Happy Earth Day! I cannot believe we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Of course, every day should be earth day and today I am sharing five tips for planting a vegetable garden.
I live in Southern California and I was planting seeds and plants while most of you still had snow on the ground. Now that almost all of you are enjoying the spring weather, it’s not too late to plant a garden. Even if you just plant herbs and tomatoes you will enjoy your harvest all summer long!
Five Tips to Planting a Vegetable Garden
Get Plenty of Sun
The first step is finding the right location. Most vegetables need an average of six hours a day of sunlight. Most herbs need four hours of sunlight. You can plant vegetables in an existing garden bed, in pots, or in raised beds, which is what I have done. I love my raised beds as I can control the soil quality and they are a great addition to a very unsightly part of our yard!
I built these vegetable beds with my handyman. You can find all of the instructions to build raised beds in one of my earlier blog posts here.
Prepare Your Garden and Use Good Soil
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love the raised vegetable beds we built in our back yard. Each spring I remove the old plants, amend the soil, and plant a new variety of vegetables. I have four beds and at least one and a half of them are for tomatoes. I have read different options on whether or not you should rotate your vegetables in different areas year after year. I do know if there is any sign of tomato rot, then you should move your tomato plants from one bed to another each year. But tomatoes prefer to grow in the same place every year, so plant in the same spot unless you have had a disease problem.
When I first built our vegetable beds, I layered the beds with ground cloth, rocks, potting soil, and amendments. I had special vegetable garden soil delivered and it’s the smartest thing I ever did. Each spring I add a soil enhancement called Amend (that I purchased at Home Depot). I usually mix in about four new inches of the soil enhancement in each bed. It’s tempting, but don’t take the easy route and just plant new plants. Take the time to replenish the soil with some nutrients. It will make all the difference, I promise!
Support Your Plants
I also made my own tomato cages. They were so easy to make and they have lasted for three years. They still look as good as they did the first year I made them although the wood has now turned grey so I think they look better! If you plant tomatoes (which I highly suggest you should do) then be sure to surround them with wire or wood cages as soon as you plant them. You need to have cages for successful tomato growing.
I like starting my garden with small plants. Last year I bought everything at an organic nursery and my crop was so-so. This year I bought all of my starter plants at Home Depot and they look fabulous. Go figure.
Grow What You Like
Just be sure to grow herbs and vegetables that you like and will use. My motto is, if you don’t like it, don’t grow it.
I have been growing tomato plants for many years. A homegrown tomato cannot be replicated and always tastes better than one you can buy at any grocery store. Nothing is better than growing your own tomatoes. I love heading out to the garden every day in the summer to pick tomatoes for my meal prep. A plentiful tomato crop is very easy to grow.
Companion planting can help tomatoes grow. Tomatoes are compatible with basil, chives, onion, parsley, marigold, nasturtium, and carrots. I also suggest you put the tomato cages in the beds (or garden) before you plant your tomatoes. It is easier to space out the cages first and then plant your tomato plants. Then I place basil plants between the tomato plants.
Take Care and Nurture Your Plants as They Grow
Vegetable gardens need attention. I always add enhancements even before I plant my tomato plants. You can add a small handful of Epsom salts, crushed eggshells, and potting soil into the hole before you plant the tomato.
Yes, I did say eggshells. Using eggshells will add extra nutrients to your tomato plants and deter slugs. As the eggshells break down, calcium is released freely into the soil. The calcium helps your tomato plants grow and prevents blossom end rot.
You should use crushed eggshells, Epsom salts, and potting soil. After I dig my deep hole, I dump in a handful of eggshells, a handful of Epsom salts, and a cupful (it’s not an exact measurement!) of potting soil.
I have also used Fish Emulsion to fertilize my plants. It doesn’t smell great but my plants sure to love it. Tomatoes also do well with a good deep watering followed by days of no water at all. This encourages the roots to work even more deeply into the soil, seeking out moisture.
You also might want to prune the suckers on your tomato plants. Tomato suckers are the growths that appear in the junction between the stem and a branch of a tomato plant. When left to grow, tomato plant suckers will become another main stem with branches, flowers, fruit, and even more suckers of their own. Pruning tomato suckers is often recommended because the resulting new stem is competing for nutrients with the original plant. Your plant may have more fruit if you let the suckers grow, but the tomatoes will be smaller and the plant will be more cumbersome, requiring a lot of effort to stake as the summer progresses. Pruning tomato suckers helps your plants to be more manageable and more robust at the same time.
Here is everything you might need to plant a vegetable garden. Enjoy! This is such a fun hobby and you will get so much joy from your vegetables.
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