Growing a vegetable garden
By David Aaron Moore
The Southeast is just about the best place in the U.S. for hearty plant growth. With just enough rain, plenty of sunshine and lots of cooperative soil, Atlanta in particular is an ideal place for healthy and vital crops. If you're ready to grow your own fresh vegetables, here's an easy how-to list to get you started with relative ease.
Pick a location
Most vegetables need full sun ??? at least six direct hours a day. Make sure your soil is healthy and close to easily accessible water sources. Vegetables that grow on vines require more sun for proper ripening. Avoid shady overhangs like hedges or shrubbery trees.
Tools you'll need
These are pretty much a no-brainer: tiller, shovel, rake, garden hoses and a hoe or hand-weeding tool. Make your job easier with a rolling tool caddy. They're excellent for holding smaller garden accessories, garden gloves and knee pads, and they're often designed to serve as a stool when you're ready to get off your knees!
Choosing your crops
Vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and squash will grow throughout the season, so it's not necessary to over-plant with these crops. Popular favorites that grow only once during the season are radishes, corn and carrots, so you might want to plant these on the heavier side, depending on your family's requirements. In addition to these, other hearty edibles you can grow at home include lettuce, green beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, melons and pumpkin.
Prepare your vegetable garden bed by loosening the soil and adding as much organic material as possible. Use compost and manure, spreading the fertilizer around with a rake. Turn the soil over to a depth of at least six inches to ensure your garden receives a good balance of nutrition. It's also a good idea to let it all sit for a couple of days before you begin planting.
Weeding isn't that much fun. Hiring a professional to take care of it for you can make life a great deal easier. But if you're a DIYer, start by applying sufficient mulch coverage. Make sure to pinch off any dead leaves or diseased growth, thin out the small, unhealthy plants once your garden is well underway and keep up with continued watering and fertilizing.
Keeping the pests away
Interplanting vegetable crops with other edible plants (such as onions, garlic and chives) is an effective way to keep rabbits and deer at bay. Raised beds and broader pathways deter small animals who don't like to stray from ground level for fear of being discovered by predators. Mulch is another effective deterrent, as is height-appropriate fencing.
Reaping the harvest
In addition to saving money at the market, a properly planned and maintained vegetable garden can provide you with fresh meal options throughout the season. If you're into canning, you can even have some of your own homegrown goods at the table throughout the year.
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