Spring has officially arrived, even though it feels suspiciously like summer.  As I look out the window, I would swear it was May if I didn’t own a calendar.  The grass is greening up, tulips and daffodils are in full bloom, distant trees are either beginning to bud or bloom and landscape season is officially upon us.  Now more than ever is the time to start thinking about what we want to do with our yards, what we want to see, what we want to grow, etc.  And if you’re thinking of starting a vegetable garden, you best start planning now, and Sweeney’s is here to guide you.

With the price of gasoline and groceries on the rise, it makes a lot of sense to grow your own vegetables.  Not only will you save money, you will gain nutrients, flavor and pride in knowing you were responsible for the bounty upon your table.  You can hold on to the flavors of summer by canning, but that’s another topic for another blog.  The entire family can get involved, while getting some fresh air and exercise.  There isn’t anything quite as fulfilling as walking out your back door with basket in hand, fetching the day’s dinner.  To help get you started, we’ve provided ten steps to a successful vegetable garden:

Step 1 – Make Good Use of Your Location:

Location, location, location!   Even though you might be limited in your choice of location, consider the soil (preferably loose, fertile, level, well-drained soil), sunlight, no nearby trees or shrubs, access to water supply and how the garden fits in with the rest of your landscaping.

Step 2 – Plan Your Garden Layout:

Consider the size of your garden, depending on how much room you have, what you want to grow and how much work you want to put into it.  You don’t want your garden to become burdensome.  Some plants require more room than others, so plan accordingly.  Examples of vegetables that can be grown efficiently in a small space are beets, broccoli, cabbage, leaf lettuce, onions, peas, spinach, turnips, tomatoes and carrots.  Also consider growing seasons and growth characteristics.

Step 3 – Grow Recommended Varieties:

Choose varieties that are proven to do well in our area.  By doing so, you can grow vegetables that are disease resistant and are good yielders of nutritious, flavorful produce.

Step 4 – Obtain Good Seed, Plants, Equipment and Supplies:

Buy seeds from a reliable source that are viable and disease free.  Do not attempt to plant seeds that are older than 1 year.  Some vegetables do better when they are started indoors and transplanted into the garden.    Make sure you have a hoe, spade, garden rake, trowel and measuring stick.  Obtain fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides early so you will have them when you need them.  You may also need mulching material, stakes, plant protectors and pots.

Step 5 – Prepare and Care for the Soil:

If the soil is in poor condition, either hard and crusty when dry and/or sticky when wet, the plants will not do well.  Prepare the soil before planting by adding organic matter, applying fertilizers, correcting acidity and plowing the seedbed properly.  Take care of the soil during the growing season by applying starter fertilizer.  Additional applications may be needed later in the season.  Soil in good condition is loose and easy to work with.  A good test is to squeeze a handful of soil in your hand. It should crumble and not feel sticky.  If you’re just not sure, reach out to Sweeney’s.

Step 6 – Plant Your Vegetables Correctly:

How early you plant depends on the hardiness of the vegetable.  Certain vegetables can withstand frost while others cannot.  Refer to seed packaging for this information.  To correctly plant seeds, mark out straight rows by placing a stake at each end and draw a string taut between them to make a straight line.  Hill or drill the seed.  “Hilling” is placing several seeds in one spot at definite intervals in the row.  Sweet corn, squash, melons and cucumbers are often planted this way.   “Drilling,” which is the way most seeds are sown, is spacing the seeds by hand or with a drill more or less evenly down the row.  Space seeds properly in the row.  Plant at proper depth.   A general rule to follow is to place the seed at a depth about four times the diameter of the seed.  Cover seeds and pack soil around the seeds by gently tamping the soil with your hands or an upright hoe.

Step 7 – Keep Weeds at Bay:

It is important to control weeds in your garden because they compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients. Weeds often harbor insects and diseases. The best time to attack weeds is just as they appear on the soil surface. If allowed to grow too large, weeds will shade your vegetables, causing your crop to grow poorly.  Mulching is also an effective tool.  Besides controlling weeds, the mulch will save moisture, keep the soil temperature more even, and keep the fruits clean.  Herbicides are generally not a good idea in the home garden.  Different vegetables have different tolerances to herbicides, so it is best not to use them; however, if you feel you must, it’s best to reach out to your local garden center for recommended products.


Insects and disease can cause havoc in your garden.  Prevention is the best way to control pests.  Select disease resistant varieties, control weeds, provide good drainage and stay out of the garden while the plants are wet.  If pests become serious, reach out to your local garden center for assistance.

\Step 9 – Water Properly:

Rain will generally take care of your garden; however during dry periods, water plants once a week.  Dry periods are defined as less than 1” of rainfall per week.  Water early enough in the day, so moisture on the plants will dry off before dew appears; this will help prevent disease.  Soak the soil thoroughly to a depth of at least 6 inches rather than sprinkling the garden lightly at frequent intervals. The water should get down into the root zone of the plant. About 1” of water a week, including rainfall, is desirable for vegetables.

Step 10 – Harvest at Peak Quality:

It is important to harvest your vegetables at proper maturity.  To maintain quality after harvest, handle vegetables carefully. Avoid bruising or damaging them, for injury will encourage decay. Cool vegetables such as sweet corn, peas, asparagus, and leafy crops to below 40° F as soon as possible unless they are eaten immediately.

“Let My words, Like Vegetables, Be Tender and Sweet, for Tomorrow I May Have to Eat Them.” – Anonymous

We hope we have inspired you to plant a vegetable garden, and please remember, Sweeney’s is only a phone call away.  We’re here to help in any way we can, even if you simply have a question or need some advice.

Enjoy the warm weather and remember to post a comment on any of our March blogs to be entered to win a $50.00 Visa Gift Card.  We’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney