The satisfaction of bringing vegetables you've grown yourself to the table is undeniable. All it takes to achieve a tasty harvest from your backyard, or even your back porch, are the right vegetable plants and a few easy-to-follow planting techniques.
Before You Plant Your Garden
Although you may be tempted to stock up on seeds and plants the moment they appear in the Lowe's Garden Center, take some time to get organized. Vegetable gardens require a little planning in order to achieve top results. Specifically:
Decide whether to purchase seeds or plants. Some veggies like leaf lettuce, spinach and radishes are easy to start yourself from seeds. In fact, a few can only be grown from seeds, such as beans, peas and carrots. But many of the most popular vegetables — including tomatoes, peppers and broccoli — are much easier to grow from transplants.
- Figure out when it's safe to plant. You can start cool-weather veggies, including greens such as lettuce and spinach and root vegetables like potatoes, onions and turnips in very early spring. Other vegetable plants, however, shouldn't go into the ground until the threat of frost is past. You can continue to plant vegetables into the summer, but warmer weather can be challenging on young plants and an early fall frost may damage your crop.
- Pick a sunny spot. Almost all vegetables grow best in full sun — areas that receive six or more hours of full sun every day.
- Start slowly. First time gardeners should resist the urge to plant a huge vegetable garden, which will require hours and hours of care starting in summer. A well-tended small garden will yield more produce than a neglected large garden. For the same reason, stick with veggies your first year. Raising fruit trees, bushes and vines is fun and rewarding, but also a challenge for the beginning gardener.
- Follow plant spacing recommendations. Read the information on each plant's package to learn how far apart each plant needs to be from its neighbors. Crowded plants are more susceptible to diseases and may not provide a full crop.
- Anticipate plant needs. Different vegetable plants require different growing accessories, such as a trellis or strings for beans and peas or cages for tomatoes and peppers. If you're unsure, a Lowe's Garden Center specialist can suggest the right accessories for the plants you want to grow.
Consider building a raised bed to grow vegetables. You can fill the bed with good-quality soil and compost.
Find the Best Plants for Your Garden
Experienced gardeners always have favorite vegetables and, often, preferred varieties of each vegetable they grow. All of the plants available at your Lowe's Lawn and Garden Center will do well in your area, so don’t be afraid to try a couple of varieties of vegetables you like. For example, select a big beefsteak tomato and a cherry tomato. If you're unsure, ask experienced gardeners in your area or an associate at the Lowe's Garden Center for specific vegetable plant recommendations.
Combine their tips with these surefire planting favorites to create your vegetable garden:
Planting Your Vegetables
Before you transplant or sow seeds, prepare the soil. Remove any sod and weeds, then loosen up the ground with a shovel, hand trowel or rake. Add topsoil, compost and other additives to make the soil a nutrient-rich environment for growing vegetables. Look for soil mixes that are specifically blended for vegetables.
At this point you may want to mix granular fertilizer into the soil or pour on liquid fertilizer later. Always check that your fertilizer is food-safe. Planting Seeds
If you're sowing seeds, follow the directions on the package. Pay particular attention to seed spacing, or you'll spend time on your hands and knees thinning out the extra plants.Transplants
For setting out transplants, use a trowel or your hands to dig a hole in the prepared soil. The hole should be a bit wider and deeper than the plant's container.
- Gently remove the plant from the container. For small six-packs or eight-packs of annuals, push up gently from the bottom to free each plant. You may need to pull off roots that have grown through the drainage holes. As much as possible, try to handle the freed plants by their root balls rather than the tender stems.
- Place the plant in the hole. Fill with soil and press down with your hand. Cover the surrounding area with mulch.
- Thoroughly water the newly installed plants. For at least the first week, give your plants and seeds a watering every day if it doesn't rain. After plants are established, they'll need water equivalent to about one inch of rain per week. Use a rain gauge to monitor how much water your vegetable garden receives.