Nothing tastes better than vegetables picked fresh from your own garden. There's a certain satisfaction to serving and eating food that you yourself have grown and harvested.
Many people mistakenly think that during an emergency they can grow their own food. Advance planning is a must as there are many factors that can affect the success and manageability of a vegetable garden. Do you have seeds? Knowledge and experience is required... Do you have that knowledge and experience? For example, here is some information on vegetable gardening.
Planning your Vegetable GardenThe traditional method of vegetable garden design was to plant long, orderly rows. Most home gardeners now opt for planting in beds rather than rows. This method allows you to concentrate your compost on the area where the plants are growing rather than wasting it on the paths between the rows. Walking between the rows also ruins (compacts) the soil structure, so beds are really a better way to go. The beds do need to be small enough so that you can easily reach in to weed and harvest all the plants without stepping on the bed itself. If you raise your beds about 8 to 12 inches, you will have improved drainage and the soil will stay warmer in colder weather, such as early spring.
Many vegetables also thrive in containers so you don't even need a garden in order to get those garden-fresh veggies.
Location is another consideration when planning your garden. Vegetable gardens need sunny, open spaces in order to thrive. Also, think about plant location when planting. You can economize space by planting vegetables next to each other that mature at different times. This way, you have already harvested one when it's neighbor is becoming mature, so both have plenty of space and sun when they need it most.
Planting your vegetable garden
Preparing the Soil
Dig the bed up to break up compacted soil (this will help with drainage) and removing rocks and weeds as you go. Try to pull out as much of the weed roots as possible so that they will not come back to haunt you later. Put fresh coat of cow manure on garden every year, if chicken manure - use very lightly. Horse manure is okay, but sheep manure stinks real bad. Good planting soil takes time to create (3-5 years).
Companion Plants in the Vegetable GardenThere are some plants that, when planted close together, will benefit each other. Likewise, there are certain combinations of plants that will inhibit the growth of one or both types of plants. Here are a few combinations to avoid:
- Potatoes - inhibit growth of tomatoes and squash
- Beans - inhibit growth of onions
- Broccoli - inhibits growth of tomatoes
- Carrots - inhibit growth of dill
This isn't to say that you can't grow these plants in the same garden, just don't grow them right next to each other.
Vegetables need a bit of extra care when it comes to watering. One inch of water, in one rain, or from irrigation should maintain vigorous growth for about 7 days during hot weather and from 10 to 15 days in colder weather. Smaller and larger amounts of water are less desirable because the soil is poorly aerated for a time and may result in loss from rotting, blight etc. Consistent watering will produce successful results. If you have a large garden, you may want to consider a drip system.
The function of cultivation with vegetables is to conserve moisture by eliminating weeds, to close up cracks and provide a loose, rough surface which will absorb rainfall and prevent run-off. Mulching with straw and such items is a practical way to increase yields and the benefits are greatest with long-season crops and in dry years.
Rotating CropsAssuming that you plan to grow vegetables more than one year, it is important that you rotate your crops. Crop rotation prevents building diseases up in the soil and preserves micro-nutrients. Rotating is not difficult, but does take a little advance planning as well as a basic knowledge of the vegetable families. Vegetables are broken down into basic family groups. These groups should be rotated together as they use soil in similar ways and share similar pests.
Include Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Shallots, and Leeks.
Include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and Kale.
Include Turnips, Radishes, Rutabaga, and Collards.
Include Cucumbers, Squashes (from zucchini to pumpkin), and Melons.
Include Peas and Beans.
Include Arugula, Swiss Chard, Chicory, Endive, Escarole, and Radiccio.
Include Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant.
Most vegetables should be rotated every year on a four year plan. This is easy if you have planed four beds for your rotating plants. See where that advanced planning starts to come in handy?
If you plant all your vegetables at the same time, everything will come to maturity at the same time. The solution is to continually plant small amounts of short-season vegetables throughout the growing season. Sowing should be done at different times, say 4 times a year. That way, you can enjoy your vegetables all summer long and not be inundated by them all at once or to take advantage of the cool weather crops.
Nothing, however, will save you from the dreaded onslaught of zucchini.
Vegetable Container Gardens
Vegetables that thrive when planted in containers include: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, carrots, chard, lettuce, beans, peas, and cucumbers.
Hydroponics is another alternative of planting Vegetables in containers. These systems have their own learning curve.
For information on how to get started, visit gardening web sites and get a good gardening book.
You will need to preserve these foods for eating. Again, each food is different and requires different preserving techniques. Some techniques are drying, canning, freezing, vacuum sealing or being kept in a cool dry place. Get a good book with recipes on preserving foods.