Growing your own vegetables is easier than you may think! It can be a fun family activity and a great way to add nutrition to your meals. By following a few simple steps, you can create a garden that will provide delicious veggies all season.

Step 1 - Evaluate the area you have to work with. Most vegetables require 6-8 hours of direct sun each day and frequent watering. The location you choose will need to have access to both. If you have a small area to work with, such as a balcony or patio, you may want to consider a container garden. This type uses pots or other containers to house your plants. If you have a larger area, you might consider a box garden or an actual plot in the ground.

Step 2 - Decide what type of vegetables you would like to plant. Some good plants for beginners are carrots, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and green beans. Herbs are also good for starters and are great additions to any garden. Why not give parsley or dill a try? Larger vegetables will require a larger growing area, so be sure to factor that into your decision-making. Though you can grow your plant from a seed, many beginners choose to buy a seedling plant because it is simpler.

Container Garden

  • Choose your containers. Most vegetables will require a container in the 6-inch to 12-inch range. Larger vegetables, such as tomatoes, may need up to a 5-gallon container. Your containers can be in any style and can even be household objects. Just make sure that there are drainage holes in the bottom - you don't want to drown your plants!
  • Place about an inch of gravel in the bottom of the container before adding your soil. Be sure to use fresh potting soil and not soil from your garden or soil that was previously used. Potting soil is designed for container gardens and will ensure that diseases will not contaminate the new plants. Fill up the container with your soil, leaving several inches at the top. Water the soil and then add the seedling(s) to the container. Smooth out the potting soil to cover the roots of the plant. Place the container in a sunny location and repeat the process for each container.

Box or Raised Bed Garden

  • For this type of garden, you will need an adult's help. The box that will hold your garden will need to be built from scratch and can be any size you would like. To build the box, you will need eight pieces of lumber, such as 2 by 4s, for the sides and four square pieces, such as 4 by 4s, that are little bit taller than the sides. The square pieces will be used to anchor the box into the ground. Have an adult use screws to attach two 2 by 4s to one side of a 4 by 4 piece. This will form one side of the box. Repeat until all of the 2 by 4s have been attached. You should now have a box with two pieces on each side and a 4 by 4 post in each corner.
  • With help, position the box where you would like it. Dig holes for the corner posts and then fill in those areas with soil to secure it. Rake the existing soil to level it and then line the box with chicken wire or hardware cloth. To ensure the best growing environment, fill the box with a mixture of topsoil, potting soil and compost, and then lightly water. Add your vegetable seedlings and smooth out the soil to make sure the roots are covered. Plant your rows north to south, with the tallest plants at the back and the shortest in the front.

In-Ground Garden

  • Mark off the area where you will be planting your garden. Then prepare the soil by removing weeds, rocks, sticks and other debris. Work the soil with a tiller and incorporate compost.
  • Once the soil is prepared, you are ready to plant your seedlings. You should plant the rows north to south and place the tallest plants at the back and the shortest in the front.

All Gardens

  • Once the garden is planted, all that is left is to maintain it. Your vegetable garden should be watered once a day, but potted plants may need additional watering in hot weather. Be sure to pull weeds and fertilize regularly! Once they are ripe, harvest your vegetables. You should pick ripened crops frequently to encourage more production. If you find that rabbits enjoy your veggies, too, plant a few marigolds - they act as a deterrent.
  • Enjoy! Celebrate your hard work with a tasty snack or use your vegetables in your dinner that night.

Be creative with your garden! If you use containers, add interest by mixing and matching different styles and colors. Planting a variety of vegetables will add color to your garden and your plate!

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