Few things say Summer like the vibrant colors and crisp tastes of fresh veggies – and what could be better than being able to step outside and pick them ripe off the vine from your very own harvest? We know it’s still Spring, but this is the perfect time to explore your green thumb.
Planning, planting and tending to your very own vegetable garden may seem like a big task, but if you do it the right way, it is actually very simple and enjoyable. Not only will it allow you to enjoy your home in a different context, but you will also have a steady yield of organic, tasty vegetables for meals and sharing. Don’t know where to begin? We’re here to walk you through the five most important components of summer gardening to get you started…
Location is Key
Picking a good location for your garden is extremely important. Take note of what parts of your yard receive the most direct sunlight for the longest during the day. Six or more hours of sunlight on your garden is ideal. Survey the sunny areas you’ve identified and pick the flattest one that does not flood. This will be your ideal space. You can either clear a plot and plant your garden right on the ground or build raised beds. Though both are viable options, building your beds up at least 6 inches allows for better root system growth, and therefore, can produce better vegetables. If you think you’d like to build your own raised beds, there is a step-by-step guide here. One last thing to note is that you’ll want to be able to walk around your garden to water it and pick your produce, so leave enough space around it for a comfortable path.
Especially with warm-season vegetables, the success of your garden starts with the soil. Make sure you choose soil that has a good amount of compost and organic matter. It should be loose, light and well-draining. Stay away from soil that feels heavy, sticky or sandy. For raised beds, you will most likely be selecting your soil from a local distributor so you will have a lot of control. However, if you are building your garden directly on the ground, you need to dig up some of the soil to test what you’ve got. It could be fine for planting, but chances are you may have to add some compost and organic matter to it. This is extremely important as it aids in providing the plants the nutrients that they need to grow. Also, it never hurts to get a soil test kit so know for sure if your soil is lacking anything it needs to yield a healthy crop.
Using fertilizer in your soil is also extremely healthy for the garden and will help your plants to develop to their full potential while also fighting disease. Try to use fertilizers that are more organic and less nitrogen-heavy. Many people worry about over-fertilizing their garden. A great way to avoid this is to simply use as organic fertilizer as possible. The more chemicals present, the bigger concern about over-fertilization.
Once you’ve got your soil and fetilizer down, you’ll need to mulch it so your plants are protected. This is very important so don’t forget to do it! Putting down mulch or pine straw will create a barrier that insulates the soil. This will keep your soil cooler on hot days and warmer on cool days. It will also shield your young plants from heavy rainfall, wind and disease. On top of all that, it suppresses weed growth!
When To Plant
Different vegetables succeed in all different seasons, but we’re talking mainly about summer vegetables here, so you’ll want to start planting them in mid to late Spring, depending on when your particular location’s soil warms up. Its obviously impossible to predict the weather, but a good rule of thumb is to get things planted once you’ve seen a steady week or two of warm days in a row. This usually signifies that Spring has sprung! The Farmers Almanac also has a great Planting Calendar for an extra reference.
What To Plant
As far as what you should plant, it is really completely at your discretion. Think of what you would like to eat the most and what vegetables are more native in your particular area. For example, what do all the local farmers’ markets sell a lot of? That is probably your best indicator of what does well in your climate. Also, here is a list of a few veggies that are known to thrive in gardens.
Placing & Spacing
Plants, just like humans, get stressed out when they are too tightly packed together. Remember to give them a little room to breathe! Make sure you look into how big each of your plants will get at full growth and leave space accordingly. Also, many gardeners make the mistake of planting their veggies in rows. This seems like it would make sense when thinking about how Farmers plant their crops, but gardens are different. It is actually best to plant in groups “triangles” instead of “squares”. Triangular formations produce up to 14% more plants in each bed. Another great way to create more space in your garden is to grow vertically. “Vining” crops will grow up trellises, stakes and fences. Good examples of vining crops include pole beans, peas, squash and melons.
When deciding what plants to put where, it is recommended that vegetables with taller growth be planted in the northwest side of the garden. This ensures they will not shade the smaller plants around them. Some examples of plants with tall growth include corn, beans and tomatoes.
Some plants fair better next to each other than others. “Companion Planting” is an age-old practice that groups plants together that will help each others growth and production. If you are interested in experimenting with this, here is a complete guide!
The most important part of maintaining your garden is watering it. Vegetables typically need one inch of water per week, including natural rainfall. Also, a half inch of water should be added for every ten degrees over average temperature should the weather get abnormally warm. This should be doubled in arid climates. It is very tempting, but make sure not to overwater your plants. Overwatering can breed bacteria, disease and fungus that can be detrimental for your vegetable growth.
We hope these veggie gardening fundamentals will put you well on your way to a bountiful and delicious summer season. And don’t forget, if you’re in the market for a new home, our Loan Officers are standing by and ready to get you started!