To get started, here are 10 steps recommended by the National Garden Association, choose the right location. Give your plants space to grow. Start small and make sure to give each plant enough room to grow. Seeds and transplants are small, but grown plants can be huge.
A small, well-kept garden can produce as much or more than a large, poorly maintained garden. Either way, work the soil only when it's wet enough to form a loose ball in your fist, but dry enough to melt when you release it. Digging when the soil is too dry is a harder job and can damage the soil structure if it is too wet. Use a shovel or spade fork to gently twist the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, mixing the organic matter from Step 4 at the same time.
Walking on prepared beds compacts the floor, so place plywood boards temporarily to distribute your weight evenly. Seedlings should never be allowed to dry out, so water daily. It narrows as the plants grow. Transplants also need frequent watering (about every other day) until their roots are established.
After that, how often you need to water depends on soil, humidity, and rainfall, though once a week is a good place to start. Clay soil dries more slowly than sandy soil, so you won't need to water it as often. Sunny and windy conditions dry the soil more quickly than cold, cloudy weather. Not sure yet? Feel the soil 3-4 inches below the surface.
If you're feeling dry, it's time to water. Water slowly and deeply, so water absorbs rather than drains. To minimize evaporation, water early in the morning. See Keep Deer Out of Your Garden: 5 Strategies to Deer Deer and 6 Ways to Use Garlic in the Garden for tips.
When you start a garden from scratch, it's the perfect time to choose the best possible location. Visit the Common Sense Gardening page for a full list of 80+ gardening publications on the website. Steve Masley has been designing and maintaining organic gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 30 years. Get rid of destructive insects (such as tomato hornworms) by plucking them off the plant and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water, washing them with a hose, or spraying them with insecticidal soap purchased from a garden center.
Vegetables from the home garden are fresher, may have better nutritional values, and are often less expensive than those sold in stores. Check plant labels or ask staff at your local garden center to help you understand how much sun a plant needs. Having a garden at home brings color and life to your garden and also rewards you with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. For a full list of my favorite gardening tools, see “The Best Garden Tools Help Make Gardening Easier.
He is an organic gardening consultant and founder of Grow-It-Organically, a website that teaches clients and students the ins and outs of organic vegetable gardening. For more ideas on gardening in confined spaces, see “Small Garden, Big Yield: 10 Tips for a Big Harvest. My southern gardener friend, Amber, has challenges with crops such as peas, which prefer cooler temperatures, and vine crops such as cucumbers, which are prone to mold in high humidity conditions. The gardens in the south can benefit from the shade in the late afternoon, while the gardens in the north probably need all the sun they can get.