True confession time: when I started my first vegetable garden, it frightened me. Yes, I felt good growing and tending; I read all the magazines I could for advice. But when the time came to harvest the first peppers I’d ever grown, I faltered, afraid to eat them.
I was young, inexperienced, and did the only thing I could think of to see if it was safe: I fed it to my spouse. No, I don’t have a desire to see him expire. But he can eat darn near anything; he’s practically a goat. So I served him and waited, and once it was clear he wasn’t clutching his stomach and keeling over, I figured my first harvest was a success.
Since then I’ve become addicted to vegetable gardening, so much so it’s an obsession. But I won’t seek therapy because I have plenty of company in this madness; chances are any therapist I’d see would pull out photos of their garden and offer to swap seeds.
Despite the anxiety of that first garden the season was magical, and if you’re ready to try growing your own, start off right and relax. The food you’ll grow will taste better and be more nutritious, but keep a spouse or friend around, just in case.
Look around your yard and choose a site that gets eight hours of sunlight or more per day. If the area was lawn, you’ll need to cut the grass, root and all, from the ground. Sod cutters are excellent for this, but if you don’t have one, a shovel will do.
Dig or till the area, adding in compost or aged manure (see previous post) spread six to eight inches thick along the surface. Vegetable roots grow deep; you’ll need to dig down at least 12 inches. After that, go pass out on the couch, waiting a week for your body to stop screaming that it’s the Armageddon.
Once you can move again, lay out soaker hoses along the rows you plan to plant. Soaker hoses keep the water where the plants need it – on the soil. Sprinklers waste water by evaporation and soak leaves, spreading disease.
Then plant – now is the right time to pop in peas, lettuce, spinach, onions, leeks, radishes, beets, or other cool season crops.