Vegetable Garden Tips
How to make your vegetable garden provide the most for the space available. Hints on choosing plants, spacing, watering, fertilizing.
You love the taste of fresh vegetables, but the price in the grocery store causes your appetite to disappear. Whats a veggie lover to do? Grow your own. "I don't have room, my yard is small".
You can grow vegetables anywhere, and the newer varieties of favorites like cucumber, melons, zucchini are designed for small garden spaces. The first thing to do is pick out your garden area. The size will depend upon your energy, time, and space available. Remember vegetable gardens don't have to be a traditional rectangle, that little triangle place between the fence and the shed could make a very nice garden.
Look at the area you have choosen, how much light does it get? Full sun is ideal, but most plants will grow well with partial shade, and some actually do better when shaded all day. Does your garden soil need help? You can get soil testing at many universities, you can also buy soil test kits from your garden supply center. If you know without testing that you need to add to your soil, then start adding compost, and good topsoil. You are going to be taxing the soil to provide the largest number of plants with the most nutrients possible so go ahead and add plenty of well decomposed compost.
Pick your plants, what do you like to eat? Fresh tomatoes, peas, corn, carrots, potatoes, squash, melon, the choice is yours. Talk to gardeners in your area for information on what vegetables do best in your area. Your local Cooperative extension is also a good place to get information.
Now plan where you are going to put your plants. Most seeds, and plants have a planting guide telling you how far apart to plant them. The trick is to plant them at the minimum distance in staggered rows. If your tomato plant says to plant 1 to 2 feet apart then plant 1 foot apart in rows that are 10 inches apart. Stagger the plants so that they are actually 1 foot from the next closest plant. The next trick is to plant compatible plants in the same row. Lettuce and tomatoes go well together, the lettuce will have come up and be gone by the time you get your first tomato. Carrots and radishes do well, the radishes are ready in a month, the carrots will take 60 days. plant your corn, and allow beans and peas to climb up the stalks.
Encourage any vining plants, like melon, cucumber, zucchini to grow on a fence. You will lose less garden space, and it will be easier to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Don't forget to use tomato cages for tomatoes, peppers, and peas and beans.
You will need to use a good water soluble fertilizer more frequently, since you are asking the soil to support many more plants. Usually every two weeks is often enough, but experiment. A word of caution is needed though, too much fertilizer and you will end up with lots of green leaves but fewer fruits.
Watering will need to be more frequent. Be careful that you do not overwater. The easiest way to check is to push a finger in the ground near the roots of a plant, if the soil is not damp at the end of your finger you need to water, otherwise wait another day, and check again.
Enjoy your gardening, experiment, and talk to other gardeners from your area. Your plants may not be as big as some, but they will be yours. Don't be disappointed if your vegetables are not as pretty as the ones at the grocery store. The commercial growers have access to seeds/plants that are not available to residential gardeners. They also only send the best looking fruit and vegetables to the grocery store. The ones with small flaws, or odd shapes go to the cannery.