Growing Your Own Vegetables
You have dug up your garden plot, enriched it with organic material, and fertilized it. You have raked out the stones. Now you are ready to plant. Check your garden plan to see that rows run from east to west if this is practical; that tall plants will be on the northern and eastern sides of the plot; and that you have planned to grow early crops (lettuce, peas, spinach) as well as hot-weather vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers). Click through to learn more about setting up your vegetable garden.
1. Sowing the Seeds
Mark your row with stakes at each end, and stretch a garden line between them. Make furrows, known as drills, barely 1 centimeter deep for small seeds, perhaps 2 centimeters deep for the larger ones. Scatter small seeds evenly and close together.
Larger seeds can be planted about 3 centimeters apart. Especially where soil tends to crust over, cover small seeds with a thin layer of potting mix, compost, or of soil mixed with sand or fine peat moss. Tamp down over the seeds and water gently. Mark the row with a plant label on which you have written – in indelible ink – the name of the vegetable, the variety, and the planting date.
Seeds must have continuously moist soil around them until they sprout. Check for moisture every day, and if the soil seems too dry, water it lightly. Do not overwater: soggy soil can cause the larger seeds to rot – the soil should be damp, but never waterlogged.
For beginning gardeners especially, thinning can be a painful process. It seems wasteful to destroy perfectly good seedlings. But it must be done. If unthinned, radishes will not form bulbs. Carrots will not grow or will twist grotesquely. Lettuce will form puny heads.
You should begin thinning when the seedlings are 3-5 centimeters high. Do not try to thin out seedlings all at once. A thick row of leaf lettuce can be thinned at first by removing every other plant. You can remove more plants in later thinnings, when the lettuce will be large enough to eat. When thinning a thickly seeded row, pull each plant out carefully, lifting straight up, to avoid disturbing the roots of neighboring plants.