Planning Your Garden
The garden should be carefully planned. Most of the space should be occupied by the family's favorite vegetables. The vegetable garden should be in fertile soil with ample water supply available. It should be easily accessible to all members of the family so that produce can be gathered with the least possible effort. When planning how much seed to plant, consider your demand for that vegetable and needs for canning, freezing, and storing. Increase or decrease the length of row to suit the size and preference of your family.
A sunny well-drained location is essential. Rich light loam with good texture is the best. Plant your tall and trellised plants on the north side so they will not shade the shorter plants. Food crops may be planted in parking strips, corners of lots, along fences, and surrounding patios. As little as 100 square feet (10' x 10' or 20' x 5') can be used to grow a lot of good eating.
Most soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter. Generally the more the merrier. Mixing 2 to 3 inches of organic matter to a depth of 6 inches is a good start. This will help loosen heavy clay soils, add nutrients, and improve the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Use abundant, composted, inexpensive materials such as leaves, sawdust, wood shavings, or old hay. Many municipalities have composted materials available to property owners at very reasonable rates. To avoid nitrogen deficiency and pale plants, add 1 pound (1 pint) of ammonium sulfate for each 1 inch of material per 100 square feet. If enough composted material or manure is available, reduce the ammonium sulfate rate by half. Peat Moss, perlite, or vermiculite can provide the loosening effects but are more expensive. To maintain this improved tilth and structure, add organic material each year.
SOIL MOISTURE & PLANTING
The frequency of watering depends on the texture of your soil. In arid areas, watering the garden is more necessary. Clay soils require less frequent watering than sandy soils. Gardens in sandy soil would require shallower but more frequent applications of water. When seeds are first planted, it is important that the soil remains moist so that the seeds will germinate as soon as possible. Some seeds, like Corn, Tomato, Pepper, Squash, and Cucumbers, NEED WARM SOILS before germination can take place. You should wait until the soil warms up before planting, usually two weeks after the average date of the last frost in your area. You might consider starting these seeds in small containers for transplanting. After the seed has germinated and the plant is established, the frequency and depth of watering will increase as the weather gets warmer. Since sandy soils do not store much water, it is suggested that you add organic matter to increase water holding capacity and water more often. Several vegetables including Onions, Spinach, Peas, Cabbage, Radishes, and Swiss Chard (COOL SOIL CROPS) MAY BE PLANTED VERY EARLY IN THE SPRING. Many of the early, cool season crops may be planted again as late as July 10-15 to extend the garden season until well after the first frost.