By Nancy Mattia, CTW Features
What’s for dinner? Eggplant, squash, green beans and everything else you planted in the spring. Stepping into your backyard to pick out ripe vegetables for a meal is one of the greatest joys of summer. Your favorite veggies don’t come any fresher. If you’ve never had a vegetable garden, now’s the time to do it. Start out with a small plot; as your confidence grows, you can plant more and more every year. There are certain tricks—well not tricks, exactly, but smart ideas—that farmers big and small use to have a healthy and productive garden. Check out a few top tips below:
Don’t overwater plants
Watering too much is the number one reason plants die. You’ll know when enough is enough when you stick your finger in the soil about two inches deep. If you finger comes out moist, don’t water plants; if it comes out dry, it’s time to do some watering.
Let them spend the day in the sun
Be strategic where you plant your garden. Ideally, you’d find a spot in your yard that gets six to 12 hours of full sun every day. Plants will soak up the rays and produce a bountiful harvest.
Treat plants to great soil
Healthy plants get their start with healthy soil. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, maintaining a pest-free garden will help the soil stay rich in nutrients. Feeding it compost or another organic matter just a quarter inch over the course of a season will enrich the soil’s water retention.
Do your watering when temperatures are lowest
Another hydration tip: Water plants in the morning, not midday when the sun is at its harshest, which could causes water to evaporate quickly. Mornings are best because the temperatures are their lowest. Watering in the late evening when the sun isn’t shining brightly is okay too.
Avoid putting plants too close together
People don’t like to live in a crowded space and neither do vegetable plants. Seeds and seedlings (young plants) require enough space to grow without feeling confined. Overcrowding also attracts pests and can be harmful to a plant and stunt its growth.
Pay attention to changes in appearance
If your zucchini plants suddenly look like they were sprinkled with talcum powder, they might have a diseased called powdery mildew. It happens when plants don’t have enough air circulation; pruning leaves will help prevent the problem, so be sure to chop off leaves as the plants grow bigger. Vegetable plants’ maladies are often visible: Look for growth slowdowns, yellow leaves, or mushy stems.