1. Choose an area that's 10-feet-by-10-feet, one that gets at least 8 hours of sun daily in the growing season. Make sure you are committed to the project!!
2. To prepare the soil, remove any sod. Lay down several sheets of newspaper to block sun and kill the grass (hold it down with bricks or rocks), and then dig up the sod.
3. Use a spade or shovel to turn the soil over. This is necessary to break up big clods of mud that would interfere with seeds' ability to germinate. If you wish, you may also add some peat moss at this time, but when using ANY product whatsoever, ALWAYS follow the label directions to the letter.
4. Beginners typically plant lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, green peppers, egg plant, potatoes and zucchini. Avoid trying to plant sweet corn or watermelon, as you'd need much more room for them.
5. Use a broomstick or other long, straight item to mark rows, and use a hoe to open a trench for seeds. plant the seeds at the depth and distance indicated on the seed packet. Push soil from either side of the trench over the seeds, and tap into place firmly. Do not step on the soil.
6. For plants, dig a hole no deeper than the root ball of the plant, place the plant in the hole. Push the soil around the plant. Several inches all the way around the plant, create a circular "ridge" about one-inch tall that will leave the soil inside the circle a bit lower. This will create a "dish" or basin that will help keep moisture near the plant's root system.
7. For potatoes, find the "eye," which is the dimpled area, and be sure to plant this portion of the potato. It does not matter if the "eye" is planted up or down.
8. As the seed and plants grow, water gently but thoroughly, like a soaking rain.
You can find out more about starting a vegetable garden at the Morton Arboretum's Midwest Gardening Symposium from Friday, March 13 through Sunday March 15. You can attend just one day, or all 3. For information, visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630/719-2468.