13 Hints from the Professionals for a Productive Vegetable Garden

Now that you have your vegetable garden planted and the seeds are starting to emerge, the tomato and peppers are setting tiny fruit, the squash is sending out runners, and you are picking spinach and lettuce, how do you keep your plants healthy all summer? Here are a few hints to get the best yield from your garden:

  1. Know your soil. Compost added to your soil every year will improve all types of soils, whether it is clay or rocky or sandy.
  2. Protect from deer and rodents. We have found that a fence is the only sure way to keep deer out of your garden.
  3. Water deeply—down 6” or so. Stick your finger into the soil a few inches to see if it is dry. Deeply twice a week is better than lightly every day.
  4. Use a drip system or soaker hose rather than overhead watering for less evaporation. This keeps the leaves of your plants dry. Water is wasted between the rows and encourages weeds to grow.
  5. Mulch between the rows with a natural mulch like soil pep. Or use landscape fabric or even newspaper to prevent weeds between the rows.
  6. Fertilize once or twice during the growing season with a fertilizer recommended for vegetables. I use a 5-10- 10 (Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) that is slow release and made of natural ingredients. Sweet corn, a heavy feeder, needs a fertilizer higher in Nitrogen.
  7. Plant herbs such as lemon grass or basil and marigolds to repell pests
  8. Plant flowers to attract pollinators. Many herbs attract hummingbirds and bees, such as fennel, borage, oregano, and lavender. Or try annual sunflowers, salvia, and allysum, or perennial penstemon and monarda.
  9. Support tomatoes, peas and beans so they don’t flop over and for better light and air circulation.
  10. Use Season extenders such as wall-o- waters on tomato plants and row covers to protect from frost and keep off insects.
  11. Thin vegetables that are growing too close together (carrots, head lettuce) for bigger better produce.
  12. Replant short season vegetables such as spinach and lettuce for a second crop.
  13. Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ripe and still tender. Wait too long and they lose flavor and are woody. Exceptions are tomatoes and peppers-harvest when they are fully colorful, and root crops which can wait until the tops die down.

These are some of the good gardening practices that will help ensure your success. Enjoy the fruits of your labor all summer!