There are lots of things to consider when creating a veggie garden. First and foremost, you will want to spend time thinking about where to place your garden. The answer to that question will be determined by what kinds of plants you’d like to grow. For the purposes of this article we’ll focus on annual edibles, but keep an eye out for a future article about perennials.
When choosing a location for your garden the two top considerations should be sun exposure and convenience. In the Pacific-Northwest, most annual veggies need full sun. If you have your choice between different locations that all have good sun conditions, pick the location that is closest, most accessible, and easiest to water.
Are you going to plant directly into the ground, or will you build raised beds, or use some sort of container? All of these options have pros and cons -- this is a great topic to research to figure out what it right for you and your garden.
Whatever you choose, try starting small. Concentrating on a manageable space to start will allow you to have success that you can add to year after year as you learn.
Preparing the Ground
Cover the ground with compost and plant through it. Replace the compost as it incorporates into the soil. If you have a very weedy patch to start with, you can place layers of newspaper or cardboard on the ground before the compost.
If you're planting in containers, you can purchase organic potting soil to get a great start.
The best plan is to water the soil deeply, early in the morning. The amount you water will vary quite a bit with sun exposure and temperature, so closely observe your garden to dial in how much it needs as the season progresses.
You can water with a sprayer connected to your hose or if you have a very small garden with a watering can. Setting up a drip-irrigation system will lead to long-term savings. Hand-watering takes a greater investment of time and often results in under-watering.
No matter how you are watering, make sure you are getting water to the roots. You can set up a test by watering an adjacent empty patch of soil for the same amount of time, then testing the moisture content by taking out a few shovel-fulls of soil.
Choosing What to Grow
This is one of the best parts of growing a garden! A good place to start is... what do you want to eat?
One of the best ways to succeed is to make sure you research what varieties grow well in your region. Talk to local gardeners if you can or find publications that focus on your area.
Seed packets will have ‘days to maturity’ listed on the back. If you are looking at two types of the same plant, but one variety matures in 60 days and the other takes 80 days, it makes sense to start with the short-season variety. A shorter timeline translates to less time you have to make sure the plant is happy. It allows for a more flexible window of time to start the plants, along with a chance to restart if something goes wrong the first time.
Good Veggies to Start With
Keep an eye out for future articles that will go into more depth about veggie gardening!
For area-specific information on how to garden year-round, we highly recommend the Tilth Alliance Maritime Northwest Garden Guide. Of course, you can buy it at Cornell Farm.
If you need extra help with planning, don’t hesitate to sign up for garden coaching with our in-house expert, Bill Clodfelter. The image above is from his portfolio.