Now is the time to start your vegetable garden! Growing vegetables is not difficult, and it is very satisfying to eat and serve your own nutritious and delicious fresh produce.
If you are just establishing a garden this year, choose a reasonably flat spot that gets lots of sun. Most vegetable plants need full sun – that is, 6 – 8 hours a day of sun including direct mid-day sun. It should also be a spot that you can get water to fairly easily and one that you can clear of everything now growing there.
You will probably want to fence your garden or otherwise protect it from deer and other unwanted intruders. A fence 8 – 10 feet tall will generally keep out deer. You may also want to consider extending a barrier underground several inches to deter voles and ground hogs. We are always happy to offer suggestions on the best way to deal with your particular situation.
Once you have cleared the spot, spread a generous amount of compost over the bed, then turn the soil over well or roto-till the compost into the soil. This will add nutrients to your soil and improve its quality. You may wish do a soil test to identify exactly how you can improve your soil. Soil tests and several kinds of compost are available at Town and Country Nurseries.
Raised beds are a convenient and attractive way to have a vegetable garden without clearing and weeding. The bed will be higher and easier to access, and you can place it wherever you have a flat, sunny spot with access to water. Town and Country has a selection of raised beds, and can provide soil and compost for filling them.
Once your bed is established, or if you already have a bed and have given it a good dose of compost, it is time to get planting. Several cool weather crops can be in already: lettuces, spinach, arugula and other greens, chards, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, etc. can all tolerate cool spring weather. We have a wide selection of lettuces and other cool weather crops ready to go into your garden. Other vegetables such as carrots, radishes and beets can easily be grown from seeds that thrive in cool weather. Radishes grow quickly and easily from seed and new seeds can be sown all summer for a constant supply of zip and color for your salads.
After all danger of frost is past (generally considered to be May 15 around here) put out more tender vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and squash. There are many varieties of tomatoes to choose from. In choosing the variety of tomato to grow, consider the ripening time, the size of the fruit, how you will use them (salad? sauce?) and whether you want to grow heirloom varieties. Heirloom varieties are long-time favorites whose seeds have been passed on for many decades, and while the tomatoes may not look as picture-perfect as modern varieties, they tend to be the most flavorful. Some favorite heirloom tomato varieties available at Town and Country include Brandywine, with huge, fleshy pink-toned fruit, and Cherokee Purple.
Remember to leave plenty of room for your plants to grow. You will probably want to stake or cage your tomato plants to support them as they grow. Most people find it easier to put the cage around the plant while it is small. Some cucumbers will need a trellis to grow on; others do fine spreading across the ground.
After the soil warms a bit, consider planting beans. Consult the seed packet for specific directions on planting the variety of beans you wish to plant. Some require a support or trellis; bush varieties do not.