Friday, November 13, 2009

10 Vegetable gardening tips for starters

Adjusted from

Tip 1: Start small and don’t grow too many different vegetables

It is really easy to get overenthusiastic and carried away reading seed catalogues. If you try to grow loads of different things, and try to learn how to garden at the same time, you won't be able to look after them all properly, and you may end up discouraged. Maintaining a big vegetable garden is a lot of work; you can better start with a small plot, maybe just a few easy to maintain raised beds, instead of having a big overgrown low productive garden.

Tip 2: Get a really clear gardening book.

You really can't garden without a book – I am constantly checking things in it - so you just need a copy of one simple and good book. There are lots of trendy books that promise you all sorts of things, but what you really need is an ordinary, utterly reliable gardening guide.
A highly recommended book in English is: Grow Your Own Vegetables by Joy Larcom.
My own ultimate garden book in Dutch is: Groenten en fruit kweken by Julia Voskuil, 1980 – Moderne huis bibliotheek.

Tip 3: Care for your soil

Plants feed from the soil; so poor soil = poor plants. Improve your soil with lots of organic matter including manure if your soil is poor and sandy. Add tons of composted material if it is compact and clayey. Don’t just add organic matter without nutrients. And don’t forget that heavy ploughing machinery might loosen the upper part of your soil but will compact the underlying layers even more, hand digging is the secret. And finally don’t compact your soil again by constantly walking over it, layout some paths between your vegetable beds.

Tip 4: Plants run off direct sunlight.

Now this might seem obvious, but many people are just vastly overly optimistic. Vegetables WILL NOT GROW in the shade.

Tip 5: Cold spells will prevent seeds germinating.

Seeds need to measure a certain time of warmth to germinate. And cold temperatures reset their 'clock' back to the start again. So your seeds may not germinate on a windowsill or greenhouse even when they days are warm - because they are getting too cold at night. It doesn't need such high or constantly high temperatures once it has germinated - but it does need light once it has broken the surface of the soil.

Tip 6: Reed the back of the seed package

This tip comes from my sister. And she right, you can avoid major mistakes by just reading the sowing and growing instructions on the back of a seed package!

Tip 7: Practise crop rotation especially when growing nightshades

Tip 8: Befriend other gardeners

You can learn a lot from other experienced gardeners. They will have seen it all, and they will know what you can and can't get away with in your particular local climate and soil. Of course, if they use lots of chemicals and pesticides, then this doesn't count.

Tip 9: Don’t over-focus on growing ORGANIC vegetables

If in daily life you’re not a religious fanatic don’t become one when gardening.

Just you grow your vegetables without using chemical fertilizers or chemical crop protection products, this will make them organic enough for home consumption. And when you do not use chemical crop protection accept some losses due to insect attacks and diseases.

F1 or hybrid seeds are just crosses between two different varieties, this has nothing to do with GMO’s, you can use them safely as long as you are not interested into saving their seeds for next year production. Often they are more productive than pure varieties.

Tip 10: Enjoy

But most of all, enjoy growing your food, and pay attention to what is happening to the plants as they grow.

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