Let Love Grow: Vegetable Gardening Tips
Although I absolutely adore growing my own cut flowers and playing with them, I have to admit vegetable gardening is my first true (gardening) love. My husband and I decided to do our very first vegetable garden together right after we got married and we have both been hooked every since, expanding our garden more and more with each passing year.
Last year, we also had our very first fall garden and it was a huge success for us. While I know I don't have all the answers when it comes to gardening (I'm certainly not a pro!), I do know what does and doesn't work for us and our little garden!
Here are a few vegetable gardening tips we try to keep in mind when we notice our garden isn't performing as well as we'd like it to.
A little TLC goes a long way
You certainly don't need to check up on your garden multiple times a day - or even once a day! But checking in a few times a week will help keep weeds and pests at bay and ensure your garden is getting plenty of nutrients and water. If you plan to pull weeds, get rid of rotting vegetables and leaves, and water your garden a few times a week, for just a few minutes each time, you'll likely have more success with a lush garden full of vegetables come midsummer!
Follow your instincts
Pay attention to the overall look and feel when you check on your garden. Does something not "feel" right? Take a closer look and make sure there are no holes in the soil that could be new homes for rodents. Does one plant seem to be struggling to stay alive? Determine whether it's because it's too shaded (potentially from other larger plants that are blocking the sun), not getting enough water (is the soil around it too dry?), getting too much water (do the roots and/or bottom stems seem very wet and fragile?), not getting enough nutrients (are weeds growing around the source of that plant?), or maybe just a plant that struggled to survive! Once you're able to get to the root of the problem (ahem, no pun intended...), you'll know how to best help the plant survive and hopefully thrive!
Get familiar with the vegetables you're planting and how they grow
Before you plant too many vegetables, make sure you're familiar with how they'll grow. They may seem very small now, but believe me, in a month or two they are going to be huge! Keep this in mind when planting. For instance, tomato plants will likely need to be staked, so make sure your prepared to stake them properly. You'll also want to make sure the large, staked tomato plants won't be blocking the sun for other plants down the road. If you're planting crawlers (like squash, cucumbers, or pumpkins), I know they look very small and easy to manage right now, but make sure they have plenty of room to crawl once they start to grow. This also means you'll want to make sure there are no plants in the area where they will be crawling. As they grow, you can "train" them to crawl in a certain area with a little bit of care and help, so if you plant around one side of them, you can train them to crawl the other way. If you're planting broccoli or kale, or other leafy greens, make sure there's a large enough circle around them that they won't block other plants from the sun and water.
Mix it up with flowers
It's a great idea to mix up your vegetable garden with a few flowers - either in the bed itself or in surrounding areas in the soil or pots. Flowers are great for attracting bees, which will help pollinate many of your vegetables. Chrysanthemums, dahlias, sunflowers, and marigolds are great for repelling insects and will hopefully keep pests at bay on your plant leaves. You may also want to consider mixing herbs in your vegetable garden as well. Many herbs, like lavender and basil, will also help guard against flies and bugs.
Water in the early morning
If possible, try to water your garden before it gets too hot in the morning. This will help ensure your plants receive most of the water before it evaporates off from the sun. If mornings are difficult, you can also water them after the sun sets in that area. The idea here is just to make sure your plants are getting all the water - not the air.
Frost might make your vegetables taste better
Many leafy greens really enjoy the colder temperatures, and actually end up tasting better after a frost has covered them. This is not to say they won't be wonderful to grow in the summer, but it may be a good option for testing out a fall garden full of bright leafy greens! Try them out both in a spring/summer garden as well as a fall garden when frost will be hitting them and see which one you prefer!