Every year we plant vegetables in our backyard with high hopes, and have come up with a process of getting the vegetable garden ready for planting that seems to work well for us. With Spring in full bloom and warmer weather on its way, we’re happy to share with you some tips we’ve discovered in our efforts.

Planting backyard vegetables seems so much more complicated than when I was a kid. Growing up in Northern California, the summers were hot and the fog kept at bay. We’d clear a patch of garden and my tiny little Italian mother would struggle with an automatic rototiller, pitching and lurching her way around as the dirt was tilled and prepared for planting. We’d sit on the sidelines and laugh at her until our bellies hurt. Good thing she had a great sense of humor!

vegetable garden with lettuce and onions

The pretty plants all in a row…

These days we’re all about adding the right amount of this and and a pinch of that, mixing the soil carefully by hand while sprinkling a light dusting of angel wings and unicorn horn to encourage maximum growth.

Kidding. But really, it has gotten pretty complicated. To make it easier, here’s our suggestions on getting the vegetable garden ready for planting.

Romaine lettuce plants

Rows of Romaine lettuce plants are showing a variety of colors, and all taste delicious in salads.

Getting the Vegetable Garden Ready for Planting

  1. Choose the proper location – Maximum sunlight is everything for a veggie garden, so scout out a place in the backyard unencumbered by trees or buildings that block sun at any time of day. Shade is not your friend.
  2. Consider installing raised beds – We made two 10′ x 3′ redwood beds, and each are two feet deep. This is great because it discourages crawling things from getting into the mix, plus makes it easier to bend down and work in the garden.
  3. Amend the soil – Depending on what type of dirt you have, you may need to add soil amendments to create a healthy growing environment. If too sandy, the soil will drain too quickly and the plant roots won’t have maximum opportunity to absorb water. If too dense or clay-based, the water will sit for too long and not drain away from the plants’ roots.
    vegetable garden soil amendments

    Adding amendments to the soil of your vegetable garden will help make for healthy plants.

  4. Fertilize the shit out of it – Excuse the pun but that is quite literally what you must add. Manure is rich with minerals that enrich the soil and encourage the plants to grow healthy and large.
  5. Add worm castings – Gross, but just do it. Worms are great for the soil because their poops add important elements that help plants grow. Plus if you buy moist castings there will be worm cocoons included, which will hatch worms to help aerate the soil.
  6. vegetable gardens benefit from worm castings

    Worm castings help the garden soil continue to fertilize itself with the help of good old earthworms.

  7. Choose vegetables that grow at different rates – I’m impatient, and I want to harvest vegetables sooner rather than later. I plant radishes and lettuces early, knowing they grow quickly. Right behind them I plant slower growing plants, that by the time I harvest, the fast plants will be growing into the space left behind.
    vegetable garden radish seeds

    Choosing fun seeds to plant is part of the adventure when planting a vegetable garden.

  8. Space plants carefully – Some vegetable plants need an enormous amount of room. We learned this the hard way by planting corn and watermelon, both of which overgrew their areas and crowded out other plants.
  9. Potatoes spread – Like a lot. Unless you have tons of room, consider planting potatoes in pots. Their root systems can spread quickly and you’ll be finding mystery potatoes in the ground for months.
  10. Plant marigolds – Intersperse marigold plants among the vegetable plants. They are natural bug repellents and may help keep pests away, plus they’re purty.
    Poppy is the Calilfornia State Flower

    OK, these are not marigolds – they are California Poppies. But they sure are pretty!

  11. Don’t over water – A very common mistake that will kill the plants. Tomatoes only need water when the soil becomes dry and the plant wilts slightly. Other vegetables may need more, but check to see if the soil is moist below the surface before watering again. Yellow leaves on tomatoes are a sure sign of overwatering.
    organic tomato plant

    Tomatoes are tricky to grow, especially where we live. Choose carefully for your climate.

Involve the kids in this endeavor. It’s important for them to understand how things grow, where vegetables come from, how to care for and nurture something and the ever-popular lesson of patience. Besides, it’s a fun and healthy way to spend quality time together outdoors.

Vegetable seeds come in many varieties

There are so many choices of vegetable seeds, and I like the ones that bring variety to the garden.

And boom! Before you know it, you’ll be harvesting up a storm of delicious fresh veggies.