Starting a vegetable garden means ensuring a safe, healthy and tasty supply. Follow our tips to get started easily. Today’s vegetable garden is often not as nourishing as grandpa’s garden. Growing your own vegetables means discovering new flavors, adding a personal touch to your cooking, savoring the pleasure of making, and rediscovering the rhythm of the seasons…
Made to measure
But to keep it fun, you shouldn’t think too big. At least at the beginning. A first vegetable garden square of 1.20 to 1.50 m on each side is more than enough to get the hang of it and to check that you have the taste and the time to cultivate a larger vegetable garden later on. Choose an open area, without trees on the south side to avoid harmful shade; as flat as possible to retain rainwater or watering water; easy to access.
Delimit your plot with 20 to 30 cm wide boards. The easiest way to do this is to plant a 30 cm long square piece of wood at each corner, which you will then push in a third of their height. Screw on the boards that will form the border of your square. Do not use the existing soil to give your vegetables an ideal substrate (a mixture of a quarter of well-decomposed compost, a quarter of planting soil and a half of vegetable soil) for their growth and avoid the chore of digging. It will take you no more than an afternoon to set up and a quarter of an hour every 2 to 3 days, or even less depending on the season! If you organize yourself, you can even group the maintenance operations over the weekends.
Special beginner’s vegetables
Choose vegetables that can be harvested quickly: for example, radishes and mesclun to be eaten in less than a month. It’s more encouraging to see quick results from your efforts! Supplement with vegetables that you enjoy. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to install cold vegetables: zucchini, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, various squash… No planting or sowing before mid-May outside of the Midi! Although tomatoes are reputed to be difficult to grow, are you still tempted? Opt for small-fruited varieties, which are hardier and therefore easier to grow for the novice. Dare to use grafted plants for sunny vegetables (tomato, eggplant…). More expensive, they are also more robust, more resilient to extreme weather conditions and more productive.
For some vegetables, such as zucchini, cucumbers or peppers, early harvesting (before maturity) stimulates production and allows you to taste fruits with very tender flesh. Avoid growing the same plants, the same family or the same type of vegetables (leafy vegetables, root vegetables, fruit vegetables) in the same place successively.
Sow or plant?
Whenever possible, buy seedlings rather than seeds to shorten the growing time and harvest faster. Nevertheless, sowing is essential for vegetables that cannot be transplanted, such as carrots, radishes, beets, spinach, turnips, peas, beans, etc. Sow directly in the prepared square. The most difficult thing is to distribute the fine seeds evenly. For this, sowing in rows is easier in furrows of 1 to 2 cm deep. Always sow more than enough. When the young plants have 2 to 3 leaves, it is necessary to eliminate the weakest to leave the place to the most vigorous to develop correctly. Keep the soil moist until the first leaves appear.
Plant without planting!
Moisten the root ball well. Soak the compressed rootballs or cups in water for a few minutes before planting. The soil around the roots should be soaked. Limit transpiration for a good recovery by cutting off a third of the leaves of salads for example. Stimulate good rooting after planting by watering regularly.
Sow without trembling!
Soak the seeds in water the day before sowing. Often the large seeds have a thick “skin” that the germ sometimes has difficulty to pierce. When wet, it tears more easily. If the ground is very dry at the time of sowing (some springs are cruelly lacking in bad weather!), water in fine and abundant rain the day before, in the evening. In deeply moist soil, the seeds germinate more easily. Large seeds have a thick skin. Soak them in water the night before to soften the skin and help the germ to emerge quickly. Fine seeds (carrot, radish…) can be mixed with sand or dry coffee grounds to increase their volume and thus facilitate their homogeneous distribution during sowing.
For a good germination, refine the soil well: it must be almost as fine as your seeds.
If you grow a vegetable garden, it is above all to harvest healthy vegetables. Adopt cultivation techniques that will make your crops more resilient to weather and other hazards. Aromatics, with their powerful smell, disrupt the reproduction of harmful insects. Plant them along the edge of your vegetable garden: your vegetables will be naturally protected. Some plants naturally repel parasites. For example, carrots keep onion flies and leek moths away; onions and leeks discourage carrot flies. Roughly chopped cabbage leaves buried next to young lettuce or spinach reduce the risk of grubs (cockchafer larvae). No more wormy turnips if you place the prunings of your tomatoes around…
Maintenance to follow
No need to over-fertilize: you risk polluting the environment even if you use organic products. In the fall, cover the surface of the square with a 6 to 8 cm thick layer of compost. In the spring, you can supplement this with organic fertilizers that are more specific to the crops you plan to grow. But this is not mandatory! From June on, mulch your crops with organic matter of a fairly fine granulometry (mulch, flax or hemp mulch…) which degrades over time and enriches the soil.
The secret of a beautiful vegetable garden is regular watering. To reduce the bill and preserve natural resources, invest in a rainwater collector, to be placed near your vegetable garden or fed by a gutter branch (more efficient).