Vegetable gardening is fun, but it can mean a lot of work. We’re well versed in what it takes to create a great vegetable garden so we’ve compiled a basic list of vegetable garden tips to help make your vegetable garden more fun and a little less work.
Many vegetables must be thinned to be productive. Thinning simply means removing seedlings so the remaining ones have room to grow. Carrots are number one on this list. No matter how careful you are when seeding, too many carrot plants will pop up. You should take the time to carefully pull the extras until each plant is about 2 inches apart. It’s the only way to get large, well-shaped carrots. Beets, radishes and any other small-seeded vegetable need this treatment as well. Garden thinning can be the difference between a great harvest or no harvest at all. If you allow your garden to grow on its own, your plants will crowd each other out preventing each to sufficient sunlight, water, and nutrients to be able to fully mature and yield a respectable volume of produce.
Leaf lettuce will benefit from a little shade in the heat of summer. Plant it in and among taller growing veggies. Certain flowers and herbs will benefit your garden by repelling harmful insects or by attracting pollinators and beneficial insects. Spread them around your vegetable garden for both their beauty and usefulness. It’s also a great way to have fresh cut flowers. The biodiversity will increase the overall health of your vegetable garden.
Pick Baby Veggies
Picking certain vegetables when they’re young you can greatly increase your garden production. Baby zucchini, eggplants, summer squash, carrots, beets, beans, onions, peas, and potatoes are all delicious lightly cooked, tender and full of flavor. The mother plants will produce even more as a response.
Feed the soil – not the plants
Focus on the health and fertility of the soil and everything else will follow, this is the #1 vegetable garden tip that we give to everyone that we speak to and its something we remind folks of as often as possible. This means adding any and all organic matter to your garden, keeping it thickly covered with weed seed-free mulch and providing adequate moisture to maintain soil health. So long as I maintain my soil with proper moisture levels and organic ‘food’, my garden will never need testing, pH adjustment or chemical additives.
Extending the season
Floating row cover is an almost magical fabric which comes in several thicknesses. It can extend your growing season by protecting plants from the cold of early spring and late summer. Depending on the weight of the fabric you choose and the plants to be protected, you can either lay it loosely directly on the plants or erect a frame with wire hoops and secure it with metal pins or stones. From two to ten degrees of frost protection will result depending on the thickness of the fabric. Lighter weight row covers can be left on days, weeks, or even the entire season since rainfall and most available light will penetrate to the crop below. The heaviest covers must be removed during the day or the plants will suffer from lack of sunlight.
Protecting your vegetables from pests
Row covers will also keep out certain undesirable insects and pests. I place row covers over basil plants when I put them in to prevent Japanese beetles from devouring one of their favorite foods. Make sure you put the covers on early before the pest arrives.
Grow in containers
If an in-ground garden is not an option for you, don’t despair, use containers. Make sure whatever receptacle you use is deep enough – 6 inches for lettuce, radishes, and most flowers, and a foot or more for carrots, celery, beans, peas and larger flowering plants. Fill the containers with half compost and half soil-less planting medium bought in bags. Mulch well to preserve moisture. Install timer-controlled drip irrigation or watch carefully to avoid drying out, especially on hot, sunny days.
We’ll continue building on these vegetable garden tips with future posts and continue to try and share great garden info to make your vegetable garden better with less work and more fun!