Growing your own groceries is so rewarding and easy. How wonderful to pick a handful of ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes and plop them in your mouth. You never have that perfect flavor in a store bought tomato. Plus, you know exactly what has gone into the production of your salad (or any other vegetable). Organically grown? Check. Locally grown and starts purchased from a local nursery? Check. If there is a thriving farmer’s market in your area, you can say the same thing. But when you grow your own vegetables, there is the added benefits of exercise, connection to nature, and pride of what your sweat produced.
Just a beginner or are you an experienced vegetable gardener and just need a few tips? Here is some food for thought in planning out your vegetable garden.
Different vegetables need different amounts of sunlight. Warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, beans, corn and cucumbers need full sun or at least 6 hours daily. Cooler season veggies like lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens will do well in partial shade.
Soil preparation is important. Vegetables like a well-drained soil. To prepare your soil, use a shove to turn the soil. Add some organic matter such as Gardner & Bloome Harvest Supreme into your soil. If you are building raised beds, a combination of Eden Valley Potting Soil and Harvest Supreme is superb. Need a truck load? Many local bark suppliers offer a fertile mix. Just make sure it is free of weeds and aged.
When planning your garden make sure you have the right amount of space for what you plan to plant. Vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and melons require more space than other types of veggies. There are varieties available that produce more in a small space, so if you are limited in area, consider those. Anything you can grow vertically like beans and cucumbers help save space, also. Need a great guide for getting as much yield as possible in a small area? Check out Square Foot Gardening and The All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. He recommends an easy grid system to maximize your space.
When you plant use a starter fertilizer like Espoma Bio-tone Starter Plus and then follow-up in a few weeks with Garden Tone or Tomato Tone for tomatoes and peppers. Reapply fertilizer every 4-6 weeks.
Water is a key ingredient. It is better to do deep, infrequent waterings as opposed to daily watering. This encourages deeper rooting. Drip irrigation is a good way to go. However you water, morning watering will decrease your risk of fungal problems.
Rotating where you plant certain vegetables helps to decrease nutrient deficiencies and thwart pests.
Pruning can help increase yield. Tomatoes like to have their side growth pruned back. Removing suckers and any dead or diseased growth is good.
Some vegetables need support. Small 2-3 foot cages work great for eggplant and peppers. Larger, folding cages or spiral stakes are excellent for tomatoes. A trellis or teepee works well for vining vegetables such as cucumbers and pole beans.
Including flowering plants in your garden helps to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Try Alyssum, Zinnias, and Marigolds. Interested in companion planting? Check out the books “Carrots love Tomatoes” and “Roses love Garlic” for ideas of what to plant next to something else.
Protect your vegetables from slugs and snails by using kid and animal friendly products. Sluggo (Iron phospate), Sluggo Plus (Iron phosphate and spinosad) and Gro Power Snail and Slug Away (cinnamon oil). I’ll put in a personal testimonial for the cinnamon oil product. I have used it and the results are amazing. I have a tremendous amount of snails and when I consistently apply the Gro Power product, the snails do not touch the protected plant.
What else do I know? I read somewhere that you should always plant at least 2 tomatillos. Not sure if that is true. Don’t want to find out. They are prolific. Two tomatillo plants is fine. More could be a problem. I cannot tell you how to successfully grow cilantro. I don’t like the stuff, so never bothered to learn how to grow. Cilantro is fickle and bolts easily. Good luck! Zucchini does have male and female flowers. Early on zucchinis only produce male flowers. So you don’t get squash production initally. After a few weeks, female flowers are produced. If the baby squash turn yellow and shrivel, pollination is not happening and you may need to hand pollinate the flowers. Sometimes the harder you try, the worse your results. So, just relax and let go. Whatever you do, have fun! Gardening may be work but it shouldn’t be drudgery. And if you really hate it that much, there is a really great farmer’s market in Corvallis.
Do you want even more information? Make sure and come to our “Everything Edible” event on May 5. There are presentations throughout the day.
Click here to find out more.