Sustainable vegetable gardens are a great way to encourage organic living. When beginning yours, plan for year-round growth. Keep a gardening log to record tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way; it can help you determine what may or may not work for next year. It’s also a good idea to educate yourself at your local nursery or farmers market about proper care and growing techniques.
Thanks to Mother Nature, almost every vegetable has at least one companion plant that helps protect it from pests and insects. For example, marigolds repel beetles, nematodes, and rabbits. Dill and parsley attract “garden heroes,” like spiders and ladybugs, that love to eat garden pests. And while most people know that herbs, such as basil and chives, make great additions to your fresh dishes, others such as yarrow and lavender protect plants from moths.
Here are more tips for maintaining your vegetable garden in the summer months:
All warm-season plants should be in your garden now. Remember to water weekly and pull weeds when they sprout. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac (almanac.com), “By keeping your plants well-watered and fertilized, they will quickly fill in spaces instead of weeds.” Start seedlings for broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage now so they’ll be ready for fall. Use nine-cell containers that can be watered from the bottom. Then, transplant to bigger containers 1-2 weeks later, or when sprouts begin to appear.
If you have summer squash in your garden, harvest when they grow to eight inches. Fertilize tomatoes and peppers lightly, and water the garden in the morning or later in the afternoon to prevent evaporation. Also, make sure to stake the taller plants to encourage growth and protect them from falling over during any summer storms. You can now begin sowing all your seeds for your fall garden: beets, carrots, collards, kale, radish, snap beans, turnips, and winter squash.
Continue to harvest your fruits and veggies every few days—this will promote production well into fall. This is a good time to begin canning. In fact, can everything you can! Let your tomatoes ripen on the vine. If any green tomatoes fall, store them in a paper bag with an apple to help them ripen. Keep planning for your fall garden and watch for pests and diseases. And don’t forget to share your harvest with friends, family, and neighbors! Backyard parties under summer skies are always better with fresh vegetables on the grill anyway.