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Vegetable and herb gardening 101

family herb gardening
It seems easy enough. You plant some seeds into decent soil, give it some water and sunlight, and it grows. But, there’s a bit more to it than that if you want good results. We’ve put together some introductory tips to help start a vegetable and herb garden at your home.

Get the right supplies
You’ll need bags of potting soil (organic is best for new plants), seeds or starts (seeds come in small packages while starts are fully formed plants that are ready to be put into the ground), and a few bags of sand or rocks. Tools you need include a garden hose or watering can, hand shovel, gloves, and a few small, wooden pots if you plan to grow herbs.

Planting herbs is easy
Start by adding a layer of rocks or sand to the bottom of your pot. If you’re using a start, fill the pot up to the middle with organic soil. Now place your start so that the base of the plant (where the plant meets its own soil) is just an inch or so below the line of the pot. Then add more organic soil to cover everything up and pack it tight. Planting seeds? Fill the pot until you have 2 inches left at the top. Place your seeds, then sprinkle up to an inch of soil on top of that.

Give your new plants or seeds plenty of water and sunlight. To make using your new herbs easy, keep the pots outside near the kitchen.

Here’s a tip: start with rosemary. It’s one of the easiest to grow.

Planting a garden that grows
When planting a garden, you can use almost anything, including small flowerpots, cinder blocks, or an area in your yard that you’ve partitioned off with a wooden box. As long as the spot gets enough sunlight and water, you will likely be successful. Other key ingredients include soil, fertilizer, and the plants you choose.

Your growing season will vary depending on where you live. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put together a Plant Hardiness Zone Map to help you determine which plants will thrive in your yard. The site will locate your growing zone, which you can then find on seed packets and plant labels.

Before you buy any plants, note where the sun hits your yard. If your garden area gets some shade, be sure to buy plants that can grow with less sunlight. However, the spot you pick should get at least six (6) hours of sunlight a day. If your garden will get a full day of sunshine, buy vegetables that can take the heat (pun intended).

For best results when planting, top your garden area with plenty of organic soil, and always read the labels and seed packets for specific planting instructions. Most instructions will include how far apart the plants should be, and how deep to plant them (if you buy seeds).

Keep your soil enriched
Soil will lose microorganisms over time. To maintain its growing power and improve your garden’s bounty, add manure, worm castings, fish fertilizers, compost, and over-the-counter fertilizers.

Time is essential
A good harvest depends on what you plan to grow, where you live, and when you put those plants into the ground. Some crops that are planted in the spring don’t produce until late summer or early fall. Harvest to Table has a good list of vegetable harvest times to help you narrow your choices before you plant something that might not produce this year.

Water is essential
Heat, sunshine, and elevation all play a role in how much water you’ll need to give your herbs and garden. For best results and less evaporation, water deeply and less often.