Vegetables can be demanding plants. Whereas ‘weeds’ can scratch a living anywhere, vegetables require attention. Most need fertile soil, protection from wind, regular watering, and some help to defend themselves against pests. You cannot simply dig a hole in the ground, plant your veg, and expect it to thrive. A little planning before planting your vegetable garden will go a long way in helping to create a productive and manageable garden space. Draw a vegetable garden map on a piece of paper. Focus your resources on planting only enough of what you would like to eat and enjoy. Vegetables may be grown in containers or raised beds, as well as in a traditional ground bed. Follow these tips to success.
- Don’t make it too big or too hard or you can expect failure. How much time will you devote to the garden care on a regular basis?
- Grow only what you like and will use and enjoy. Makes the time you do spend tending the garden relevant.
- Start small. Grow in a manageable area. Otherwise the chores becomes drudgery.
- Plan weed control early. Or big trouble will ensue quickly down the road.
All vegetables need direct sunshine to be productive. It may be just enough space for a tomato plant or a patch of lettuce. Or it may be a plot that will accommodate a selection of veggies to grow. It may be in the ground or it may be in a container on the patio. Vegetables are versatile and several methods of growing will work.
Add Compost/ Organic’s to soil
In ground beds or raised beds, blend in organic matter to help condition the soil for optimal plant growth. Adding compost like Nature’s Yield Organic Compost, peat moss or bark mulch to the soil will improve aeration, water holding capacity and nutrient availability. This is usually an annual operation.
Or consider constructing a “no dig” garden. Use cardboard to smother the weeds and cover initially with 4-6″ of compost. Plant directly into the compost and after several months the cardboard will soften allowing the roots to grow into the soil. Not digging the soil underneath will preserve the interconnected growth of beneficial fungi that helps to keep the soil healthy. Over time, the compost decomposes into the soil adding nutrients and improving soil structure. Another 2-3″ of compost is added each year so over time the organic content will build up.
Cool season vs Warm season crops
Vegetable crops may be sorted into cool season and warm season groups. Begin planting cool season crops in mid-April. They will tolerate frosty temperatures and actually grow best when the temperatures are cool. This group includes lettuce and other leafy greens, radishes, carrots, beets, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and peas among others.
Begin planting warm season crops in mid-May after the chance of a frost has passed. These crops do not like the cold and prefer the warm temperatures that our Colorado summer has to offer in order to grow their best. This group includes tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, cucumber & squash.
Grow from seeds
From the cool season group, direct sow seeds into the ground for lettuce and greens, peas, radishes, carrots and beets. For the warm season group, direct sow seeds for beans and corn. Read the instructions on the seed packet for information about seed sowing depth in the soil, spacing of seeds and rows or plants and time to germination. Cover seeds with soil and tamp down firmly. Water regularly to keep seeds moist until germination begins.
Grow from transplants
Use starter plants for cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and onions sets. Use transplants for tomatoes and peppers. Squash and cucumbers could be started either way depending upon when they are planted. Remember, warm season crops don’t like cold temps so starting too early is not necessarily going to result in an earlier crop because they will grow slowly. Transplants are typically used for crops that require a longer growing time so offer a head-start.
Watering your vegetable plants regularly is required in our hot, dry climate. Consider using drip irrigation in addition to overhead sprinklers or watering with a hose by hand. Water applications to the crops earlier in the day are preferred so that the plants have adequate moisture during the hottest part of the day.\
Applying fertilizer is a must if good quality and high yields are expected. Add a dry granular fertilizer to the soil at planting time. Or apply a liquid fertilizer to the crops with a watering can or hose-end applicator. Choose an organic or in-organic source of fertilizer, they will each work well.
Begin weeding as soon as weeds appear around the plants or in between the rows. The secret to success is to remove weeds early and often while the weeds are small. Make it a weekly endeavor beginning one week after planting. Then stay on top of it. After a couple of weeks, apply a mulch over the freshly weeded bare soil. Even a thin layer of fresh grass clippings will be very effective. Using this weeding approach, by the middle of the summer your weeds are mostly under control for the remainder of the season.
Nurture the crops as they grow. Support taller crops like tomatoes with cages. Keep an eye open for problems.
Begin harvesting crops when ready and keep them picked to promote more. Check with your favorite Green Team staff of gardening professionals for any questions along the way.