How To Grow More Vegetables In Less Space

How To Grow More Vegetable In Less Space - Elevated Raised Bed Vegetable GardenPlanting a garden of vegetables shoulder-to-shoulder, or close cropping as it is called, is not a new idea. If you have a small plot or space to grow a garden of food, close cropping of vegetables is an in expensive and easy way to increase your harvest, specially if you have a small plot.

Here are some examples of how you can grow an abundant vegetable garden in your limited garden space.

How To Grow More Vegetable In Less Space

The Native Americans introduced the concept of close cropping to European migrants to North America, starting in the mid-1700’s.

The Natives were said to have planted corn, beans and squash interdependent and with great success harvested edible crops from the same space.

The nitrogen-rich beans used the corn stalks for climbing, were as the ground-clinging squash with its large, prickly leaves extinguished weeds and reduced water evaporation from the soil.

Corn requires a lot of nitrogen to grow, therefore it benefits the most in this shoulder-to-shoulder gardening.

Planting a vegetable garden in a square or diamond pattern, such as is done extensively in places like the United Kingdom where spacing is limited, is a great way to practice close cropping.

How To Close Crop A Garden

When purchasing seeds, be sure to get pole beans and not the bush variety. As for the squash seeds, purchase the trailing variety and not the compact variety. The best time to plant your vegetable seeds depends on the planting zone or hardiness zone you live in.

image of pole bush beans and bush beansAlso the night temperatures need to be above 50 degrees, and again depending on were you live in the U.S. that could usually occur in late May, to early June (though with global warming you could start planting by mid-April to early May).

Link Here For The USDA Hardiness Zone Map 2016 – We need to say that this map by the USDA that is serviced at Greener Earth Nursery is really cool. After you have linked to the page, you will see a US map, and just below it is a box were you put your zip code (above box it reads: USDA Zone For Your Zip code). After you click”Go,” you are taken to a page of the state you live in with surrounding towns and cities hardy zones.

Choosing Your Seeds

Unless it doesn’t matter to you, be sure to choose non-gmo heirloom seeds. After reading the article, please watch this brief, and very informative 48 minute video by Heirloom Seed Expert Stephen Scott on GMO Farming.

Here are some links to on line stores to buy your certified non-gmo heirloom seeds…

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds

Radish at Annies Heirloom Seeds

Radish at Annies Heirloom Seeds

Her – Beginner’s Garden Collection for a small plot of land is only $11.75 for 1 packet and it includes…

  • Annie’s Lettuce Blend
  • Annie’s Radish Mix
  • Basil, Genovese
  • Black Beauty Zucchini
  • Contender Bush Bean
  • Muncher Cucumber

Other on-line sources include…

Sustainable Seed Company – Certified Organic

The owners of this seed company say,” We ARE American seed farmers not just seed re-sellers.  We know what we grow”. Their moto is – Trust the Farmers who GROW, not those who only SELL the seeds.

Terroir Seeds LLC

Link here to their – 4 Sisters Garden Seed Collection. It has the original three, corn, squash, and pole beans, with sunflower seeds added (price per pack is $15.70).

4 Sisters Collection by Terroir Seeds LLC

4 Sisters Collection by Terroir Seeds LLC

They note that it was Buffalo Bird Woman of the Hidatas tribe who was said to have planted sunflowers with the original 3 Sisters Garden.

She put to use old agricultural practices in the fertile bottom lands of the Missouri River.

Choosing And Preparing Your Garden Plot

When choosing an area for your close cropping, test to see that the area receives at least 8 hours and less than 6 hours of sunshine everyday. Have some compost on hand and rake it into the soil as you break it up. and rake the soil.

Next, build a mound about 12 inches high and between 18 inches and 3 feet in diameter. If you’re in a dry area, flatten the top of the mound and make a shallow depression to keep water from running off.

Planting Corn

Plant four corn seeds in a square at the top of the mound. Be sure to space the seeds 12-inches apart and 1 inch deep. After planting the seeds, cover with soil and saturate with water 2-inches deep.

Weeding and Planting the Pole Beans

When your corn has sprung from the soil and has reached just 4-inches above the soil, remove any weeds that have grown on the mound. Now plant 4 pole bean seeds 6-inches from the base of the corn and 1-inch deep. Cover the seeds with soil and water the mound.

Your corn has a head start, so it will be tall enough to support the pole beans once they have sprouted and start crawling up its stalk.

Weeding and Planting the Squash

About 7 days after the beans sprout, remove all of the weeds that have grown on the mound. Now plant the 6 squash seeds 1-inch deep and 1-foot from the base of the corn and the beans. Cover the seeds with soil and water the mound.

Weeding and Watering

Continue weeding the mound until the squash takes over and shades the new weeds from the sun preventing them to grow. Keep the soil moist to about 6-inches deep.

What if you don’t have a plot of land? Do you have a sunny balcony? Or live in an urban apartment were you can garden on the roof top? How about a community garden? Do you have a sunny patio were you can do some container gardening? If so then here is how you plant your 3 Sisters Garden of vegetable seeds.

Planting A Three Sisters Garden In Containers

If your outdoor gardening space is limited, or you have no plot of land, you can still have a vegetable garden. How you may ask? Will it won’t be a traditional garden per say, but you can create a mini three sisters garden in an outdoor container, such as a 1/2 of a large whisky barrel.

To simulate this way of planting, use a large container with holes or gravel in the bottom and fill it with potting mix and compost.

Once you have the container filled with soil, follow the above instructions, but plant only 3 corn seeds instead, and thinning to 1 corn stalk, 2 pole bean, and instead of squash, you can plant 1 mini pumpkin seed. Place the container

Gardeners Supply Company

Image Credit: Gardeners Supply Company

where it will receive at least eight hours of light, and no less than six hours of sunlight each day.

Gardeners Supply Company has a great selection of pots and planters. They even have Season-Extending supplies, which is a great advantage to container gardening. Follow this link to view what pots and planters might fit your vegetable garden container: Gardeners Supply Company

 

 

 

 

Benefits of Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden

Benefits of Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden

Benefits of Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden

Most of us go to the nearest grocery store to purchase fruits and vegetables. Most of the produce we buy is brought in from faraway places, like blueberries are brought in from Columbia during the winter months in the northern hemisphere (in the N.H. of the earth fresh blueberries are available May thru October).

You also take the chance of buying fruits and vegetables that have been grown with the use of dangerous pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, unless of course you buy organic produce. But even then, most people will not, as they consider organic produce too expensive.

Have you given it thought to growing your own fruits and vegetables on your own piece of land, and if not possibly claiming a small plot for yourself in a community garden?

You can grow your own produce without using any chemicals that are used in growing traditional commercial produce. Growing your own food supply also saves you money and allows you to contribute to a more healthy earth for all living things.

An Organic Vegetable Garden Is Threefold

How is having an organic vegetable garden threefold? Consider the following.

When you decide to grow organic, or even buy organic foods, you are committing to growing and eating food in its natural state.

An Organic Vegetable Garden Is ThreefoldWhat would you use in place of chemicals? You would use mulch, chicken manure (can be used all season long as it will not burn the plants roots, like cow manure can), or compost to fertilize the garden.

Having an organic vegetable garden will require weeding, watering, and harvesting the vegetables and fruits when they become ripe. But don’t think of weeding as work or time consuming. Think of it as exercise, which your body needs in the first place to stay healthy.

Having an organic vegetable garden is threefold,

  • Growing and enjoying your own food
  • Doing so without chemicals
  • Getting in exercise at the same time

Organic Vegetable Gardening with Your Health In Mind

As an organic gardener, you will learn how to grow foods holistically and with health as a priority. Your own grown organic produce will contain valuable nutrients, such as more phytonutrients (less are found in chemical grown produce) for better health.

Stepping out of your home to the garden affords you picking and harvesting fresh produce at its peak. Having an organic garden doesn’t only give you food, it also gives you better health.

Composting for a Healthier Organic Garden

Composting for a Healthier Organic GardenYou will need to have a compost pile, which contains leaves, grass clippings, other plant debris, and kitchen food scraps. All of this once it has decayed, forms the best soil and fertilizer available for your organic vegetable garden needs, and it’s free.

Worms and other garden creatures will eventually get in action of converting your compost heap into raw matter, which is a pure, black, healthy earth.

How Organic Gardening Can Help Us

Organic farming and gardening has many positive effects on our lives, benefits that range from physical to social, and to our emotional wellbeing.

Once you start gardening you will find it a stress relieving adventure.

You can spend more time out in the sun tending your organic garden, and getting the vitamin-D which your body needs to keep your skin and bones healthy. You will become more physically fit by working in an organic garden.

You get to use your muscles on a regular basis and you will be growing food that is actually healthy to all parts of our body.

You can feel comfortable that you are not adding to the destruction of the earth and its valuable soil. Putting your hands in the dirt can be soothing and can bring satisfaction of eating your own grown and harvested food.

Starting an Organic Garden

Potted tomatoes cultivated in town on a balconyIf you don’t have a lot of land, or live in an apartment complex with a small patio or balcony that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun, you can grow your own produce using pots, to and grow vegetables like tomatoes, herbs, and peppers.

If you have your own home and land, be sure to always have a compost heap so you always have a ready supply of rich soil.

Find a sunny spot in your yard and till it, making room for several rows of whatever type of vegetable you like.

In conclusion, if you don’t find gardening is for you, then make it a point to always buy organic foods at the store (in season produce is cheaper).

Doing so, you can do your part in keeping the earth, its soil, animal life (bees and other pollinators) healthy, including yourself.

 

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What is Kitchen Gardening?

This is the seventh post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first six posts please link here to read.

Now for – What is Kitchen Gardening? – with Judith Sorg.

Have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden?

For starters, a kitchen garden or potager (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history tracing back to old English and French culinary gardens.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

1. Convenience. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

2. Size. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions to a potager.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

3. Beauty. While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

potted herbsAs you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!

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Planning a Productive and Practical Potager

Woman and her child harvesting carrots from her potager garden

 

This is the sixth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first five posts please link here to read.

Now for – Planning a Productive and Practical Potager – with Judith Sorg.

A well-planned potager, or kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet.

  Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden


Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden

 

The traditional potager or kitchen garden, is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden, such as the ornamental and flowering plants and lawn areas. Most vegetable gardens are a smaller version of old family farm plots, but the kitchen garden is different, as it has its own history as well as design.

 

The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical potatger.

Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals.

The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is nice to have, as well.

Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your potager is to think about what you like to cook.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby.

In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season. Items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use are ideal for your regular vegetable garden.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many kitchen gardens are confined to a relatively small space. If your proposed potager has a small overall footprint, don’t get discouraged. Instead – look up!

Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your potager has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available.

beautiful potager garden

Beautiful potager garden

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your potager, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your potager is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

Next we will talk about the difference between kitchen gardening and a regular vegetable garden.

For Judith’s next discussion link here: What is Kitchen Gardening?

 

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How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

This is the fifith post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds – with Judith Sorg.

There are many benefits to using raised vegetable garden beds in your garden.

For starters, I have found elevated garden beds are easier on your back and knees because they require less bending, kneeling and crawling than regular beds.  In addition, raised garden beds offer better drainage, which means your plants aren’t stuck sitting in excess water every time it rains. Plus, it is much easier to build your soil UP than it is to work amendments into the ground.

raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds also are great for those who are wheelchair or scooter bound.

Fortunately, building raised vegetable beds is a super easy do-it-yourself project. All you need are some readily available tools and materials, and an extra pair of hands.

How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Tools and Materials  

(makes two 8’ x 4’ x 6” high beds)

(6) 1” x 6” x 8’ cedar boards* – 2 boards cut into 4’ sections

Wood screws and/or 8 metal corner brackets

Power drill

Important Note: Cedar is naturally insect and moisture resistant, so it tends to hold up well in outdoor environments. Avoid using pressure treated lumber for your food growing areas because the chemicals used to create them can leach into your soil.

*Cedar boards come in a variety of lengths and widths. Obviously, using 6” wide boards will give you more shallow beds than 10” boards. Choose whichever length and width combination you prefer. If you find 4’ beds are too wide, simply reduce the length of each shorter section to 3’ – 3.5’.

Instructions:

To assemble your raised vegetable garden beds, line the ends of an 8’ foot section and a 4’ sections up so they form an “L” shape. While your helper holds the boards in place, secure the two boards together with wood screws or with the metal corner brackets.

Repeat this process with the remaining cedar boards until you create 2 wooden rectangles, each measuring 8’ in length by 4’ in width.

Once your beds are assembled, carry them a sunny spot in your garden and place them where you want your raised beds before you begin filling them.

Filling Your Vegetable Garden Beds

Of course, you can fill each bed with pre-packaged gardening mix, but you may find that gets a bit pricey. You can also create your own more cost-effective planting medium very easily.

 Build Raised Vegetable Garden BedsStart by adding a thick layer of newspaper or flattened cardboard across the bottom of your raised garden box. This will help prevent weeds and grass from growing up into your planter. Then, add alternating layers of peat moss, compost, aged manure or barn litter, and topsoil.

You can add additional amendments, such as bone meal or a slow-release organic fertilizer, once you decide which plants you want to grow in each bed and you’ve conducted soil tests to determine what nutrients your soil needs to accommodate those plants.

If you prepare and fill your raised beds in the fall, simply cover them with dark plastic to “cook down” all winter.  You will be rewarded with beautiful rich soil in the spring, but it will be quite a bit lower than you remember – so be extra generous when filling the beds.

If you assemble your raised vegetable garden beds in the spring, you can plant right into the layered mixture. Over time, the layers will break down to form a rich soil. In the near term, your plants will do just fine in it as long as you don’t use fresh compost, manure or barn litter, all of which can “burn” your plants.

As you can see, learning how to build raised vegetable garden beds isn’t difficult. If you follow these easy instructions, you can look forward to years of more rewarding and efficient gardening.

Next post will be March. 20,2014, themed, “Planning a Productive and Practical Potager.”

 

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How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps

This is the fourth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps – with Judith Sorg.

If you love to cook, learning how to plant a vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. When you grow your own garden, you can harvest fresh seasonal fruits, veggies and herbs as you need them instead of having to drive miles to the nearest grocery store. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that.

Here’s How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in 4 Easy Steps:

simple garden layout

Example of a simple garden layout
image credit: vegetablegardenplanning.net
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Step #1. Decide What You Want to Plant. This is the fun part. Start by making a list of all the recipes you frequently make. Note which vegetables and herbs you use over and over again, because this will tell you not only what you should plant, but also in what quantity.

Don’t forget to jot down other items your family enjoys, even if you aren’t using them in your cooking currently. Growing your own vegetable garden is a great way to expand your culinary horizons.

This planning phase is a great time to get your children interested in gardening, too. Ask what they might like to grow or make fun suggestions if they are too young to come up with ideas on their own. Pumpkins, ornamental gourds and sunflowers (for their beauty and seeds) are popular choices with kids of all ages. Fast growing plants, such as lettuce and beans, are also great choices for children because they produce noticeable results quickly.

Once you’ve made a list of plants you want to grow, collect mail order catalogs, search online or stop by your favorite garden center to find seeds and transplants. You can learn a lot about what grows well in your area by tapping into these resources, as well.

Step #2:  Pick a Location for Your Vegetable Garden

Just like in real estate, planting a successful vegetable garden is all about location, location, location. If you want your plants to thrive, there are a couple non-negotiable items you will need to provide:

Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps with sunshine1. Sunshine. Pick a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

2. Water.  Make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You will need to water your plants whenever Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, so make sure you have a convenient source of water nearby.

3. Accessibility. Gardens need care, so position your vegetable garden in an area that is convenient to get to with the tools you need to work in it. If you place it too far from the house or garden shed where you keep your tools or in an area difficult to reach with a wheelbarrow, you may find yourself tempted to neglect it.

Make your life easier and plant your garden in the most convenient sunny location you can find.

4. Good Drainage. You may have to do some work for this one, especially if you live in an area with heavy clay or compacted soil. If you find the area you want to plant tends to collect standing water, you will want to build your beds up to protect your plants from overly wet feet.

Step #3: Create Your Garden Beds

Once you’ve identified where you want your garden, you will need to decide where you want the individual beds within it. As you are doing so, keep in mind the orientation of the sun throughout the day because taller plants or those growing on trellises can cast damaging shadows if they aren’t positioned correctly.

To create the individual beds, many old school gardeners swear by the traditional practice of removing heavy layers of sod, then tilling and amending the soil beneath it before planting your vegetable plants.

Although this method will certainly work, you simply don’t have to work that hard.   Instead, you can use the Lasagna Gardening method of building your beds UP instead of digging down to create them. This methods works equally well with raised garden beds or directly on the ground.

compost needed for gardening in four easy stepsTo get started, add flattened cardboard or a thick stack of newspapers on top of the ground and then add alternate layers of peat, topsoil, aged manure or barn litter, organic mulch, yard clippings and/or compost.

You can either prepare these beds months in advance or right before you plant. Either way, the layers will meld together into a beautiful, rich soil for your plants.

For more details on this no-dig gardening method, check out Lasagna Gardening, a New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.

Step #4: Start Planting!

Once your beds are ready, it’s time to start planting!

Before you start digging, you have some choices to make: you can sow seeds directly into the soil, start seeds indoors then harden them off outdoors before adding them to your garden, or plant established transplants you’ve purchased directly into your prepared beds.
Some plants require direct sowing, while others need to be started indoors several weeks before the frost-free date in your area in order to perform well. While you are creating your list of plants you want to grow, make a note of the growing requirements for each so you can give your plants the best chance of survival.

If you decide to follow these four easy steps to plant a vegetable garden, you will be rewarded all season long with an abundant supply of fresh and healthy produce. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you did it with your own two hands.

Next will talk about: “How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds.”

Return for Judiths next garden discussion March. 17, 2014.

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3 Must Know Vegetable Gardening Tips

Meet Guest Blogger: Judith Sorg on Vegetable Gardening

young woman harvesting tomatoesI enjoy gardening so much and I am glad to have been invited to talk on this subject. There are few things in life compare to the simple pleasure of biting into a freshly picked tomato while it is still warm from the summer sun. When you grow your own vegetable garden, you can experience this little piece of heaven all season long.

However, as I have found from my own experience growing an abundant supply of fresh vegetables year after year takes some practice. For most people, becoming a consistently successful vegetable gardener comes after years of hands-on experience. You can however lessen your own learning curve by adopting some tried-and-true vegetable gardening tips that I use.

Here are 3 Vegetable Gardening Tips I have that I want to pass onto you:

Tip #1: Amend Your Soil: Few gardeners are blessed with an abundant supply of beautiful, rich topsoil. Depending on where you live, you may find yourself struggling with heavy clay, rocky, sandy or other less-than-ideal soil conditions.

amending the soilEach of these soil types presents different challenges ranging from retaining too much water (or not enough) to being devoid of the essential nutrients plants need to survive and thrive. For example, if you have heavy clay soil and you just dig a hole in the ground and drop a plant into it, chances are good that plant won’t make it. The heavy clay around your plant will act like a bathtub whenever it rains, which means your plant will be forced to sit in a pool of water with nowhere to drain.

So your first step will be to identify the type of soil you have so you can take the appropriate steps to amend it. Once you know what you are dealing with, you’ll be able to determine which specific amendments are needed to amend your type of soil.

I recommend you take a cup full of soil to your local nursery, so they can let you know what type of soil you have and what to do to amend it.

Tip #2: Grow UP: Whenever possible, make sure you take advantage of vertical space in your garden by utilizing fences, trellises, and other structures to keep your plants off the ground.

There are many advantages to growing your vegetables vertically. For starters, you can grow more food in a smaller area, which is great for urban gardens or those with limited growing space. Plus, growing vegetables on structural supports makes harvesting and weeding around your plants a lot easier. This is especially true for older individuals such as myself and for those with other physical restrictions because less bending and stretching is required to perform these tasks.

Growing vertically benefits your vegetable plants, too.  Raising the plants off the ground leads to better air circulation around them, which is associated with fewer fungal infections and pest infestations.

Tip #3: Give Your Plants Some Friends: Companion planting is a smart way to increase the yield of your vegetable garden.  Learning which plants work well together is an important step towards maximizing the efficiency of your vegetable garden.

Some plants are particularly beneficial to one another, so it makes sense to group these plants together in your garden. These beneficial plant combinations may add needed nutrients to the soil, deter unwanted pests or attract beneficial insects into your garden.

You may have heard how Native Americans planted “the three sisters” – maize (corn), beans and squash – together because each plant benefited the others in some way.  For example, the corn stalks provided structure for the beans to grow upon, while the squash provided an effective weed barrier as it spread out along the ground.

Vegetable gardening is an acquired skill that evolves over time. However, applying these 3 must know vegetable gardening tips will lessen your learning curve significantly. 

Next post is March. 13, 2014 the theme will be:  Deciding When to Plant Vegetables in Your Area

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