Field-proven tips for successfully raising a summer vegetable garden

Now that you’ve wisely decided to create your own nutritious, money-saving, organic, summer veggie garden, here are some basic gardening tips for your success.

(1) Check for first and last frost dates:

Location is a key factor when deciding to plant a garden; it determines when and what you plant. For example, if you live in an area with a short growing season (less than 120 days), it’s prudent to not plant vegetables that require a long growing season. Tomatoes, eggplants, green peppers, melons and winter squash need a longer growing season.

(2) Choose a raised bed garden if you have back problems:

Raised bed gardening is a method that requires no digging or tilling, and is also known as “lasagna,” “straw bale” or “square foot” gardening.

(3) Test the soil:

Testing the soil every three years is an essential diagnostic tool that a gardener should use to analyze the soil for nutrient quality and characteristics such as soil texture and pH.

Experts advise that there are 18 foundational nutrients necessary for productive plant growth. Additionally, each plant has a distinct profile of nutrient needs. A soil test enables one to accurately amend, fertilize and replenish the soil in exact proportions.

Look for a local testing facility, as it will have ample experience dealing with the soil problems in your area. Local universities and government agencies are good resources for testing soil.

(4) Determine sun exposure:

How much or how little sun does your garden get? This question will help you decide what types of plants are suitable for your garden plot. Most vegetables need at least six hours of full sunlight a day.

(5) Exposure guidelines:

Full sun (6-8 hours sunlight/day) is essential for vegetables like peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. Partial shade (3-6 hours sunlight/day) is great for root vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips and potatoes. Shade (less than 4 hours sunlight/day) works for greens like kale, chard, spinach and lettuces.

(6) Calculate the size of your growing space:

Measure your growing space and only choose plants that are suitable for your allotted growing space. If you’re really pressed for space, research the many advantages of the aeroponic, eco-friendly vertical “Tower Garden” online.

You can reap huge yields in small spaces with it. Best of all, you can grow almost anywhere there is ample sun, like a balcony or a small patio.

(7) Start small:

It’s better to start small with a garden that’s easy to maintain rather than a large garden that’s time-consuming and can easily spiral out of control.

(8) Choose plants that are easy to grow:

Do some research and discover what plants are easiest to grow in your area.

(9) Consider companion plants:

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, companion planting is a growing practice based on “oral tradition, family secrets, and front porch recommendations.”

It’s based on the notion that certain plants when paired together can benefit each other. Companion planting is a method of planting that allows veggies and herbs to grow at their maximum potential. They help keep bugs away. They keep the soil healthy. And they make the food taste better.

One form of traditional companion planting in the Americas is known as “The Three Sisters.” It was widely practiced across the plains of the Midwest and down into Mexico as far back as pre-Columbian times. The Three Sisters refers to the three basic food staples that made up the traditional Native American diet: corn, beans and squash.

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