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Location is key
Most vegetable plants do best in full sun. Find a location that gets at least six hours of it each day. Eight hours will give you even better results. When planning your garden layout, in order to provide the most sun exposure to all your plants, place the tallest ones, such as corn, indeterminate tomatoes or pole beans on the north or west side so they do not shade the smaller plants.
It’s all about the soil
The best soil for vegetable gardens includes lots of compost and organic matter such as rotted leaves and aged manure. Whatever you’re starting with, incorporate enough of the above material so that the amended soil is neither sandy nor compacted.
When the mix is right, it will bind together when you squeeze it but break apart when disturbed. This soil is full or living microorganisms that will help feed your plants. The water will be sufficiently retained and yet won’t saturate the soil either.
For most vegetable plants, one inch of water per week is adequate. An efficient way to deliver the proper irrigation is by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation lines. This water is delivered slowly and evenly, allowing roots time to absorb the moisture and soil to adequately hydrate. Automatic timers take the effort and worry out of this all important step.
But how ever you water, try to do so at the soil level only. This will help to keep the foliage dry. Wet foliage for extended periods can promote diseases.
On the subject of retaining soil moisture, mulch is critical for that. A layer of any type of mulch (about 2 inches) will help retain moisture. In addition, it will moderate soil temperatures, reduce weed germination and reduce the chance of soil-born diseases from splashing onto your plants. Plus mulch in any garden looks great!
Use patience with pest control
Although pests are usually a given at some point in a vegetable garden, by exercising patience, nature can usually take care of the problem. If you practice the steps mentioned so far, you’ve taken the measures to promote the growth of healthy plants which are better able to stand up to potential pest invasions.
If you must resort to insecticides, apply them responsibly! That means only late in the day or evening and then only when necessary. Never apply pesticides in the morning when pollinators and beneficial insects are most active. Otherwise, you’ll likely kill them as well. My preferred method of control is to be proactive in the garden. Visit it often, early in the morning, and pick off pests with your hands.
Don’t over fertilize
Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer package) can promote plenty of lush green growth at the expense of less fruit and a smaller harvest. Excessive fertilizer can also harm your plants. Soil that’s rich in compost and organic matter will provide all the nutrients your plants need for a lush garden and bountiful harvest.
If you put into practice what I’ve suggested above, you’ll get your garden off to the right start and set it up for a fruitful season. Preparation is key but the reward is a healthier, more productive garden and fresh food that tastes better than anything you can buy in the store. What could be better than that?