Determine Your Soil Type
Does the soil in the area you are considering planting your garden have good drainage? How about the quality of the dirt itself? Though it is possible to grow vegetables under various conditions and using a variety of methods, unless you are going to use a greenhouse you should work with the soil you have. Test the drainage properties of your soil by digging a few holes, one foot across and one foot deep, around the planned garden site. Fill the holes with water, and time how long it takes for them to drain. Then fill them again, two or three hours later, and again time how long it takes for them to drain. Next, divide the total water depth (24 inches for each hole) by the number of hours it took for them to drain twice. The best soil choice for your vegetable garden is usually in the areas that drain slower than one inch per hour.
How Much Sun? Shade?
The seed packets or seed suppliers should give you some idea of how much shade or sun your vegetables should receive. If your garden is mostly shaded during the day, you don’t want to plant seeds that thrive in strong sunlight. And, of course, the opposite applies to vegetables that need at least partial shade to grow well. You’ve probably only paid scant attention to how much sunlight each area of your planned garden space gets, so take the time to observe for a few days. Note the areas that get the most sunlight, and the areas that are primarily shade, and then prepare for planting accordingly.
What is Your Zone?
Certain plant types thrive in different regions, so get familiar with what grows best where you live. The United States Department of Agriculture puts out a “Zones of Hardiness” map that gives a general idea of which plants might grow within your area. To further aid you, many seed companies also use these zones and print them on their seed packets.
Notice the timing on when your vegetables will mature, when they are best planted, and what are some of the dangers facing your plants. Winter-growing vegetables, for example, may need extra care on very cold or snowy days, while summer veggies that are not shaded from very hot sun might shrivel up and become dry.
Make a Map
Mapping out your garden, even if you simply scribble on a piece of paper, can be very helpful in determining which vegetable seeds to plant, and where. You’ve, by the time you begin mapping, already noted where the soil is best, and where the sun and shade hit and when to plant. Now map out where each vegetable type will go and plan how you will rotate your plants from season to season. Your map will give you a bird’s-eye view of what seed plants you have, what you need, and when and where you will need to plant them.
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