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So, You Wanna Grow Tomatoes, Huh? -- Part Two

I reckon if you've made it this far, then you must be ready to get your hands dirty and start growing your very own vegetables. Well, I applaud you for taking this first step, but let me tell you, growing veggies ain't no piece of cake. But, not to worry: we're here to guide you every step of the way.

Let's start with the basics.


Now, let's talk tools. You don't need anything fancy to get started, but here's what I like to have on hand:

  • A good pair of gloves to protect your hands from thorns and insects,

  • A trowel for digging and planting,

  • A hoe for weeding,

  • And some pruners for trimming excess growth.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but we do recommend you have what we'd call "The Basics." If you don't have these items already, you can easily get all these at your local home and garden center or online.

The Plot:

It doesn't matter if you live in a city apartment or a rural farmhouse, you can grow your own vegetables. The first thing you need to do is choose a suitable plot of land, or figure out where you want to have your garden. You may choose a raised bed style, or use large flower pots for your veggies, or you might go the old fashioned way and go straight into the ground with your seeds/seedlings. Just make sure your location gets plenty of sunlight (at least 6 to 8 hours a day) and has good drainage.

Once you've found your plot, it's time to get your hands dirty. First off, you need to remove any unwanted grass, weeds, and other vegetation from the site. You can do this by using a shovel or a garden hoe. Just make sure you get rid of all the roots too or they will grow back and compete with your vegetables for nutrients.

Then, you're going to want to work that soil. You can either till the soil manually or use a rototiller. Just make sure you loosen the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. Once the soil is all loose and fluffy, it's time to add some organic matter like compost or manure. This will help improve the soil's fertility and texture. Once you've added your organic matter, it's time to test the pH level of your soil. Most vegetables prefer a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. You can purchase a simple soil test kit at your local gardening store. If your pH level is too low, you will need to add some lime to the soil. If it's too high, you will need to add sulfur.

What To Plant:

At some point you've been asking yourself "what should I grow?" Just remember that not all plants are created equal. Some are easier to grow than others, so if you're a first-timer, start with something simple like tomatoes or cucumbers. You can also get some advice from your local nursery or garden center on what grows well in your area.

Just like teenage sisters growing up in the same house, not all of your "garden variety" vegetables get along well with each other. In that spirit, we put together a chart of sorts that can serve as a guide on what to plant together (companion plants) and what plants to avoid planting together.

Alright, now it's time to get busy planting those veggies. You can either plant seeds or seedlings. If you're planting seeds, make sure you follow the instructions on the packet. Some seeds need to be sown directly into the soil, while others need to be started indoors and transplanted later. Here at The Outpost, we always start early by getting our seedlings started indoors, and go through a couple of stages of "up-potting" the new sprouts until they have grown enough and the weather is safe enough to move them to their permenant beds.

If you're planting seedlings, make sure you plant them deep enough so that their cotyledons (the first two leaves) are just above the soil's surface. You can also add some organic fertilizer at this stage to give your seedlings a head start.

(Accidently learned a new vocabulary word, didn't you?)

Once your plants are in the ground, go ahead and water them. Make sure you give them a good soaking, but don't water them too much or they will drown. Keep in mind, most of your vegetable garden plants would much rather be watered in the soil, as opposed to watering from the top down. Obviously the leaves and buds will get wet when it rains, but as a rule, when you water your plants, water only the soil. You should water them every couple of days, or when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Well, there you have it folks: A quick and dirty guide to getting that vegetable garden started. It might seem like a lot of work at first, but trust me, the rewards are worth it. There ain't nothing like eating a tomato you've grown yourself. Go on now, get out there and start gardening. Just remember, green thumbs aren't born, they're made. Happy gardening y'all!

In our next post we'll cover the following topics:

  • Setting Realistic Expectations

  • Understanding Climate and Growing Seasons

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