There is nothing that can beat the fresh, mouth-watering flavor of home-grown vegetables, and there is nothing more satisfying than harvesting vegetables from a garden with which you have planted, cared for, and watched grow.
When it comes to vegetable gardening, the most important elements to focus on are location, soil, sunlight, garden layout, plant types, and maintenance which will include weed and insect control.
Location is very important because you need to see your garden daily to be sure plants are doing well in your garden. It also helps you make appropriate management decisions such as watering, identifying problems with plants before disease or insects take over and overall maintenance of the garden.
The garden layout on paper will help you plan your strategies of how and what should be planted where in the garden location. Consider utilizing trellises and cages to get certain plants more upright in the garden such as your tomatoes. This will keep certain plants from spreading all over and allow you more room for more plants of different variety. Soil in the vegetable garden should be loose and include organic matter.
Organic matter improves soil by releasing nitrogen, minerals, and other nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. The soil also should provide adequate drainage; therefore, it may be necessary to locate your garden in an area that does not permit plants to sit in overly saturated sites.
Working the soil before plating is critical as well. If the soil appears to be too wet it probably is too wet. Be sure to not work the soil before it has dried out some.
Another consideration in site location is the amount of sunlight. While some vegetables may tolerate small amounts of shade, most crops depend on at least eight hours of full sun in order to grow properly and maintain overall health. Try to avoid areas with extreme wind conditions, however.
Be sure to keep any hedges or trees at a safe distance as they can either cast too much shade onto the garden or compete with crops for nutrients or moisture.
The types of plants must suit the climate requirements and your taste buds as well. It is usually a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types available and their individual needs.
For instance, vegetables generally fall within one of four types-hardy, half-hardy, tender, and extremely tender. Hardy varieties include onions, radishes, broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus. These types of plants can normally tolerate temperatures below freezing and are usually the first to be put into the garden.
The half-hardy types such as beets, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, or potatoes can tolerate light frosts and can be put into the garden slightly before the last frost is expected.
Tender crops, however, do not tolerate cooler temperatures and are easily damaged by frost. We should be safe now to plant most of our garden. Corn, beans, and tomatoes typically fall into this category.
The most tender of all crops include the vine growers — cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins. A temperature of at least 65° F or more is required for these types of plants.
Know when your crops will be ready for harvest so that you can plan around vacation and other events that may occur at the same time the produce is ready for harvest. If there is going to be a conflict, look at planting a little later or using a variety that has a shorter growing to harvest period. Grow what you like to eat and your family likes to eat. It is also helpful to have several recipes to help prepare the food or utilize the food you produce to keep it enjoyable.
Maintenance is important in your vegetable garden. Be sure to avoid planting too much or planting that which you are unfamiliar. The inability to properly maintain a vegetable garden leads to poor growth and development of crops as well as an unkempt appearance.
The maintenance also includes daily inspection. That is why location is so important. If we can see the garden daily, we will know if something is going wrong before it is too late.
I discuss more on maintenance later in the season when we really have gardens planted.
Ohio State University Extension has several vegetable related factsheets and bulletins to help you with your gardening quest. You can go to www.ohioline.osu.edu under the “Yard and Garden” heading and find all the vegetable information Ohio State has to offer. You can also check out this webinar at the following presented by Amanda Douridas, OSU Extension Educator in Champaign County https://osu.box.com/v/BusyPeopleGarden. You may also call at 937-382-0901.
Until then … Happy Gardening!
Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.