Starting a new vegetable garden, especially if you are new to gardening, can seem overwhelming. There is a vast amount of information and products available to help new gardeners, so sorting through them all can be quite the chore. Fortunately, the following list can help you narrow down your needs and make the process less confusing.
#1: Soil testing kit
It's hard to have a healthy garden if you don't have healthy soil, so make sure your soil is perfect from the start. Purchase a soil testing kit to test the nutrients present. The simplest kits check primarily for nitrogen and a few other trace minerals, as well as providing information on whether you have acidic, basic, or neutral soil conditions. Most vegetables, for example, grow best in neutral soils. You can then use the readings from the kit to determine which soil additives are needed for your garden beds.
Compost is the single best additive you can put into a new vegetable bed, regardless of the reading from the soil test. It provides base nutrition while also loosening the soil for better aeration. Further, the organic matter in compost soaks up moisture so the soil dries out more slowly. You can order compost from a compost supply company if you don't make your own. Plan to add a 2- to 4-inch layer to your garden bed. You can add more if the soil is exceptionally sandy or compacted to help provide additional structure, if necessary.
#3: Soil additives
The soil additives you need depend on your soil test. Basic soils, for example, may require the addition of sulfur whereas acidic soils may need a lime addition. You may also need to add additional fertilizers, depending on the nutrient profile from the test. Mix these additives in with the compost and till it into the top 8 inches of soil for best effect.
Mulch will save you time, so plan to add a 2-inch layer of straw mulch over your vegetable garden soil after planting. Mulch shades the soil and roots, preventing moisture loss, while also smothering out weeds. This way you can spend less time weeding and watering in the garden.
#5: Moisture meter
Finally, invest in a small moisture meter. This way you only water when the plants actually need it. This is better for both your water bill and for the health of the plants.
The above items may not be the only things you need for a successful vegetable garden, but by ensuring that you are utilizing them from the very beginning, you can rest easy knowing your vegetables have the healthiest start possible.