So you're wondering how to start a vegetable or kitchen garden? Not to worry. Our seven-video series, "How to Start a Vegetable Garden," will help you get your first veggie venture off to a good start. We’ll cover the basics: choosing a location, preparing the soil, building raised beds, starting your seedlings, and planting your garden.
7. Planting Out
Planting out is simple, but there's more to it than just digging a hole and tossing the plants in the ground. Here are some steps you can take to ensure healthy, hearty plants.
Step 1: Harden off your seedlings
If you're planting homegrown seedlings, you'll need to make sure your plants are hardened off. Hardening off is the process of acclimating your plants to the harsh conditions of the outdoors--getting them used to the heat, cold, wind, and sun.
Put your seedlings outdoors in a protected location for an hour a day for about a week. Gradually increase their exposure until your young plants have adapted to the temperature fluctuations that they'll face outdoors. If you have plants from a nursery, always make sure to ask if they've been hardened off before you plant them.
Step 2: Dig a hole
Your hole should be as deep as the plant is in its container, and at least twice as wide. Digging a wide hole helps with soil aeration and ensures that the plant's roots will be able to spread.
Step 3: Tease the roots
If your plant is in a peat pot, first peel away the peat. Peat takes too long to break down and wicks moisture away from the plant's roots. If your plant is in any other kind of container, just pop the plant out of it. Use your fingers to loosen up the plant's roots (don' t be afraid to rough them up a little), especially if they are very dense or the plant looks rootbound.
Step 4: Put the plant in the ground
Place your plant in the ground at the same level it was in the pot. Then backfill around the plant. Push it snugly into the ground, but don't compact the soil too much.
Step 5: Water
Watering gets your plants off to a good start and helps to remove air pockets from the soil. Don't be alarmed if your wilts and looks miserable for a while. Plant go through transplant shock. It's normal, and watering well will help them settle in nicely.
Step 6: Mulch
Many people prefer straw for the vegetable garden because it breaks down quickly and can be cultivated into your beds at the end of the season, but any organic material will do. Hay should be avoided as it incorporates the seed pod at the top of the grass stalk, which means you'll have even more weeds to contend with.
Pile mulch around your plants 2 to 3 inches deep and keep it away from the crown of the plants so you don't suffocate them.
See more videos in this series:
1. Selecting a Site
2. Testing Your Soil
3. Removing Sod and Vegetation
4. Building Raised Beds
5. Starting Seeds Indoors
6. Direct Sowing Vegetable Seeds
7. Planting Out