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 Yard and Garden » Growing Vegetables 101

Growing Vegetables 101

There are three common methods of vegetable gardening, containers, raised beds or in the ground, the style you use depends on the kind of garden you want and how much room you have.

Container Gardens

Use any type of container, metal, clay, plastic or wood, with drainage holes, that is deep and wide enough to support the root structure of the plant, or the underground crop (i.e. potatoes, beets).

The container must be large enough to be stable with heavy top growth plants such as tomatoes or beans so that it doesnít fall over and damage the plant.

Container grown plants will always require more water, more often so an adequate amount of soil must be present to prevent it from drying out.

Use a sandy loam mixed with organic material such as leaves, grass, egg shells and peat moss. A balance must be struck so that water will not run through too fast, all sand, or too slow, all clay. To improve either one add some of the other or better yet use professional planter mix.

Depth of Container for Common Vegetables


Beets, lettuce and radishes


Chard, short rooted carrots, turnips


Bush cucumbers, eggplant, peppers


Broccoli, cauliflower,


Long rooted carrots, tomatoes

Raised Gardens

Raised gardens are simply soil above ground level confined by a frame of some sort. A basic frame made of planks on edge will work just fine. The only concern is the width, if it is kept under 6í you can reach the center from each side and avoid stepping in the soil, it can be as long as you have room for.

In-Ground Gardens

These are the most common type, a spaded up plot in the back yard. Select a spot with at least six hours of full sun a day. If there is a large tree shading part of the location perhaps lower branches can be trimmed. The soil must be well drained so if your original soil is clay there must be a way for the water to get out. A trench may have to dug at one end of the garden to a nearby sewer, if the original soil is sandy line the bottom of the garden with a layer of clay then add the prepared soil. Avoid selecting an area where water lies for a long time in the spring, the soil has a formation of green scum on the surface, or there are many cracks in the soil after it has dried out.

Dig humus into the soil as soon as it can be worked in the spring, this can be done by hand in a small garden with a spade or with a rotary tiller in a large area. For humus use peat moss, well rotted barnyard manure, mushroom manure or compost, this acts as a sponge in lighter soils to help retain moisture and it opens up heavy soil to improve drainage.

Rows planted in a north and south direction allow more sun to get to the plants. Plant early crops on one side of the garden one year and on the opposite side the next year to avoid growing crops in the same spot two years in succession. Draw a map of the garden to a rough scale marking what is planted in each row and save it for reference for planting the following year.

Be aware that excluding planting and harvesting a garden plot 20 feet X 50 feet will require at least two hours work per week.

Garden Soil

Find out what kind of soil you have by getting the soil tested, this will tell you the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash as well as the pH levels.

Take a small soil sample every few yards throughout your garden. Take soil from the surface as well as down where the roots feed. Tilling the garden will mix up the surface soil with the soil deeper down so you want a good representative mix.

Mix all your samples together and take a jar full of the mix to a local garden center that provides a soil testing service. If you want to test your own soil there are a number of soil test kits available.

The results of your soil test should tell you exactly what shape your soil is in, and what you need to do to balance it out.

If you garden organically you will be able to choose ingredients for use in your compost so you end up with the perfect mix to improve your soil.

You can add lime or whatever you need to adjust the pH levels of your soil. Compost will tend to lower the pH of alkaline soils and raise the pH of acid soils. Sawdust and peat are useful to lower the pH if your soil is too alkaline. Wood ashes, oyster shell, bone meal and lime are good for raising the pH of acid soils.

The next important characteristic of your soil is itís structure. Here is a simple test. Using the soil you collected for your samples take a canning jar or similar clear jar with a lid and put in a cup of dry soil. Add a teaspoon of non-foaming dishwasher detergent, fill two thirds of the jar with water and put on the lid. Shake thoroughly so soil and water are mixed, put it where it wonít be disturbed for a few days until it has settled.

The soil will separate into its component parts.The top layer will be clay, silt will settle in the middle and sand will go to the bottom. Now you have a visual idea of the structure of your soil.

The best garden soil is 40 per cent sand, 40 per cent silt and 20 per cent clay. By looking at the soil levels in the jar you can get a good idea of what you need to add to adjust the structure. You can use sand to help break up clay soils along with organic material like peat or sawdust. Sandy soils need lots of organic material like manure or compost.

Manure is always a good addition to the soil, fall is the best time to till it into the garden soil so it gets a chance to break down over the winter. The freezing and thawing helps the process along. Use well-rotted manure if possible, but even fresh or partly composted manure can go into the soil in the fall.

With the right mix of nutrients and the correct soil structure all of your plants will be able to produce to their potential.


Companion Planting

By planting two or more of certain plants together they will benefit each other, this can be a mixture of flowers, vegetables and fruits.



Tomato, Parsley


Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, and Potatoes


Beans, Kohlrabi, Onion

Broccoli, Cabbage

Dill, Potatoes, Mint, Rosemary, Sage


Chives, Lettuce, Onions


Dill, Potatoes, Mint, Rosemary, Sage




Beans, Cucumbers, Melons, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Squash


Cabbage, Corn, Potatoes, Radishes


Carrots, Radishes, Strawberries


Beets, Carrots


Beans, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Radishes, Turnips


Beans, Cabbage, Horseradish, Marigold, Peas, Sweet Corn


Beans, Cabbage, Horseradish, Marigold, Peas, Sweet Corn


Cucumbers, Lettuce, Nasturtiums, Peas




Cabbage, Chives, Cucumbers, Marigolds, Parsley, Potatoes


Beans, Lettuce, Spinach


Chives, Garlic, Marigolds, Onions

Buying Plants

There are many vegetables that need to be started indoors from seed, then transplanted to the garden, for the beginner it is better to purchase well grown plants from a reputable nursery.

Buy short, stocky plants that are a healthy green in colour, avoid tall and spindly stock.

When transplanting from the container to the garden try to keep as much soil as possible around the roots. Try to disturb the plant as little as possible. Set the plant slightly deeper than it was in the container, cover the roots with a little soil, pour about a cup of "Starter Solution" (liquid complete fertilizer with a high phosphorus content) into the hole, then fill with soil. Pack the soil around the plant firmly, working around the edges of the root ball rather than in close to the stem, to eliminate any air pockets around the roots.

Planting Seeds

Follow the instructions on the seed package as to depth and spacing, then be sure to thin the plants soon after they have come through the ground. Be ruthless, crowded plants will not thrive competing for moisture and plant food, thinned plants will grow faster and be healthier.


Weeds must be destroyed as soon as they appear through the soil so frequent cultivation is necessary otherwise they will rob the garden of plant food and moisture. Always cultivate shallowly so as not to damage feeding roots of the plants that are close to the top of the soil. The best tool for this is a Dutch hoe which allows you to work backwards, eliminating footprints. Try to avoid chemicals for weed control as you may also kill some of your vegetables because what is safe for one may be deadly to another kind close by.

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