Starting a Vegetable Garden

Tim Baland, Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County

Fall is the best time to think about starting a new vegetable garden or moving an old one in the spring.  Probably the three most important items are location, location, location. The best location is the sunniest spot in your yard. You want to your garden to get a lot of sun, at least 8 hours per day, and preferably more.

For many people, raised beds – either purchased or homemade – are a good option. If you choose to go with raised beds, you will probably want to plant varieties of plants with shorter root structures, although that may not be an issue depending on the depth of your raised beds.

The first step in starting a new garden is either removing or killing the sod in the location where the new garden will be located. Although removal is preferred, especially for a traditional garden, killing the grass is an option as well, especially if you plan to grow vegetables without deep roots. One method that has worked for me in the past is to put several sheets of newspaper on top of the grass that you want to kill and thoroughly wet the newspaper thoroughly before installing the raised bed and the soil. The water, raised bed, and soil will prevent the newspaper from blowing away in the wind.

Aside from selecting the sunniest spot available in your yard, the key to success in gardening, is the quality of your soil. If you are removing the sod and plan to use the existing soil for growing vegetables, I recommend that you get a soil test, available from the University of Minnesota, to see if the existing soil is satisfactory, or if it needs amendment. For more information, see: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/.

There are numerous “recipes” for soil mixtures available on the Internet and in reference books. Select one that drains well and allows for plenty of air circulation, and is appropriate for Minnesota and your zone. I recommend that you put down and amend the soil in your new garden at least 2 weeks, and preferably longer, before planting. Indeed, it would be ideal to put down new soil or amend existing soil now, in the fall.  Let the soil settle over the winter and plant in the spring.  However, we do not live in an ideal world, and whatever you do will be fine. Still, you want to give the new soil or amended soil at least 2 weeks, and preferably longer, to settle.

For more information on gardening, I recommend that you visit http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/.  Plan ahead and get a jump on gardening in the spring.