Vegetable Gardening 101

Looking to start your own vegetable garden in your backyard this spring? Read on for some helpful gardening tips!

Just this week, the Office of Health Advancement staff started their vegetable garden! By the end of this summer, we will have carrots, beets, corn, squash, tomatoes, and more ready to donate to the Bounty of the Bridgers! BoB is MSU’s food pantry that supports students, and it’s currently located in the basement of the OHA. Any MSU student,  faculty, staff, or family member can use the pantry services.

Hours and location of MSU’s food pantry.

How did we get this garden started? If you’re looking to start your own garden, read on for some great tips that we used.

Tip #1: Find out what your growing season is and when you should begin your garden.

Bozeman is a pretty cold place (remember that -30 degree weather this last February?!?). That means that you’ll have to plant in late May and early June to make sure you miss the last frost and keep your plants warm in the soil. Bozeman also has a pretty short growing season (116 days) compared to more southern places. This means that you may need to buy faster growing veggies and plants to make sure your garden thrives and you’ll have an opportunity to harvest everything. With some things, especially tomatoes, peppers, and some onions, you should start them indoors weeks before you start your garden so that you can transplant them into your garden outside.

Tip #2: Determine if you want to plant your seeds directly into the ground, into raised beds, or in containers.

There are pros and cons to each choice, but you’ll want to know what type of garden will work best for your vegetables. If your ground and garden plot has plenty of sun and good soil, it may be easiest to plant your seeds directly into the ground. If you decide to make your own custom raised bed, it requires more work and assembling, but the growing environment may be more optimal. If you are limited on space (aka many MSU students who are renting apartments, houses, etc.) planting in containers and pots may be your answer! Container gardens are easier to keep weed free, but may need special attention when it comes to fertilizing and watering.

Tip #3: Research companionship gardening.

Some plants thrive with each other and others may die if planted next to the wrong thing. For example, potatoes are impacted negatively by a long list of veggies and may harm other plants so it is easiest to plant them in separate containers. To get the most out of your garden and to ensure that your plants will help each other grow, do your research to find out what works best.

Tip #4: Create a gardening outline to make a rough sketch of where you want to plant everything.

Once I researched the companionship gardening, I used the website Floorplanner to help me create an outline of what I thought the OHA garden might look like when we planted everything. It came in handy to have an outline of what the garden should be planted like, and we used it when placing seeds.

Tip #5: Measure your garden space to ensure you have enough square footage to plant all of your vegetables.

Another important part of the gardening outline is making sure you have enough space to plant all of the vegetables that you want to grow. Myself and another intern went out to the garden spaces to make sure there would be ample room to plant all of the vegetables and seeds we had bought.

Tip #6: Use something like weed block to cover your dirt and prevent excess weeds from growing.

When the day of planting came, we decided to use weed block to prevent a lot of weeds from growing in the garden. Weed block is basically a tarp that prevents weeds from growing up through it. You can also use spray bottles full of vinegar as an organic and non-chemical alternative to kill weeds that sprout up.

Tip #7: Come up with a watering system

Luckily, the OHA has already established an automatic watering system, so we don’t have to spend as much time hand watering. If you are planning on a smaller scale garden, then watering by hand may be your best choice. There are also ways to do drip irrigation and use a soaker hose so your plants are watered. You’ll want to make sure your garden receives at least an inch per week and do it in the morning so your plant gets ample water.

Tip #8: Have fun!

If this is your first time gardening, remember that it’s okay to make mistakes! So maybe you accidentally planted the beets too close together or the beans too far apart, but chances are they will still grow and you can thin the plants as you need! Growing your own vegetables is a great way to grow closer to the earth, learn a new hobby, and a rewarding accomplishment when it comes to harvest everything you planted!

Photo Credits: WordPress

Author Credits: Natalee Wheeler

*Note: this doesn’t cover every single detail of gardening so check out helpful websites like https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/vegetable-gardening/5069.html and https://www.ufseeds.com/learning/planting-schedules/montana-vegetable-planting-calendar/ and https://www.planetnatural.com/category/gardening/vegetable/ to help you in your gardening journey!

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