How to Grow an Unruly Vegetable Garden

How to Grow an Unruly Vegetable Garden

How to Grow an Unruly Vegetable Garden

Decide on the Location

Choosing the right location is crucial for a successful vegetable garden. Here are some tips on picking the best spot:

  • Full sun: Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Find an area that gets sunlight for the majority of the day.

  • Good drainage: Vegetables don’t like soggy soil. Make sure the area drains well after rain so water doesn’t pool.

  • Near a water source: Having a nearby hose or spigot makes watering easier. Consider how you’ll get water to your plants.

  • Enrich the soil: Adding compost or other organic matter will provide nutrients for your veggies. Amend the soil a few weeks before planting.

  • Rotate crops: Don’t grow the same plants in the same spot year after year. This helps prevent disease and nutrient deficiencies.

  • Enough space: Make sure your garden is large enough for the amount and types of crops you want to grow. Leave room for plants to reach mature size.

  • Convenience: A garden close to your house is easier to maintain. But don’t crowd it too close to structures which could cause shade problems.

Choose the Right Plants

Selecting vegetables suited to your climate is key. Here are some tips for picking the best plants:

  • Know your hardiness zone: Choose vegetable varieties that match your region’s growing season length and winter temperatures.

  • Consider sunlight needs: Leafy greens do well in partial shade, while tomatoes, peppers and squash need full sun.

  • Match maturation times: Pick early season crops like spinach and peas; midseason plants like beans, lettuce; and long season veggies like pumpkins.

  • Plant tall & short crops: Arrange plants so taller vegetables don’t block sun from smaller ones. Plant in blocks instead of rows.

  • Choose disease-resistant varieties: Look for veggies bred to resist common diseases like mildew and blight in your area.

  • Go for big yields: Favor productive vegetable varieties that produce a lot compared to space needed.

  • Add pollinator-friendly flowers: Plant flowers among veggies to attract beneficial pollinating insects.

  • Include edible flowers: Add attractive blooms like nasturtiums and calendulas that are also edible.

Prepare the Soil

Getting the soil into good shape is one of the most important steps for vegetable gardening success. Here’s how:

  • Remove weeds/sod: Eliminate any weeds. Strip grass away completely if converting a lawn area.

  • Loosen the earth: Use a shovel, tiller or garden fork to break up and loosen the top 8-12 inches of soil.

  • Mix in compost: Incorporate 2-3 inches of compost or well-rotted manure. Compost boosts nutrients, drainage and moisture retention.

  • Check pH level: Test your soil’s pH and amend if needed. Most veggies thrive in the 6.0 to 6.8 range. Add lime to raise; sulfur to lower.

  • Smooth the surface: Rake the area flat and remove any stones or debris that could impede growth. Mound soil for root crops like potatoes.

  • Add fences/cages: Install tomato cages, trellises and fences for climbing plants before planting. Put down landscaping fabric to deter weeds.

  • Make rows: For traditional row planting, dig evenly spaced trenches or furrows for seeds or transplants. Space rows according to plant maturity size.

  • Soak thoroughly: Water the entire prepared garden area deeply before planting to moisten soil down several inches. Don’t plant until soil is workable.

Start Planting!

Once your vegetable garden spot is prepped, it’s time to start planting. Follow these tips to get your crops off to a vigorous start:


  • Follow packet directions: Seeds specify planting depth, spacing, days to maturity and any special needs like starting indoors.

  • Plant at proper depth: Check the seed packet. In general, plant seeds 2-3X as deep as their width. Small seeds are 1⁄4-.1⁄2 inch deep.

  • Space seeds appropriately: Thin seedlings later to proper distances. You can sprinkle small seeds; space larger ones evenly from the start.

  • Use row covers: Covering rows with fabric tunnels boosts warmth for heat-loving plants like melons or peppers. Remove once they sprout.

  • Label diligently: Use markers to note what you planted where and when. This helps with care, harvest time, and crop rotation.


  • Harden off plants: Set transplants outdoors in partial shade for a few days before planting to condition them from indoor conditions.

  • Water transplants well: Give plants a good, thorough watering just before transplanting. Don’t plant dry starts—they will struggle to establish.

  • Remove plastic pots: Carefully strip off or cut away plastic containers before setting plants in the ground.

  • Bury deep enough: Set transplants at the same soil level they were growing at in pots, with the lowest leaves just above ground.

  • Space properly: Refer to planting instructions for proper distances between transplants. Crowding stresses plants.

  • Use transplant fertilizer: Mix some gentle starter fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of planting holes to encourage root growth.

Maintain Growth

Caring for your vegetable garden throughout the season leads to an abundant harvest. Here are some tips:

  • Water carefully: Vegetables need consistent moisture for best growth. Avoid overwatering. Use soaker hoses or spot water.

  • Weed diligently: Remove weeds to prevent them robbing water and nutrients from crops. Shallowly cultivate the soil to uproot weeds.

  • Stake/trellis upright plants: Install stakes or cages to support indeterminate tomatoes, pole beans, peas and vining crops.

  • Mulch crop rows: Spread straw, leaves, grass clippings or other organic mulch around plants to retain moisture and prevent weeds.

  • Fertilize mid-season: Side dress growing plants with a balanced organic fertilizer or compost tea to fuel plant growth and production.

  • Scout for pests: Check undersides of leaves for insects. Identify before treating. Remove pests by hand or use organic sprays as needed.

  • Harvest regularly: Pick ripe vegetables like beans, tomatoes and zucchini frequently so plants continue producing.

Make Next Year’s Plans

As your vegetable garden reaches the end of its productive season, make notes for what to do next year:

  • Review what grew well: Note which varieties produced a lot and had great flavor. Replant winners next season.

  • Think about problem plants: Don’t replant vegetables that were susceptible to disease or struggled in your location.

  • Consider layout changes: Rotate plant families to new areas according to crop rotation guidelines. Expand or downsize sections.

  • Amend soil again: Replenish nutrients by adding several inches of finished compost or other organic matter once crops finish.

  • Clean up debris: Remove crop residue and pull spent plants to prevent pests and disease overwintering.

  • Plan for cover crops: Sow green manure crops like clover or rye in empty beds to boost soil health over winter.

  • Make notes to reference: Keep a garden journal detailing what you planted, crop timing, pests, yields and other observations to guide plans.

With the right preparation and care, an unruly vegetable garden will produce bountiful harvests. Stay on top of maintenance, and you’ll achieve garden glory. Let those vegetables run rampant!