Spring is here and we are all eager to get out of the house and into the dirt. Follow these five tips to build a thriving and successful vegetable garden.
1. Correct Tilling Times
One of the key components to cultivating healthy plants is healthy soil. Preparing and tilling your dirt is an important part of growing a successful garden. Proper tilling aerates the soil, promotes healthy root systems, and aides in delivering nutrients to your plants. In order to achieve this you will need to till the soil at proper times. Tilling too early, when the ground is still quite wet, can not only be difficult on you and your machine, but it also compacts the dirt. The best time to till is when the ground is beginning to become warm and dry - a good way to check is to squeeze the soil in your hands. If the dirt clumps together, it is still too early to till.
2. Proper Garden Location
When choosing a garden location, consider both your plants needs, and your own. Most vegetables prefer full sunlight, so choosing a location in direct sunlight is key. Or, perhaps you need a little help remembering to tend your garden. Instead of placing your garden a great distance from your house, maybe you have a nice space near your patio or next to a pathway. Passing by your garden frequently can help remind you to water, weed, and fertilize. You may even enjoy a relaxing day next to your garden admiring your hard work.
Choosing a location with proper Ph soil levels will also set you up for success. Consider contacting your local extension office for testing. For at-home testing we've found this article quite informative: How to Test Soil pH.
3. Controlling Unwelcome Guests
You may encounter a number of unwelcome visitors in your garden, usually in the form of animals and weeds. Animals and insects wreak havoc on the plants. Here are a few natural and veggie safe recommendations to send these visitors packing!
Many aromatic herbs like lavender, garlic, or rosemary are naturally repellant, and can be planted near tender vegetables that may be favorites of deer, rabbits, and other nuisances. Remember, not all insects are bad. Many gardeners use ladybugs and praying mantises as natural garden defenders. They make quick work of aphids, mites, and more. If you are still battling with insects, diatomaceous earth is a safe and effective option as well.
Last but not least: weeds. Weeds can be quite the frustration for many gardeners. The quickest way to lose your garden to weeds is by ignoring it. Daily weeding and tending is the most effective, chemical-free way to keep your garden weed free. Consider running a small garden tiller between your rows on occasion to clear any out of hand weeds.
4. Choosing Your Vegetables
When choosing your vegetables, consider your temperature zone. Many plants will have different requirements and will have recommended planting times based on your zone. Your zone information can be found here USDA Hardiness Zone Finder - Garden.org. If you are looking for some quick results, check out this article on quick growing veggies: Fast Growing Veggies to Plant Now - Merrifield Garden Center. Another thing to consider is the availability of seeds. Consider heirloom varieties for your hard to find seeds as these can be saved and planted next year.
5. Proper Watering Techniques
Common mistakes for beginning gardeners are improper watering techniques. While you may be giving your plants sufficient water, the timing and placement may be hindering your success. The best time to water your garden is in the morning. This keeps the water from evaporating too quickly, while also giving the plants time to dry before nightfall which is helpful in preventing potential molds.
Where you are watering your plants is also important. It is best practice to try and water at the base of the plant, allowing more water to reach the root system quickly. Consider drip lines, or micro sprayers on a timer, for a hassle-free watering schedule.