How do you grow a successful vegetable garden?
Are you wondering how you can grow a successful vegetable garden? You’ve tried googling, watching endless you tube videos, and are only more confused. Or, maybe you’ve tried before, but gave up that summer when whatever the weeds didn’t take over, the pests had eaten. There is so much information out there. Some of it is good, and…..some not so good. When talking to my students in my garden classes, and working with clients, I often hear the same thing. I don’t know where to start. I lead a busy life and I want to grow healthy vegetables for my family, but I don’t have hours to spend watering, weeding and fighting pests.
For 35 years I’ve been growing my own backyard gardens, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But I kept trying, learning what worked and what didn’t. You’ll see how doing just a few simple things can not only help you grow a successful vegetable garden, but decrease your time watering, weeding, and fighting pests.
How do I prevent weeds in my garden?
Keeping your garden soil covered not only reduces weeds in the garden, it conserves water and decreases the amount of time you will spend in the garden watering. As soon as you place a transplant in the garden, mulch around it. As soon as the seed you plant becomes large enough mulch around it. Anytime you do not have a plant in an area of your bed, mulch that area. In the fall after harvesting my fall vegetables, I will often plant a cover crop, or mulch with leaves.
You can use straw, compost or a product called “soil conditioner”. One of my favorite products that I try to use once a year is a product called Fox Farm Soil Conditioner. It is expensive, but I can use one large bag in my four garden beds when mixed with a couple more bags of less expensive organic compost. What makes Fox Farm soil conditioner so good is that it is mixed with earthworm castings, and includes soil microbes to help increase the ability of your plants roots to uptake water and nutrition to help it grow into a healthy plant. It also adds organic matter to your soil as it decomposes. I use it to mulch around my new plants, watering in well once applied. You should avoid hay which can carry weed seeds and large bark chips which take a long time to decompose, are acidic, and uses up the nitrogen your plants need. Leave the pine bark for creating paths between your garden beds.
Where should I locate my garden?
The location of your garden is important for several reasons. If you want to grow fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, peppers, and eggplants, you will need to place your garden in a location that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. 8 hours is even better. Green leafy vegetables and some herbs can be grown in 4-6 hours a day. A south facing location is best. If you are unable to find a spot that is south facing, your second choice is a west facing location that gets afternoon sun.
Another consideration in locating your garden, is it near your home and a source of water? Out of sight out of mind. Locating your garden near your home assures that you will visit it frequently. I recommended visiting every morning or evening for just a few minutes unless you are watering or planting which takes a little longer. Frequent visits allow you to catch any pest problems, check to see if your garden needs watering, and pick any ripened vegetables. Spending a few minutes in your garden everyday will save you hours in maintenance.
Be sure your garden is located near a water source or consider irrigation for your garden. It’s no fun carrying water in the hot summer sun.
How often should I water my garden and what is the best way to water.
There are several factors that affect how often you should water your garden. If you “google” this question you often get 1″-1-1/2 ” inches a week. That’s confusing! Do you spread that out over a week? How much is an 1″ and how do I know when you’ve watered enough? That’s not the answer I’m going to give you!
Things that affect how much to water depend on several factors:
- Are you growing in ground or in raised beds or containers? Raised beds and containers drain faster, usually contain more organic matter, and will need more frequent watering.
- What plants are you growing? Many herbs prefer a dryer soil, so you will want to allow those to dry out more before watering. It’s a good idea to grow herbs that prefer the same water requirements together.
- Has it been extremely hot?
- Has it rained that week?
BUT, I like simple. Simply stick your pointer finger down into the soil down to your knuckle. Bring it back out. Is it dry? Water. Does it come back with moist soil? Wait another day or check it again. Easy Peasy.
Now, how is the best way to water? I prefer to water with a watering wand attached to my hose. I like one that will allow several different watering options such as spray and direct watering. I water at the base of the plant. When you use a sprinkler or water overhead the leaves will stay wet which may lead to disease. Watering at the base allows you to water deeply where the roots have grown down into the soil. This is better for the plant, giving it access to the water when the soil surface dries out.
You can also consider soaker hoses in the garden or irrigation.
How can I prevent pests in the garden?
Garden pests are inevitable. They are part of nature’s circle of life. If we killed out all the pests with pesticides, what would the good guys eat? And just like our bodies and antibiotics, pests can become resistant to pesticides, requiring stronger more dangerous products.
The goal with garden pests in the garden is simple. Learn what bug you are looking at before you decide to bring out the pesticides. In fact, don’t buy any and if you have any dispose of them properly now. Is that evil looking black larvae a bad guy? Nope, give it a little time and it will turn into a pretty ladybug that can’t wait to eat the aphids on your plant.
When you locate your garden near your home and visit often you can do frequent pest control. Remove pests as you see them. Wear some gloves as you look around and sqoosh eggs, and drop japanese beetles into soapy water.
Plant flowers and herbs that either deter pests or attract beneficial insects. Marigolds are one we think of most often to deter pests, but planting both the herb borage, and basil with your tomatoes will deter the tomato hornworm. Nasturtiums will attract aphids and keep them from attacking your vegetables.
Grow a diverse garden with different vegetables, flowers and herbs interplanted in the same bed. Rotate crops every year or two, and with crops such as broccoli and squash which can be plagued by the cabbage moth and squash bug, put a barrier between the plant and the pest. Cover with insect netting or cover cloth when planting. You will need to remove from squash when it blooms so that it can be pollinated.
Next, invite the good guys to control the pest population. Mother Nature can do a fantastic job when we step back and allow Her to do so.
How do invite the good guys in, the beneficial insects? Plant herbs and vegetables that attract them. For example, the tachinid fly which is the mortal enemy of the squash bug is attracted to sweet alyssum. It is a low growing, small flower that can be interplanted between your plants, or as I usually do, plant a row around the perimeter of your bed.
Sweet alyssum and zinnias interplanted with vegetables. Sweet alyssum to attract beneficial insects and zinnias to pollinate your vegetables.
So now that you have a few simple steps that you can incorporate into your garden, where do you go from here? Gardening takes practice, and you will have successes and failures. Sometimes Mother Nature has her own ideas. That’s part of learning to grow a successful garden.
This year I want you to finally start that vegetable garden you have been dreaming about. I’m inviting you to come garden with me. Join me in my “No Fuss Vegetable Garden” Course. You’ll not only receive the fundamentals of gardening in my 6 module course, but starting March 1, we will be growing alongside each other. I’ll be delivering a video right to your inbox each month where we will go in-depth with what’s going on in the garden that month.
No more googling, no more guesswork. I’ve done all the work for you.
Click HERE to learn more about the No Fuss Garden Course. Class starts March 1st!
If you enjoyed this post please share with others!
This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon. As an affiliate, I may earn a small commission from anything you purchase.