Planting a backyard vegetable garden doesn’t have to be complicated. Come take a look at my backyard vegetable garden and maybe you’ll be inspired!
I realize it’s a little late in the season probably to be talking to you about how to plant a backyard garden. But since I just got my small backyard garden planted this past week, I thought it was a good idea to share sort of a gardening journal here on The Birch Cottage blog.
So, I’m gonna start from the beginning and (hopefully) each week I’ll give you a little update. This will become my digital vegetable garden journal. Hopefully, we’ll all learn something together as we take on this little backyard vegetable garden journey.
Like a lot of you, when COVID-19 was so new and so scary (it’s still scary), my husband and I started talking about food supply chains. We were really concerned that life as we knew it was going to change – maybe temporarily, maybe forever. And it has. And I don’t think it’s stopped changing quite yet.
We are all so used to hopping in our cars and going grocery shopping whenever we think about it, that not having that as an option is somewhat disturbing.
Likewise, we are also used to going to our local farmer’s market (or even the local grocery store’s produce department) and purchasing fresh produce.
But what if all that stops? Changes. Just. Like. That!
How to Start a Backyard Vegetable Garden
Plan. Plan. Plan.
I am not a professional gardener, but I do have some experience with backyard vegetable gardens – big and small. For the past few years, I’ve simply grown what I call a “salsa garden”. A few tomato plants and a few pepper plants.
I tried growing cilantro, but just wasn’t very successful. Plus, at the time, I could still get plenty of fresh organic salsa from the product section of my local grocery store.
Step One: Plan
My best advice is to plan. Do a little research.
- Know what grows best in your area (also called hardiness zones or planting zones) and select plants accordingly. Here in Grove City, Ohio, we are in zone 6a. You can find out your specific zone on the USDA website here.
- Part of your planning also includes planning the space where you’ll plant your vegetable garden. Ideally, you’ll want to select a space that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight daily. And that has easy access to water.
There are a lot of garden planning tools online. You can use one of these tools, like Gardener’s Supply Co, to help plan your garden space or you can simply sketch it out on paper.
Step Two: Prepare the Soil
Amend the Soil
Although you can grow some crops in clay and you can grow some crops in sand, most crops grow best in rich, crumbly loam soil. Amending the soil with compost, and other soil builders such as shredded leaves is one way to gradually build up your soil.
Since we didn’t have months to prepare for our backyard vegetable garden, we chose to amend our soil using mushroom compost. There are different kinds of compost that you can purchase. I chose mushroom compost because, to be quite frank, it’s the least smelly.
Till the Soil
Once you have your vegetable garden planned, you’ll want to mark off the area to be tilled. The easiest way to mark off the garden area is to use a can of spray paint.
After the ground is tilled up, add compost simply by spreading it across the top of the soil. Then till the compost up into the soil.
You can use a tiller, rent a tiller or use a shovel to till up your soil.
Level the Soil
Once the ground has been sufficiently tilled and the compost tilled into the soil, you’ll want to use a hard bow rake to break up any clumps and level the soil.
Step Three: Prepare the Rows
Now for the fun part. Assuming you’ve already designed the layout of your backyard vegetable garden. You’re ready to prepare your rows for planting. Most vegetables are grown in rows. Some seeds are actually planted in mounds, but even those mounds are usually spaced apart in rows.
To keep a nice straight row, you can use any kind of stick and twine or follow this ingenious method using a fishing reel. Tie the twine to the top of a stick and stick it into the ground. Stretch the twine out to the other end of the row, attach the twine to another stick and place it in the ground, nice and taut.
TIP: Use a garden hoe to sort of mound the soil up under the outstretched twine. To make it easier, use long wooden dowels and keep the twine a foot or so off the ground.
Usually, you’ll mark one row at a time or prepare one row at a time. Once you have the row marked off, you’re ready to plant.
Step Four: Plant!
I told you step three was the fun part and for me it is. All your hard work of preparing and mending the soil has paid off and you’re ready to start laying out your rows. At this point, you can actually see your garden space coming to life!
Follow the package directions for planting your seeds, seedlings or plants.
If your plants or seeds will be supported by stakes, like with tomatoes, you’ll want to put your stakes in the ground before you plant your seeds, seedlings or plants.
Once your seeds or vegetable plants are planted, you’ll want to be sure to water your plants. Just lightly moisten the soil where seeds are planted to keep the wind from blowing the dirt and seeds away. You’ll also want to water your garden every morning or evening on days where it doesn’t rain.
Essential Backyard Vegetable Garden Tools
To make your backyard gardening easier and to improve your results, there are a few essential tools you’ll need:
- bow rake
- dowel rods
- garden hoe
- garden stakes
- tomato cages
- plant markers
- garden hose
- hose wand
What I’m Growing in My Backyard Vegetable Garden
This year on May 29, 2020, I have planted the following vegetables and fruits:
- Roma tomatoes (3)
- Better Boy tomatoes (2)
- bell peppers (2)
- jalapeno pepper (1)
- pole beans
You may have noticed I listed pole beans and corn. I have planted four mounds of pole beans. But, as soon as my corn gets to be about a foot tall, I plan on planting more pole beans as a companion plant. The idea is that the pole corn will climb the stalks of corn. This is my first attempt at companion gardening – so, let’s keep our fingers crossed!
This year’s backyard vegetable garden is more or less an experiment. Depending on how this year’s crop does, I’ll plan and make adjustments to next year’s backyard vegetable garden.
What’s growing in your garden?
Til next time…