The 3 Most Important Tips for a
Successful Vegetable Garden
You may have heard these tips before, but it never hurts to repeat them…especially when we are just getting started into Gardening Season! Here are the three things that I emphasize every year in our Gardening 101 Class, because you will be able to grow lots of vegetables when you follow these rules:
- Proper soil content is a must.
If you are gardening directly in the soil, then you must do a soil test. Soil tests are easy and will help you amend it with nutrients if it’s lacking. Also, if the soil is too alkaline or too acidic, it will definitely affect your veggie production. Here is the link with instructions on how to do a soil test in TN and where to carry your sample for evaluation. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1061.pdf
If you are gardening in a new raised bed, it is important to start out with an balanced mixture of soil that will drain well. We use a mixture of 50% composted cow manure and 50% topsoil in our beds. We are careful not to overwater, since there is not a lot of drainage materials in it like sand or vermiculite. Another great mixture is Mel’s mix from the Square Foot Garden Book. The average mixture is approximately 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost (different types of compost should be used). Mel’s soil mixture claims that you can’t overwater it (which is the number one issue with beginning gardeners). Of course there are numerous other soil mixtures that you can use and easily research over the internet, but the most important point is nutrient content with a PH around 6.1 – 6.3. Proper PH will allow the nutrients to feed the vegetable plants and thrive.
- Planting seed and transplanting plants in your garden must occur at the correct time and temperature.
The easiest way to find out when to plant certain vegetables is to follow the USDA hardiness map: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
A good rule of thumb is to plant your vegetable garden after the last frost date for your area, which is April 15th for Middle Tennessee. Of course each state and area will have different frost dates…so be sure to look. Some vegetables, like corn and okra, need a warmer soil temperature to germinate, if they are being planted by seed directly into the soil. Seed packets will tell you the proper soil temperature required. Almost any thermometer can be put in the soil to check out the temperature.
- Successful gardens must have 8 hours or more of sunlight per day and one inch of water a week.
Sunlight is important for most vegetable to grow well. Some gardeners have gotten away with only 6 hours of sunlight, but it’s always hit or miss….depending on the particular variety. One inch of rainwater per week is a must for the plants, which roughly equates to a quart mason jar of water in the week. That does not mean to water each plant only once per week with a quart of water…it means that over a week’s period of time, it should receive about a quart. The easiest way to determine how much water it is getting, is to keep a rain gauge and monitor how much rain you are getting and then supplement whenever needed. The most common mistake of beginning gardeners is overwatering their plants!
I hope these tips have been helpful and feel free to contact us with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org