening!