Tips For Starting A Vegetable Garden In Tennessee
Have you been thinking about starting your own vegetable garden at home?
Whether you want a container garden on your balcony in downtown Nashville or turn your 3 acres into a veritable, verdant, and varied tapestry of vegetables, here are some tips to start small when you want to add a vegetable garden to your home.
Read our comprehensive guide for starting a vegetable garden in Tennessee.
Start Small & Simple
Starting with a small garden and simple plants that grow easily lets you get the hang of gardening if this is your first time. Perhaps start with a few potted plants that you grow from seedlings. Keep them on your porch in the right conditions to see how they do.
Maintain a close watch on the plants at least every couple of days to see their progress. If anything looks out of joint, make sure to research what the problem could be with your specific type of plant.
The easiest container plants for growing vegetables in Tennessee are:
- Green onions
Some of these plants take just a few months to grow. Others may take a season. Some, like lettuce, parsley, and radishes, have smaller plants versus tomatoes that may develop into much larger vines that need more time to ripen.
Pole beans (like green beans) and cucumbers also perform well in container gardens. However, they do require much more space than the other plants because they expand much greater as they grow along their vines.
Types of Gardens
You have several choices when starting a vegetable garden in Tennessee. It depends on how much space you have and how much effort you want to put into this endeavor.
A container garden is the absolute easiest way to start a vegetable garden in Tennessee. Depending on how much space you have, you can plant vegetables in cans, buckets, boxes, barrels, or specially designed kits you can buy at your local garden center.
Container gardening allows you to grow healthy vegetables on your patio, deck, porch, or balcony without a lot of shoveling or earth-moving.
Raised Bed Garden
If you’re a little more ambitious and have more space in your yard, consider a raised bed garden. The advantages of a raised bed garden are that you can control what is or is not in the soil. Planting vegetables directly in the ground can leave them vulnerable to grubs, insects, and moles. A raised bed garden gives your vegetables plenty of soil, air, water, and sun without the ravages of what’s underground gnawing at the roots, including bugs and weeds.
Make a raised bed garden using wood planks and concrete cinder blocks coupled with topsoil.
Construct the rectangular box using your wood and nails. Make the container deep enough to hold enough soil. Then raise the bed onto the cinder blocks to provide enough support for the planks.
For more information on a raised bed garden, read the Old Farmers’ Almanac guide.
Traditional Row Garden
A conventional row garden is what you typically see on several acres of property. You see neatly lined rows of vegetables sprouting up from the ground, and everything looks lush and green. Farmers can easily walk between rows and rows of plants.
Row gardens require the most space, so this type is very good if you have a lot of green space in your yard you want to fill with vegetables. Prepare to mark up your yard with a tiller, line out the rows, and decide what to plant and where. Row gardens require the most maintenance in terms of weeds and underground bugs as well as any furry animals (like rabbits or even deer).
The main advantage of row gardens is that the plants have plenty of soil in which to spread out their roots.
Greenhouse gardens are the most complicated (and most expensive) to run. However, they give you complete control over the humidity, moisture, and insects that come in contact with your plants. Greenhouses may also limit the types of plants you can grow. Vegetables are fairly easy to produce. But if you want to expand to fruit trees at some point in the future, you may need to change tactics away from a greenhouse.
The main advantage of a greenhouse is that you can grow plants year-round because the indoor temperature stays toasty warm due to the sunlight and you can protect plants from the cold due to heaters.
Tennessee’s Hardiness Zone
The U.S. Department of Agriculture showcases a hardiness zone map of the lower 48 states of the United States, which shows the zones by the lowest average temperature it may get during a growing season. The map highlights the climate that each area is in and the plants that may thrive there.
Tennessee is in hardiness zones 6a and 6b, which means temperatures can get down to 0 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit in the coldest part of winter. When selecting plants for starting your vegetable garden in Tennessee, find plants that will grow in Hardiness Zone 6.
Typically when picking out seeds or plants from a nursery, it will have a label on it that highlights a range of hardiness zones, such as “zones 4 through 10.” Zone 1 is the coldest zone, up north in Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine. Zone 13 is the warmest, which is around the southern tip of Florida around Miami and around San Diego, California.
Pick Your Plants
Now it’s time to pick the plants you want to grow when starting your vegetable garden in Tennessee. You have several options for easy-to-grow plants. Even though you may pick tomatoes, there are more than 10,000 varieties you can choose from! There are different sizes too, like grape and cherry tomatoes all the way up to slicing tomatoes. The same is true with lettuce, beans, and even parsley. There are so many varieties of vegetables to grow, make sure you research what kinds you want to plan in your garden.
Find a seed or plant supplier. You can begin with seeds when starting a vegetable garden in Tennessee, but we recommend going with seedlings already started by your local nursery. That way, you can monitor the progress of your vegetables more readily because you see the plants in the container already, and they are relatively easy to transplant to a bigger container.
For tomatoes in Tennessee, it’s important to pick ones that have good head tolerance. They also don’t need a ton of water, so you can plant them in soil that drains well to prevent fungal infections when there is a lot of rain in the late spring and early summer. Consider removing lower branches on the plants so fungi from the soil don’t start to creep onto branches and spread to the rest of the plant.
Consult with Master Gardeners
Feel free to consult with master gardeners for practical tips for starting your vegetable garden in Tennessee. The Tennessee Extension has a list of master gardeners, who are volunteers, associated with the program. They are available to consult with for horticulture education, tips, and tricks for growing vegetables in Tennessee. Best of all, master gardeners have grown their own plants and have veritable knowledge gained from years or even decades of experience.
Timing of Vegetable Gardens in Tennessee
Some vegetables do better when planted in the cooler months of early spring. Lettuce and broccoli do well when started in mid-April because they need to mature before the summer heat sets in and starts to remove moisture from the plants.
Late-spring and early summer plants for Tennessee include cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn. Summer plantings for fall harvesting range from cabbage and cauliflower to kale and turnips.
Take into consideration the amount of sun each type of plant needs. This may determine the location of your vegetable garden in Tennessee.
For example, tomatoes and peppers need six to eight hours of sunlight per day to grow properly, which means full sun. Leafy vegetables like cabbage and kale thrive in partial shade. Root vegetables like carrots and turnips need moderate amounts of sun.
Watering your plants is important, especially when it gets hot and dry during late summer. Soil should be damp for seeds and seedlings, but not soaked. Soaking young plants can destroy their root development because they need the right amount of air in the soil to breathe properly.
Too much water can attract harmful insects as well as fungus, mold, and mildew that can cover plants and eat away at them.
Soil & Fertilizer
Before planting, consider testing the soil to determine the right acidity or alkalinity as well as the nutrients found in the soil. Some vegetables require a more acidic soil to thrive in, while others need soil that is more alkaline.
All plants need three basic nutrients: Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). You’ll probably see the N-P-K ratio on bags of fertilizer that you purchase from the store. Each type of plant may have different nutritional requirements. Testing your soil and then mixing in fertilizer can help you get the right nutrients for starting your vegetable garden in Tennessee. Seeds and young plants may require different levels of nutrients when they first start out versus mature plants, so be mindful of that.
The information you receive with seeds and seedlings should tell you what soil conditions and nutrients your chosen vegetables require.
When your vegetable garden in Tennessee is outdoors, make sure to employ critter control methods to prevent animals from gnawing on them. For bugs, there are pesticides available to put on the leaves of plants. If you want to prevent rabbits, skunks, or deer from gnawing on your tasty vegetables, fencing is a good idea. Keeping out moles means a container garden or raised beds.
Make sure to let in good critters that help your plants. Earthworms aerate the soil for improved air circulation for the roots while leaving behind casings (worm poo) that help fertilize the soil for your vegetable garden. Ladybugs are popular beetles that thrive on eating aphids, nasty little insects that can destroy the leaves of your vegetables. Lady bugs are completely harmless to your garden. Having bees nearby will help to pollinate your garden as well as keep other flying insects away because bees are very territorial.
Attracting or repelling certain animals can come from non-food plants you grow around the outside of your vegetable garden. Certain flowers can attract bees and lady bugs, while other types of flowers can repel skunks and rabbits. Rows of shrubberies can keep out deer.
Keep a Journal and a Library
Maintain a journal from when you start your vegetable garden in Tennessee. That way, you can monitor the progress of your plants to see how they grow based on weather, sunlight, water, and soil conditions throughout the planting season.
Benefits of Starting a Vegetable Garden in Tennessee
When you decide to start a vegetable garden in Tennessee, you and your family can see several benefits.
Lower food bills. With inflation on the rise, you could lower your food bills with a home vegetable garden.
Healthier food to eat at home. Starting a vegetable garden in Tennessee gives you better control over what goes into your food, especially if you have concerns about pesticides and want a cheaper alternative to organic vegetables.
Fun with the kids. Have your children help with the garden as part of a school project, summer learning experience, or a homeschool lesson.
Share the bounty. Did you have a bumper crop this year? Share the bounty of your vegetables with friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They might be encouraged to start their own vegetable gardens because of your willingness to share with them!
Nashville Home Guru wants you to get the most out of starting your home vegetable garden in Tennessee.
If you are looking for a new home or want to sell your current property, contact us and we’ll talk!