Linda Tomlinson

Gardening: Starting your own vegetable garden

Want to grow vegetables but can’t decide where to start? First look for a location that has over six hours of direct sunlight during the growing season. Anything less and the plants will struggle.

Look at the different garden styles and see which suits you and the location.

Traditionally in ground gardens are a row of vegetables, path and another row of vegetables. This allows for equipment to keep the row clean of weeds. The distance between rows lessens the chance of the spread of insect infestations and diseases. Weed barriers can be placed between the rows eliminating the need to work or weed between the rows.

Raised beds are beds where the soil planted is higher than the soil surface. They can be temporary or permanent beds.

Temporary beds are contoured yearly in the shape of a mounded row or rectangular beds. The soil can easily be worked with machinery and the shape of beds can be changed as needed. Mounded beds has the advantages and disadvantages of raised beds. The sun warms them up faster which increases the plants growth but they also dry out faster as more soil is exposed to the sunlight. The deeper soil allows roots to grow deeper with little resistance.

Permanent raised beds are surrounded by a hard surface, wood, metal or brick that holds the soil in place. Beds are five feet or less in width which makes it easy to reach the centre and as long as the gardener desires. The minimum depth of the soil is 12 inches (30 cm). The edges should be higher if the beds are placed on a surface that plant roots cannot penetrate.

In areas where the ground soil is arable, mix it with the fill used in the raised bed. Mixing the two layers together will encourage worms and water to move between the layers.

A bench garden is a raised bed on supports. The benches can have solid sides or legs like a table. Both styles allow people to garden standing but the legs allow people to sit while gardening. Both designs allow people with mobility issues to garden. Bench gardens make it possible for people to garden in areas that are no conducive to gardening. A table bed allows a garden to be grown in areas without destroying the natural landscape, or on cement.

The sides or legs on a table garden must be strong enough to support the weight of wet soil. Placing the tables on a solid pad keeps the beds level with the weight evenly distributed. When purchasing or building a bench garden look closely at the size, construction and the materials it is made from.

Pots have many of the attributes of bench beds but they are smaller and can be moved during the growing season. Choose large, deep pots and plant according to the root structure. Example: carrots in a deep pot.

All garden plants rely on the soil for nutrients. If they have not been supplied by nature, it is up to the gardener to add them to the soil either through organic matter or organic and inorganic fertilizer.

Linda Tomlinson has gardened in central Alberta for over 30 years.

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