A vegetable garden to many is a waste of time, effort, and money. A friend at work told me that growing vegetables cost more than buying them at the store. He also explained to me how they went about gardening and then I realized how he could purchase his vegetables cheaper than growing them. He would buy all his plants at a local greenhouse, buy new equipment every year, use chemical fertilizers and insecticides, and purchase all sorts of gardening products that don’t help.
Here I’ve created a list of 33 must haves to beginning, planting, and maintaining a large vegetable garden. These are just suggestions and you don’t need everything on the list right away. Most people gradually purchase their gardening equipment as they realize they need it.
HERE WE GO!
NOTE: The items on the list are not placed in any particular order.
#1 – Spare time.
A large vegetable garden can be very time consuming. Depending on your gardening techniques, size of garden, and what types of vegetables you grow, you may need to allocate 5 – 30+ hours per week. Time in the garden will also vary due to time of the growing season. You will need to put in the most time in the spring for planting and in the fall for harvest and winter preparation.
#2 – Proper soil.
For your plants to perform their best, you need the perfect blend of material for the perfect soil. Healthy soil will be loaded with earthworms. It will also crumble apart with little effort whether it is wet or dry. If your soil is very sandy, it will not be able to retain moisture and nutrients. To correct this add some manure and peat moss or any type of organic material. This is what had to be done with my garden because the ground is pure sand and now the garden is one of the best producers in the area. If you have heavy clay soil, add organic material and sand.
#3 – A large space of 2000 sq-ft. or more.
Anything smaller, I wouldn’t consider LARGE. An urban garden usually is never this big because most urban lots are not big enough. Gardens this size are usually
#4 – Tiling equipment.
Rototiller, lawn tractor tiller attachment, ATV with tow-behind cultivator, or a tractor with cultivator depending on what size you plan on making your large garden.
#5 – Vegetable plants.
When choosing vegetable plants, don’t buy ones that produce the vegetables you don’t like. For the best selection of plants, purchase from a local greenhouse or a big box store garden center that selects their plants for your plant hardiness zone.
#6 – Vegetable seeds.
Very much the same as above. Vegetable seeds generally are much cheaper than the plants. Usually 50 – 100 seeds cost less than buying a pack of 6 vegetable plants. If you purchase seeds from an online seed house, try to pay close attention to the plant hardiness zones each vegetable is best suited for. Most seed houses will list this information. Most garden centers will purchase seeds for resale from local seed growers. Buying these seeds is a good idea because if the seeds were harvested in your area, you know they will do well in your garden.
#7 – Green house.
Not needed immediately, this will save you a ton of cash by starting your own plants instead of buying them. Buying vegetable plants is the next biggest expense to garden equipment. I still have not build my greenhouse and because of this, my vegetable plants cost me over $200.00 per year.
#8 – Water source to cover the demand.
A large vegetable garden requires a large amount of water. Rural homes , where most large gardens are found, usually do not have a municipal water source. They have their own wells and pumping equipment that run at much lower pressures. Imagine watering a garden 5 times the size of a urban one with half the water pressure a municipal water source supplies. Trust me, it’s not fun. With a little creativity, this task can be made easier. I know people that have drilled a separate well just for the garden which is a very big cost (about $5000 in my area). A cheaper way is to make your own driven point well or sand point. I am planning on burying a 500 gal. tank in the ground near my garden and collecting the rain water run off from my house and garage.
#9 -Lots of soaker hose.
Using soaker hoses makes water use very water efficient buy soaking the area of the plant near the roots and not the paths between rows. This also keeps the weeds down since they will not receive any supplemental water. My rows are 50 feet long, so I run one length of 50 foot hose down each row attached to a manifold with shut offs for each hose. With my low water pressure, the hoses don’t work too good when hooked up in series. The first 2 hoses work but after that, there is not enough pressure to fill the rest of them. So with the manifold, I only open 2 valves at a time for an hour and then switch to the next 2.
#10 – Hoe.
Needed to weed around your vegetable plants. You cannot get close enough with a tiller without damaging the plants and their roots. If you are raising your rows like raised beds, which helps warm the soil better and improves drainage, the hoe works well to mound the soil with.
#11 – Shovels.
There are many different types of shovels and they come in many different styles. The most common is the spade shovel. Very useful for spreading mulch, compost, and any other organic materials. Also useful to dig out long rooting grass that may find its way into your garden. With time, you will learn different tricks and find you may need a variety of special shovels for your choice of plants.
#12 – Pitch fork.
Useful for spreading straw between rows, harvesting root vegetables, and loosening soil around plants without damaging their roots. Sticking the pitchfork in the ground can help support a stuffed owl to scare away rodents or to support a scarecrow.
#13 – Wheel barrow.
This is a definite must have! Saves your back and a lot of time running back and forth. Use it for hauling organic material, plants, tools, harvested vegetables for washing, and any other hauling you need to do. If you are going to make any garden projects made with cement, you can mix your own in the wheel barrow and is very easy to pour it too.
#14 – Garden wagon.
Not a necessity,but if you don’t have a wheel barrow, this is an alternative. One handy feature of some of the garden wagons on the market is the bench. Some have sides that fold down or a piece that can be placed so you can sit as you work. You can roll the wagon with your feet down the rows while sitting too. A wagon is handier than a wheel barrow for hauling plants because of its flat surface.
#15 – Gel knee pads.
If you are going to be kneeing down a lot picking weeds of planting for long periods of time, a quality pair of gel knee pads will save your knees for many years to come. I find the cheaper ones sometimes don’t make one season.
#16 – Garden hat.
A wide rim garden hat is a good investment. Whether you think they make you look stupid or not, you’ll appreciate it during the extreme heat of summer when the sun is at its strongest. Trust me! Heat stroke is not fun.
#17 – Compost bin.
Having a compost bin is a good idea for making great organic material for your garden. It helps make soil healthy but adding much needed nutrients, helps retain moisture, and is great for soil aeration. Also saves on garbage. In certain area, it is against the law to throw out anything that can be composted. One place that enforces this law is the province of Prince Edward Island which is along the east coast of Canada.
Mulch is great to line the path ways between the rows and around the plants. You can use straw too. If you have a lot of trees on your property, rake them up in the fall and use them in the garden after you seed in the spring. If you have old newspapers laying around, lay it first before the mulch. DON’T USE PAPER OTHER THAN NEWS PRINT! Mulch helps keep out weeds, hold moisture in the soil,and keeps roots cool.
#19 – Cold storage space for canned and raw vegetables.
#20 – Mesh row covers.
These help block the heat of the sun for vegetables that grow better in cooler conditions such as lettuce and spinach.
#21 – Poly row covers.
Helps protect from frost in the early and late parts of the growing season. In Northern climates, freak frost can happen anytime of the summer but not usual. Covering with blankets and sheets,or running the sprinkler until the frost melts, are not practical methods of frost protection with a large vegetable garden.
#22 – Chicken wire fencing.
Chicken wire is great to fence of your garden to keep the critters out. I had a problem with deer this year, so I am going to build box frames covered with chicken wire and a lid to protect the vegetables deer love most. Some people build tomato cages with it too. It is also great for making appliances for vine type plants to climb.
#23 – Walk behind auto-seeder.
These seeders save lots of time and, if adjusted properly, places your seeds at the proper depth and space between seeds.
#24 – A quality pair of garden gloves.
These will save your hands from cuts and blisters. It is a good idea to use them if you are going to be playing with soil. Soil can harbor many unique bacteria that, in rare occasions, could cause serious problems with your health and even cause death.
#25 – Bug repellent.
A good idea to use since mosquitoes and flies can carry some not so desirable diseases.
#26 – Area with good exposure to the sun.
Nothing will grow in your garden without sun. Sometimes it is hard to find a spot with sunlight from sun up to sundown, so as long as you pick a spot with the most sun as possible, you should be okay. Partial sun will also suffice but certain plants will not perform as well. If you have to make a choice to put your garden in an area that gets either morning sun or evening sun, put it in the morning sun. This will help dry up dew off the plants so bugs can’t lay eggs and this will also help combat against certain diseases.
#27 – Hand held garden tools.
This is something I find to be a gardeners decision. I would recommend buying a set, which usually comes with 1 or 2 spades, a rake, and a weed extractor. Some kits are different. As you garden, when you see a unique hand held garden tool, you’ll know if it would be useful to you. A good brand name is Fiskars.
#28 – A gardeners apron or a carpenter’s tool belt.
This is great for carrying around your hand held tools. Your tools are kept close to you so you spend more time working in the garden than search around trying to figure out where you last used that tool you need right now.
#29 – A gardeners journal.
By documenting everything about the garden each year, your garden will keep getting better as the years pass. If you forget have to grow something, just consult with your journal. You can keep track of so many things that after a few years you have just created your gardens owners manual. You can do a search online for “gardener’s journal” for ideas of what to keep track of. They can be bought with printed forms and graph paper for designing, all in a fancy binder or bound in a hard cover. You can aslo make your own on paper or in an office productivity software suite.
#30 – Enough water hose to reach the garden.
The heading says it all!
#31 – Electricity nearby.
This is very handy for using tools to build structures, a water pump for watering plants, or powered garden fixtures. Nice to plug in a boom box while working if you don’t like wearing headphones or ear buds hooked up to an mp3 player.
#32 – Canning equipment and supplies.
If you are creating a large garden, more than likely, you will be storing harvested vegetables for use all winter long. Most vegetables need to be canned so they don’t spoil.
#33 – Storage system for root vegetable storage in cold storage space.
An example that works very well is using the stackable recycle bins with the top front opening. This way, you can access your vegetables without having to lift another bin off the top of the one you want. They also take up a small foot print.