Planning a Vegetable Garden in your Waukesha yard can be easy and fun. The idea of growing your own vegetables, herbs, and fruits has become popular with many of my clients who are interested in the sustainable food/ grow local movement. Not everyone has a talent for farming, but your garden plot can be as small as a pot on your patio or as large as your whole back yard. The only thing you need is a little “how to” knowledge and a small bit of time.
Here are a few guidelines to help you get started and a few helpful hints if you already have been growing vegetables but need a little help.
- The most important factor in providing a successful vegetable plot will be its location in reference to the sun. Planting most vegetables in an area that receives at least 6-plus hours of sun per day will give you a better yield than those planted in even partial shade.
- The location needs to have easy access to water. Water is critical in both starting your garden in spring and providing additional water during the dry spells when the fruit is starting to ripen. I use a Y valve on the house faucet and leave the hose in place to make it easier when I need it.
- Keep the location close to the house; this will make it easier to check things daily when everything ripens at once and will also deter the deer and rabbits from feeding with just a low fence on three sides. Sunny side yards can make great spots for a vegetable plot.
- Think small if you are just starting out. Managing weed control, watering, and the eventual harvest can become overwhelming. Start with just a few of your favorite things and add more each year.
- Work inside a box. Constructing a raised bed can be easy and made from a variety of materials. Just stay away from railroad ties, treated timbers or anything else infused with preservatives. See a video on creating a raised bed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riNMzs3dk8g
- Refresh your soil. For the first year, I always advise my clients to start by using the existing soil, unless it is so rocky that grass won’t grow. Soil amending is a difficult task but can be done over time in small amounts that will make it easier on your back and the budget. Here is an alternate idea to soil gardening using straw bales. http://www.wpr.org/shows/garden-talk-straw-bale-gardening-3
- Go vertical by constructing a 2×4 frame with a kitchen twine weave to maximize the use of your space and incorporate vegetables that need more room to grow and spread. Try anything that will vine such as peas, pole beans, cucumber and even tomatoes.
- Plant from seed. Many people are intimidated when it comes to planting seeds directly into the garden. Seed planting has many advantages over using pre started plants such as cost and the availability of heirloom varieties. Three things that will help your success are planting depth, finely grated soil seedbed, and consistent moisture after planting. A mail order company that I have had good success with can be found at https://www.jungseed.com/.
- Think organic. I have found a great book on organic gardening that provides not only how to grow vegetables organically but also the treatment of garden pests and diseases. The book is titled “The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Diseases Control, A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way” by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis and Deborah L. Martin, published by Rodale Inc. 2009.
- Composting. I use only tree leaves, kitchen waste and organic grass clippings in my compost pile. It tends to have less odor and I use it on top of the soil after planting to help keep down the weeds. All other material, including the vegetable plant matter, is sent to my municipal compost site. The inability of my home compost bin to generate enough heat to kill the pests and diseases found in stems and leaves makes this a safer option. I also recycle the soil from my decorative pots into my compost bin.
A great book with a source of information on “when-where-how” for vegetable gardening is “Guide to Wisconsin Vegetable Gardening” by James A Fizzell, published by Cool Springs Press 2001. If books are not your thing, try some of these websites at:
A little planning of your vegetable garden now will make it more productive later in the season. Having information at hand will make problems easier to deal with as they occur during the growing season. Now is a great time to research new techniques, plants, or review your notes from previous years. Spending some time reviewing your vegetable garden layout before spring arrives will give you a more productive garden and make it easier when the weather finally warms up.