Selecting the ideal location for your vegetable garden is the key to success in gardening. The site needs to have at least eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day and be in a well-drained location. It is also important that the site can be easily accessed by a garden hose so you can water it without having to carry buckets or watering cans filled with water.
If this is your first year of gardening, my advice is to start small. Consider how much time and space you have available, and do not start with a garden that may be more than you can manage.
Vegetables need sunlight. West- or south-facing sites are preferred. Vegetable production declines as sunlight decreases, yet some early-season crops such as radishes or lettuce may be produced in an area that receives partial shade.
Before you select the site, check it out for a few days to determine the amount of sunlight it receives. Is there sun in the early morning? Is the site in the shadow of a nearby tree or bushes? At noon, is the entire area in full sun?
Plants also require water for growth and food production. Locate your garden where you have access to a clean and consistent water source. Rain is nice, but you can’t depend on rain to consistently provide adequate moisture, especially when establishing young plants or during a dry summer. Also, gardens closer to the house are more visible.
The soil needed for growing vegetables should be fertile and well-drained. According to Michigan State University Extension, a quick and easy drainage test is to dig a bucket-sized hole and fill it with water. Water should be completely drained from the hole within 24 hours. If there is still standing water, you should either select a new site or consider options such as raised bed gardens or improving the drainage by contouring the beds, allowing excess moisture to move away from the site.
Test your soil. The pH of the soil should range from 6.2 to 6.8 (slightly acidic). The results of your soil test will indicate whether you need to add fertilizer or organic matter, such as composted dry cow manure, for good vegetable production.
The site should be level and free of large roots and rocks. A level area will prevent water from running off and washing away seeds as well as causing soil erosion. Avoid low areas where water does not drain.
And don’t plant a garden near a black walnut tree, because all parts of the tree produce a chemical called juglone. Juglone is toxic to peppers, potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes.
If you face challenges finding the ideal site, another option is to consider using a raised garden bed. You can grow lettuce in a container, such as a large flowerpot. And potatoes can be grown successfully in trash cans. Tomatoes can be raised in hanging baskets on a porch, patio or deck.
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