3. PLANT YOUR CROP
Using your garden map, it's time to choose your favorite produce and get it in the ground.
Select easy favorites. Plant the fruits, vegetables and herbs that your family likes to eat. Check with a local nursery for the best types―and times―to plant in your area. The plants in "Grow these easy veggies" (above, right) thrive in most areas of the United States.
Mark out spacing. Use identifying stakes to determine where plants will go, put in poles for climbing plants and establish the paths you planned in step 1. Keep smaller plants closer together to prevent overexposure to the sun and to help soil stay moist, but give larger plants such as tomatoes plenty of room to sprawl.
Sow seeds, plant seedlings. Some plants (lettuce, chard, radishes and carrots) can be started by seed and will reach maturity before the end of the season, even if you plant them late. Others, such as spinach, can be planted several times per season to yield more produce. Veggies with longer maturation periods (tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and cabbage) should be purchased as seedlings. Be sure to use a reliable dealer, and follow the planting instructions.
4. KEEP YOUR GARDEN HEALTHY
Now that you've planted your plot, it needs daily maintenance to stay moist and weed-free.
Just add water. Make sure the garden gets 1 to 2 inches of water each week. If it doesn't rain, use a hose, but let the water sink in deeply. Surface watering creates thirsty roots, which grow upward, destabilizing the plant. Watering in the morning is best (you lose less to evaporation), but the evening also works well―however, don't soak the garden too much, or you'd risk a slug infestation and rotted seedlings.
Think thin. Removing extra seedlings (thinning) might seem wasteful, but crowded plants don't thrive and are more susceptible to disease. When they begin to bump into each other, pull out the smaller plants. If yanking out a seedling would disturb the roots of its neighbors, cut it off at soil level instead.
Remove the bad. Pay attention to weeds at the seedling stage to prevent them from multiplying. Use a long-handled hoe (work shallowly to avoid injury to plant roots) or carefully pull out each weed, root intact, by hand.