Vegetable gardening continues to rise in popularity -- more and more people are deciding to grow their own produce for a fresh supply of food to feed their family. Gardening has many advantages, and can be a great family activity, but it can present challenges.
Sometimes, even the most seasoned gardener can encounter problems when trying to grow a vegetable garden. The following tips can help make any garden more productive.
1. Full sun location
Most vegetable plants need at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight daily in order to be healthy and have vigorous growth. The sunlight is used to power processes within the plant (Scitable explains photosynthesis in an easy to understand way) that create food for the plant to use. If there isn't enough sun, it can't create the sugars it needs.
2. Add compost to soil
Having good quality soil to start with is one of the key aspects to productive vegetable gardening. Before planing work finished compost into the soil to improve drainage and aeration, and provide organic matter that will break down and release nutrients over time.
3. Plant at the right time
Based upon the growing period of plants, some need to be planted at different times. Plants with longer growing seasons will need to be either started as seeds inside the house, or purchase
4. Space plants properly
Plant spacing guidelines are listed on seed packets or plant tags (if purchasing seedlings in containers). These recommendations should be followed closely. They have been established based on the size of mature plants and how much soil the root system needs to access enough nutrients and moisture.
5. Mulch around plants
To help retain soil moisture and reduce weed seed germination, add 2-3" of mulch on the soil surface around plants, keeping it away from the stems. Veggie Gardener talks about the different types of mulches and what choices are best to use in your garden.
6. Keep plants watered
Water stress quickly causes negative impacts on plants. Make sure plants are watered well and the soil is not allowed to dry out between waterings. If possible, install soaker hoses or an automated drip irrigation system around plants.
7. Remove weeds
Weeds will compete with plants for nutrients and water. They can also encourage insect pest infestations. Keep the soil around your veggie plants free of weeds by either removing them by hand or using a garden tool such as a hand cultivator or hoe.
8. Scout for pests
Pests can quickly come into a garden and cause major problems. They can eat plant tissue, weaken root systems, or worst case can kill plants entirely. Scout your garden regularly to check for pest problems and treat immediately when an infestation is found.
As plants grow, they continuously pull nutrients from the soil into their roots to use within their cells. Over time they can deplete these nutrient reserves and can experience deficiency symptoms. Fertilizer plants regularly using a plant food product of you choice; follow label directions for the best results.