Helpful Tips for Vegetable Gardening

The first two weekends in March were absolutely gorgeous here in San Diego. The weather was perfect for planting; full sun with a light breeze throughout the day. I spent the mornings and afternoons preparing and planting in my garden; taking pride in what will grow to be a beautiful and lush organic garden that will feed my family healthy vegetables throughout the spring and summer seasons.

If you are thinking of planting your own vegetable garden this year you still have plenty of time. Here are some helpful tips for a successful garden…

Soil- Healthy soil is the basis for growing vegetables. The soil on your property may be too rocky, sandy or heavy in clay. It is a good idea to have a soil test done to evaluate your soil. I use a mixture of top soil and compost in my garden. You can purchase soil at a local garden center or nursery. I have yet to try making my own compost and am considering looking into it!

Sun- Most vegetables need a lot of sun. Be sure to plant your garden in the sunniest location of your property where the plants will get direct sunlight. Ideally the garden should get no less than 8 hours of sunlight per day. Too maximize the light you have, place taller crops where they will not block the smaller plants. Plant leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and other salad greens in the shadier areas of your garden, they don’t require as much sun and grow better in cooler temperatures.

Water- Along with good soil and sunshine, water is another vital ingredient to a healthy vegetable garden. Vegetables require at least one inch of water per week. I use a drip line watering system that works well for my busy schedule. It is set on a timer for a steady watering schedule and delivers water directly to the roots of each plant. It’s a good idea to use a filtering system to avoid any small particles or salts that may be present in the water. Another option is to water your plants with soaker hoses or even manually. I suggest watering early in the day so that the soil is dry before the temperatures cool down in the evening.

Fertilizer- Fertilizer promotes plant growth and provides mainly three nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Most gardeners fertilize the soil before they plant in the spring. I don’t fertilize in the spring because I plant most of my plants from seedlings which have already been planted with fertilizer. I usually fertilize halfway thru the growing season to insure that they have enough nutrients to grow strong throughout the entire season and observe the plants to determine if additional fertilizer is needed later on. It’s important to follow the instructions on the label of the fertilizer carefully and not to over fertilize to avoid burning the plants.

Now that you have some helpful tips, here are answers to questions that you may have...

Seeds or seedlings?

I have planted mostly from seedlings. I start visiting my favorite local nurseries at the beginning of the spring season each week to see what they have available as local growers deliver. I prefer seedling plants because the plant has already sprouted and will grow vegetables sooner. If you buy seedling plants make sure that the plants appear to be strong and try to buy plants that have been planted in containers that will be easiest to transfer. Be gentle when you transfer the plants into the ground and try your best to keep the roots intact. If there are vegetables that are not available in seedling plants I purchase the seeds. The pros of planting from seeds are that they are less expensive, easier to plant and you will have plenty left over for the next growing season. Make sure you read the seed package for special instructions. It is recommended to start the seed plantings indoors before transplanting. This requires extra work and preparation, as an alternative I simply plant the seeds into the soil directly. Plant at least 3 seeds per hole, not all seeds will germinate and not all that do germinate will survive, you can thin extras later.

What to plant?

Plant your favorite vegetables that you eat often. You also want to choose vegetables that grow well in the climate that you live in and are easiest to grow. All varieties of squash, tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers are easy to grow. They are also easy to pick and don’t require much clean up after picking. (Root vegetables require more clean-up, e.g. carrots, parsnips, beets) You also want to plant vegetables that you have enough space for. If you have a small yard, choose high yielding crops such as cherry tomatoes, green onions and peppers. I also suggest planting varieties of plants that are hard to find and/or expensive. Growing an herb garden is a smart choice; you will have bushels of herbs and plenty to go around.

When to plant?

The start of the spring season will differ depending on where you live. The plants and seed packs will contain helpful information on when to plant. At the beginning of the growing season it’s a little cooler so I plant vegetables such as spinach, beets, broccoli, artichokes, carrots, fennel and cabbage. As the temperature warms up I plant vegetables such as squashes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.

Remember, working in your garden should be fun! Start off small and try not to plant more than you can tend to. If you missed my recent blog Have you thought of Starting a Vegetable Garden this year? there is additional helpful information about gardening, choosing a location for your garden and planting in raised beds. Feel free to Contact Me with any questions/and or comments.

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