The Guys’ Guide to Growing Vegetables
Gardening can be a man’s game too, you know. The main difference is that men usually aim for practical, not pretty, and grow food rather than flowers. A vegetable garden is the perfect way to do that. With just a little time and effort, you can start using your own veggies for cooking and grilling in no time. Here’s how:
Choose What to Grow
Though there are some tools and supplies you’ll need regardless of what you’re planting, your exact needs will depend on what you want to grow. And what you want to grow should depend on your needs.
That sounds kind of confusing, but basically, to start, you need to figure out what you want. What vegetables do you want to grow, which can you maintain, and how many will you be growing? How much sun will your plants be getting?
If you plan to give your garden a good deal of sunlight, choosing peppers, squash, tomatoes, corn, carrots, or beans would be wise — these plants thrive with a lot of sun. Leafy vegetables, carrots, turnips, and potatoes all require much less sunlight.
7 great veggies for beginners:
- Tomatoes There’s a reason that tomatoes are one of the most popular plants for any size garden: They’re not as dependant on water as you might imagine–some gardeners swear they taste better the less they’re watered. Their yields are high and continuous: one or two plants should keep you stocked for the summer. They can also be grown in any place that gets lots of sun and provides support for their stalks (like a hanging basket). On top of all of this, there exists a huge variety of tomato types to choose from.
- Green Beans
These too offer a lot of variety. There are two different varieties when it comes to planting styles, however: the kinds that grow as vines, or the kinds that grow as bushes. Bush types require less space, but beginners might have better luck with vine types. Both types will require well-drained soil and as much sun exposure as possible.
For beginners wanting to try gardening out, lettuce is the perfect plant. It grows quickly and is extremely easy to harvest–all you have to do is snip the tops off the plants once they’re grown or pick the leaves as you need them. They can be grown in containers along with other plants as well.
These grow well in containers and will require support for climbing. Once they get growing, however, they’ll grow almost like weeds–quickly and in great number.
These are simple and easy to grow, but they won’t grow large unless you have a deep, well-drained bed for planting — a raised bed (discussed below) would be optimal. Shallow or rocky dirt can still support their growth, but it will be slightly stunted. These plants can tolerate light shade, but as is the case with most plants, full sun exposure is preferred.
Now, these might not be everybody’s favorite for lunch. For beginner gardening, however, you can’t ask for a better plant. It only takes around 20 days from being planted for a radish to reach full size. For best results, plant the radishes when it’s cool outside and ensure they have constant moisture.
Here’s another rapid growing plant that will give you plenty to harvest from just one or two plants. Since the seeds grow well in warm, loose, well-watered soil, Zucchini can be planted later in the year than the other plants on this list.
Choose Where and How You Want to Garden
Now, what you can grow best will depend on the kind of garden you have or at least the kind you plan to have. Optimal locations will get 6-8 hours of sunlight daily, have fertile soil (loamy and well-drained), and not be too close to trees, which can steal nutrients. There are three different kinds of gardens: traditional gardens, container gardens, or raised-bed gardens.
- Traditional Gardens
This is your standard, in-ground garden. These are the most basic style, but offer extreme versatility. An ideal site for a traditional garden is any site facing south that will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
- Container Gardens
If your soil quality is poor or you live in an apartment and don’t have any soil at all, you can still enjoy gardening with a garden comprised of one or multiple containers. Any spare bucket, plastic bin, hanging planter, clay pot, even an old boot can sustain plant life granted it holds enough soil for the plants’ roots and receives enough water. With a container garden, ensuring proper drainage will become more of a chore, but with a garden like this, you won’t need to worry as much about insects and weeds won’t be a concern. You can also exercise your creativity when putting together your container garden.
- Raised-Bed Gardens
In an area with poor quality soil or soil that’s simply not deep enough, another alternative is a raised bed garden. Whether you need to add depth to your garden or create one from scratch, raised-bed gardens offer what you need. By allowing you to choose the exact location for the garden as well as the type and quality of soil, this option provides gardeners with the most control. Before getting started with these, do a little research on raised-bed gardens and their construction.
Gather Tools and Supplies
Now, the fun begins. Once you’ve got the bulk of your planning done, the next step is gathering what you need to actually get the job done. This means seeds, soil, and tools.
After you’ve gathered the seeds for what you plan to plant, you’ll probably need some soil (unless your in-ground garden already has satisfactory soil). Good soil for gardening is well-aerated, meaning it isn’t so dense that air can’t flow through it. Clay or other thick soils can hinder root growth.
Another characteristic of fertile soil is richness in organic matter, like aged manure or compost. With enough of these natural nutrients, the need for artificial fertilizer can be eliminated. Lastly, good soil doesn’t have large obstructions like rocks or large roots and isn’t sandy either. Check your local nursery or home-improvement store for a soil quality test to best assess your soil.
Nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty, but a pair of gloves offers protections from thorns, bugs, and the like.
Your non-burnt scalp will thank you later.
This tool is used for digging small holes and weeding.
- Water hose or watering can
A cup from the kitchen won't cut it.
If you’ll be needing to transport a good deal of soil or mulch, a wheelbarrow will be your best friend.
Used to spread mulch, level the soil, and separate debris from the dirt.
This tool will help you prune away leaves or snip herbs.
- Roundhead shovel
Used for digging holes larger than you’d dig with a trowel.
Necessary if you’re going to be creating a compost heap.
After all this setup, the last step is planting and maintaining your garden. As soon as your soil is laid and workable, stir it well and let it sit for a few days. Top-dress the area with an inch-thick layer of compost or fertilizer. Use your pitchfork to loosen the soil and mix in the compost, then smooth out the area with a rake.
Check the seed packet for specific planting advice and ideal planting periods. If you’re using seedlings (young plants taken from pots), you’ll need to dig rows for them to be planted in.
While you wait for harvest, all you need to do is maintain the garden. Depending on what you plant, the requirements of this step will vary. Generally, however, you’ll need to ensure that your vegetables get the proper sun exposure (6-8 hours a day) and adequate water (at least an inch a week).
Now, all that’s left to do is harvest and enjoy the fruits (veggies) of your labor. Don't forget to preserve your veggies for the cold months though.