Vegetable Garden Basics: Sun and Soil

Is it too early to start thinking about your 2015 vegetable garden? Not at all!! Many gardeners like to buy seed in the depths of winter — to keep their hopes up — and now is a great time to think about where you will be putting any new garden beds.

Tomatoes are among the vegetables that need the most sun.

Tomatoes are among the vegetables that need the most sun.

For the next several weeks, we’ll be running regular posts about vegetable garden basics. This information will help both beginner gardeners and experienced gardeners to have the best vegetable garden possible in the season ahead.

Two of the basic components for any vegetable garden are sun and soil. While some vegetables can be grown in a shadier situation, most require at least six and preferably eight hours of sunlight. Greens, such as lettuce, for instance, can get by with less sun but other vegetables — tomatoes or corn, for example — definitely need six to eight hours of sun.

Consider how much sun your intended garden space gets each day and when. Not all sun is equal. A garden that is sunny early in the day and late in the day, but shady in the middle of the day might have the requisite number of hours of sun but not actually be a great place to put sun-loving veggies. The most intense hours of sunlight at between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Gardens with full sun during those four hours will grow well.

In this yard, the best spot for vegetables was next to the driveway.

In this yard, the best spot for vegetables was next to the driveway.

Soil is another consideration. The ideal vegetable mix  drains well and has a high level of organic material in it. If you are using raised beds for your vegetables, fill them with a rich, well-drained mixture (you can buy this from nurseries and garden centers) and lots of compost. if you are growing vegetables in the ground, consider having a soil test done by the University of Minnesota. A soil test will tell you what kinds of amendments and nutrients you may need to add. Typically, vegetables gardens benefit from additional compost or well-rotted manure to provide all the nitrogen needed to grow vegetables. If your garden was formerly lawn, you may want to try the lasagna method of creating a vegetable bed or follow these recommendations from the U for creating healthy soil for vegetables.

Are you getting excited for this year’s garden season? What vegetables will you be growing?