If you’re planning a veggie garden this year, and have yet to plant, now is the time! Especially if you live somewhere with a short growing season. Growing a vegetable garden can be so rewarding, but it can also be a source of disappointment. One thing to remember is it’s a process, learning what you like to grow, and what will grow well in your yard. Be willing to take some losses, and enjoy your successes. Since we’re lucky enough to be able to walk into a store and buy fresh product whenever we want, a failed plant is not a matter of life or death. Buy it sure is cool to nurture something to growth, and reap the tasty benefits!
Here are a few vegetable gardening tips for the beginning gardener.
- At this point in the year, it’s best to plant starts (plants that have already sprouted out of soil) if you want a longer harvest time during the growing season.
- Think about how much produce you actually want to harvest, and plant accordingly. One cucumber vine can produce A LOT of cucumbers, but one carrot seed produces, you guessed it, one carrot.
- Plant more veggies you can freeze or can for use over winter. Tomatoes, especially cherry, are great for this. I freeze cherry tomatoes every year, and than toss them into sauces, soups, and stir-fries all winter and spring long. They taste a ton better than than canned tomatoes from the store!
Looking forward to this purple cauliflower doing it’s thing.
- For plants in pots regular old potting mix will do fine, unless you have your sites set on an organic garden. Most potting mixes have fertilizers incorporated in and not all fall under the organic category. If you’re not sure, just ask for help from someone at the store you’re shopping. They’re likely to have some potting soil suitable for an organic garden.
- Consider mixing some compost in with your potting soil to give your plants an extra boost. You can buy compost at the same store as the soil. If you’re planting in the ground, throwing some compost in the bottom of the hole prior to planting, then layering some around the plant on the ground, will help.
- When planting in ground, be sure the plant will be happy in the type of soil you have, and if not, treat the soil. You can add sand to hard-packed, clay like soil to help it drain better. And if your soil is too sandy? You can mix in straight dirt, or just plant in a pot.
- Over or under watering can quickly become the demise of any garden, so be sure to do neither.
- For watering guidance on a plant, usually the package it comes in will say how much water it likes. Moist soil does not equal constantly soaked soil. During hot months, watering once a day is enough. And if the weather is cool, every other day or more might be better for the plants.
- If you’re under watering, your plants will be limp, and just look like they need a drink. Over watering can cause yellow spots on leaves, and leaves will start to die off.
Go little pepper, go!
- Just like us, plants need food. The potting mix you use to plant will likely have some fertilizer in it. You can give your veggies an extra boost by giving them a feeding when first planted, and again every month through the growing season.
- Look for organic fertilizers at a local garden store or nursery. They might produce their own product, perfect for your area. Follow instructions on how to apply.
- Remember, all fertilizers are not created equal. Be sure to make sure it’s safe before you use it on a favorite houseplant. Outdoor fertilizers are stronger, and can overwhelm a delicate plant.
- Unfortunately, bugs happen. But there are some things you can plant within your garden to try and deter bugs. Things like chives and garlic repel beetles and snails. Nasturtium and petunias repel aphids, and make a beautiful addition to any garden. And catnip can keep aphids, beetles, squashbugs, and ants away, plus keep the kitties happy. Here’s a list of pest repelling plants.
- If you start to see a few too many pests hanging out on your plant, it might be time to call in the big guns. There are plenty of insecticides out there, including organic ones so you don’t douse your edible plants in chemicals. You can even make your own. Sometimes you can just use water to spray off bugs, but you really have to stay on top of it. I’ve not had much success with this method.
- Sometimes, you just have to give a plant up if it’s too infested. I always have issues with aphids on cruciferous veggies, like kale, cabbage, and broccoli. I’ve had to pull out many a plant and just toss it in the trash, because the aphids took over. And when they do, it happens fast, so it’s good to check plants on a daily basis for these pests, and catch them early.
Chives are tasty, beautiful, and add natural pest control.
- Reaping the benefits of your garden is one of the most enjoyable parts! If you’ve not harvested a certain plant before, you should keep track of when you planted it.
- If you started from seed, the packet should tell you how many days it takes the plant to reach maturity. Even a lot of plant start labels should give you that information. Keeping these labels, or keeping a planting schedule on a calendar or in a notebook can help you figure out when something should be harvested.
- When all else fails, harvest part and give it a taste. If you planted a row of carrots, pull one up and try it. Same with radishes and beets. You can also dig down a bit to check the tops of these veggies, to see if the color is correct and how big the circumference is. With things like tomatoes, you should be able to give them a gentle squeeze to see if they are ripe (plus the color should clue you off). Greens can be harvested at any time. If they are little, you’re just eating baby greens. Melons can be a bit harder to guestimate, and you might have to sacrifice one to the gardening gods to check on their progress.
It may take you a few years to really figure out your garden space, and what you like, and don’t like, growing, so give it time. And most importantly, enjoy it!