Five Tips for Keeping the Vegetable Garden Thriving


You’ve worked hard to plant the vegetable garden. Keep it going well into the summer—now is the best time to enjoy it!

By FamilyTime

 

Chances are some of your earlier enthusiasm for the vegetable garden has dimmed. It’s a lot of work! Yes, that’s so, but the benefits far outweigh the frustrations. Keep it up and you won’t be sorry.

Here are 5 tips for keeping the backyard vegetable garden healthy and robust:

  1. Water when necessary. Most plants—including vegetables—require one to one-and-a-half inches of water a week. If there’s been no rainfall for a while, it is time to water. If there have been drenching showers, you probably don’t need to bother. July and August are pretty dry just about everywhere and so you probably will have to water the garden to keep the plants in good shape. Put your finger into the earth and if it feels dry an inch or two into the soil, get out the sprinkler or turn on the soaker hoses.
    By this point in time, the garden needs a good, long soaking. Shorter, more frequent waterings were helpful when you were germinating seeds, but now that it’s midsummer, the garden needs deep watering every few days, at least. These longer, less frequent waterings develop root growth and strength. Water early in the day or late in the afternoon. Morning is best, however, because at night, the leaves can stay wet and invite fungi and slugs.
  2. Weed around the plants. If you prepared the garden beds carefully in the spring, you won’t have to worry too much about weeds now, particularly if you mulched with several inches of straw, wood chips, or heavy plastic. But some weeds are relentless and will grow no matter what you do and should be pulled out of the ground, especially those that are growing close to the plants. Otherwise, they will choke the veggies. Try to get weeds by the roots to prevent them from reappearing.
  3. Keep composting. Composting is part of good gardening. Remember to put grass clippings, weeds, and other vegetable matter in the compost pile and then turn it regularly. Kitchen garbage, including coffee grinds and tea bags, can be tossed into the mix, too, although avoid meat or dairy scraps (or any protein) in the compost. If the compost pile seems dry, add some moisture by submerging the hose into it for 20 to 30 minutes. The length of time depends on the size of the compost pile. You don’t want it dripping with water, but it should be damp.
    Don’t toss grass clippings directly on your garden. (Grass clippings that have not been composted act as a water shield so that rain water does not sink into the soil.) Add them to the compost and then, once things have broken down, replenish the garden soil with a layering of rich compost. 
  4. Control insects by attracting birds and bats to the garden. A bird feeder is a good draw, but chances are the birds will be attracted by the plants, anyhow. While you want to eliminate any stagnant water in the garden because of mosquitoes, a bird bath or similar source of water is a good way to lure birds. If the birds are eating too many berries or other things, drape those plants with netting. Bats eat a tremendous number of insects, too, and so consider installing a bat house if you don’t see many of the swooping creatures at dusk.
  5. Now is the time to begin harvesting in earnest. As you pick the eary summer lettuces, plant seeds for fall lettuces. Depending on where you live and when you planted them, you should start enjoying cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn in July. Earlier in the month, you probably ate the end of the peas and strawberries, and now you are happily welcoming pole beans, tomatoes and squash. When you harvest an area of the garden, replant it with a fall crop or ground cover. Don’t leave it lying fallow.

Growing your own vegetables, berries, and fruit is a good way to ensure your family eats fresh, healthful food that, when picked at the peak of its season, tastes amazing. And what can be better than putting nutritious food from your own garden on the family table? Talk about rewarding!