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Gardening Tips

Garden

The Helpful Gardener brings the pleasure of gardening to your home.

Planting Your Vegetable Garden

Preparing the Soil
Putting some extra effort into preparing your beds before planting will save you a lot of time and effort in the future. Dig the bed up to break up compacted soil (this will help with drainage) and removing rocks and weeds as you go. Try to pull out as much of the weed roots as possible so that they will not come back to haunt you later. This is also a good time to amend your soil.

Companion Plants in the Vegetable Garden
There are some plants that, when planted close together, will benefit each other. Likewise, there are certain combinations of plants that will inhibit the growth of one or both types of plants. Here are a few combinations to avoid:

  • Potatoes - inhibit growth of tomatoes and squash
  • Beans - inhibit growth of onions
  • Broccoli - inhibits growth of tomatoes
  • Carrots - inhibit growth of dill

This isn't to say that you can't grow these plants together in the same garden, just don't grow them right next to each other.

Watering
Vegetables need a bit of extra care when it comes to watering. Consistent watering will produce successful results. If you have a large garden, you may want to consider a soaker hose. This will ensure that your plants get an even watering without getting the leaves wet and all you have to do is remember to turn on the house.

Rotating Crops
Assuming that you plan to grow vegetables more than one year, it is important that you rotate your crops. Crop rotation prevents building diseases up in the soil and preserves micro-nutrients. Rotating is not very difficult, but does take a little advance planning as well as a basic knowledge of the vegetable families. Vegetables are broken down into basic family groups. These groups should be rotated together as they use soil in similar ways and share similar pests.

  • Alliums - Include Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Shallots, and Leeks.
  • Brassicas - Include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and Kale.
  • Crucifers - Include Turnips, Radishes, Rutabaga, and Collards.
  • Cucurbits - Include Cucumbers, Squashes (from zucchini to pumpkin), and Melons.
  • Legumes - Include Peas and Beans.
  • Mescluns - Include Arugula, Swiss Chard, Chicory, Endive, Escarole, and Radiccio.
  • Solanaceae - Include Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant.

Perennial vegetables such as Asparagus, Rhubarb and Artichokes should not be rotated and therefore should be planted separately. The rest (most vegetables are hardy or semi-hardy annuals) should be rotated every year on a four year plan (so that the same family of vegetables is not planted in the same location within four years). This is easy to accommodate if you have planted four beds for your rotating plants and one bed for your non-rotating perennials. See where that advanced planning starts to come in handy?

Timing
How many times have you had a co-worker or friend arrive at your home or office with bags full of zucchini or cucumbers? If you plant all your vegetables at the same time, everything will come to maturity at the same time. The solution is to continually plant small amounts of short-season vegetables throughout the growing season. That way, you can enjoy your vegetables all summer long and not be inundated by them all at once.

Nothing, however, will save you from the dreaded onslaught of zucchini; I just don't plant it and that way I'm happy for the occasional gift. If they start to bomb you with bags of it, drop 'em off the Christmas card list and shun 'em. Nothing like a good old fashioned shunning to get those zucchini pushers in line...

Vegetable Container Gardens
Vegetables that thrive when planted in containers include: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, carrots, chard, lettuce, beans, peas, and cucumbers. For information on how to get started, visit our article about container gardening.

Ornamental Vegetables
Who says that vegetables garden are homely? There are many vegetables that, in addition to tasting good, are also very attractive. These include: sweet peas, French (green) beans, runner beans, endive, kale, red cabbage, and ruby chard.

Vegetable gardening can be great fun and it is truly rewarding to enjoy delicious food from your own garden. With these basics tips, you are well on your way. Enjoy!

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