Growing and harvesting your own vegetables is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Not only does vegetables gardening let you enjoy nature, but if done properly, it can also save you money. In order to ensure proper planting, just follow these simple steps:
Planning your vegetable garden
The site location is of utmost importance. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day in order to mature properly. No amount of fertilizer, water or care can replace needed sunshine. Another factor to consider when planning your vegetable garden is making sure plants will be protected from any heavy winds. Not only will wind dry out the plants faster but it could also blow them over, causing disarray throughout your garden. Also, if planting a garden near a wooded area, keep in mind that your are running the risk of rodent pests, groundhogs, deer, etc. feeding on your vegetables.
Preparing the soil
Fertile, well-drained soil is key to having a successful garden. One way to tell if the soil is draining properly is the absence of large puddles after watering or a heavy rain. Soil high in organic matter (compost, well rotted manure) will ensure good drainage and improve the availability of nutrients to the plants. Test your soil for nutrient content and add amendments as needed such as a good shrimp/seaweed compost or a product like Espoma Vegetable-Tone. Tilling the soil in late fall will allow for earlier spring planting.
Planting your vegetables
A useful step to take when planting your vegetables is to draw out a map of where they will be located. It is important to consider when each vegetable matures so that you can have a continuous harvest from spring through fall. When planting your vegetables, depth and spacing are critical to success. Each plant has different requirements for planting depth and you need to make sure each individual plant will have enough room to produce a healthy crop when fully mature.
Cool Season Crops
This refers to crops that can be planted as soon as your garden bed is prepared such as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, snap peas, Brussels sprouts, onion sets, potato sets, collard greens and spinach.
Warm Season Crops
These types of crops include tomatoes, eggplants and peppers and should be started indoors before transplanting to the garden. Transplanting should take place when the danger of frost has subsided (mid to late-May).
Cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelons are tender crops which can be seeded earlier by putting hot caps over the soil to create the proper environment. Hot caps are structures typically made from glass or plastic which concentrate the sun’s heat in specific places, creating a greenhouse-like environment for seeds to germinate. Leave the hot caps on until the plants are growing vigorously.
Pests and Diseases
Most common pest and disease afflictions to garden plants can be prevented by healthy soil, choosing hardy plant varieties according to environment and keeping the garden free of weeds and debris. Insect pests which specifically affect vegetables include tomato hornworms, Colorado potato beetles, cabbage worms and grubs. In the event of infestation, an organic solution (Bon-Neem, milky spore for grubs) is advised. If using chemical insecticides, seek professional advice.
Vegetable plant diseases include blossom end rot, anthracnose, blights, mildews, viruses and wilt. These can all be solved by natural means such as crop rotation, better air circulation, drainage, organic fungicides and planting resistant varieties. Healthy, well-maintained plants will be better prepared to ward off such diseases and fungi.