Vegetable Gardening Questions – Confused about growing your own vegetables? It’s completely normal! Do not worry; we are here to help. We have expert answers below to the most frequently asked vegetable garden questions. So browse, learn, and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the best vegetables you’ve ever tasted—straight from your own garden!
When deciding where to plant vegetables, it all comes down to location, location, and location again. First and foremost, find a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day (think a corner of your backyard, the south side of your house, even a bright, sunny porch). Make sure the area has good drainage (meaning it won’t puddle after a heavy rainstorm) and easy access to a water source so you’re not dragging watering cans or a hose across your property. The good news is that you can grow vegetables practically anywhere! Get creative by incorporating produce into your existing plant beds or consider growing them in containers. Learn more about growing vegetables in containers right here.
Vegetable Gardening Questions
It depends. First, find out your USDA plant hardiness zone, then follow these guidelines for planting vegetables: Hardy vegetables, such as broccoli and asparagus, or vegetables planted from seed, can be planted 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost date . Frost-hardy vegetables such as carrots and radishes can be planted from seed 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost. But for tender vegetables like summer favorites tomatoes and zucchini, you should wait until all threat of frost has passed. When in doubt, check the seed packet or plant label for more information.
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In the spring, leafy greens like lettuce, radishes, and peas are among the easiest, while in the summer, fertile zucchini is a pretty safe bet. In the fall, switch back to these leafy greens to finish the growing season strong. Learn more by reading The Best Plants for Beginners.
For a brand new vegetable garden bed, you’ll want to make sure that any grass or plants that were there before have been removed. You’ll also want to rake or till the soil to remove any large rocks, roots, or clods of soil. (Learn more about preparing garden beds for vegetables.) From there, you should perform a test to measure the pH of your soil. This might seem like something you can skip; but trust us, your vegetable garden will perform much better when the soil is in the ideal pH range of 6.5 to 6.8. Learn how to easily perform a pH test for soil acidity at home right here. Once you know the pH of your soil, you can work on improving it by adding lime or ash to raise the pH or sphagnum peat to lower it. Finally, give your plants a strong start by mixing 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soilin into the top 6 inches of your native soil to improve soil structure and provide nutrients. Learn more about soil and its important role in the health of your plants.
There are essentially three options when it comes to starting your vegetable garden: sowing seeds directly in the soil, starting seeds indoors, or planting vegetable starters. Starting from seed will give you more bang for your buck, but can be a bit more challenging. (See how to start seeds indoors.) Starter plants may be more expensive, but much of the hard work is already done for you. For beginners, we recommend skipping the seeds and opting for starter plants, such as those from Bonnie Plants®. They have more than 70 grow stations across the country, so you know the plants you get from them are right for where you live.
Being a vegetable gardener just might mean you’ll never be annoyed by the rain again. But chances are, rain alone won’t be enough and you’ll need to add a supplement for best results. Help keep your plants healthy and happy by providing them with about an inch of water per week, whether from Mother Nature, you, or a combination of the two. Stick your finger into the soil every day or two; if the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. Learn about different watering methods.
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It’s important to keep your vegetables well-nourished throughout the growing season. Plant food supplies nitrogen (N) to promote growth, phosphorus (P) to promote root development, and potassium (K) for overall plant health (including disease, drought, and pest resistance). Virtually every plant food contains some ratio of “NPK” that is listed on the package (12-4-8, for example). Plant foods can also include other beneficial nutrients. With continuous-release fertilizers like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules, you apply slow-release granules directly into the soil. Or you can apply a water-soluble plant food such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition when you water. Whichever form you choose, start feeding early in the growing season (one month after planting if using Miracle-Gro® soil), then apply granules every 1 to 3 months (check the label!) or a water-soluble plant food every 1 up to 2 weeks. (#lifehack: Set a reminder on your phone’s calendar so you don’t forget to eat.) Get more plant-based nutrition basics.
For some, weeding can be therapeutic. For others, it’s just annoying. Whichever camp you fall into, you’ll want to keep weeds down as much as possible so they don’t steal valuable nutrients, water, and sunlight from your vegetables. Win the weed war by applying a 2-inch layer of loose mulch, such as untreated grass clippings or straw, to block the sunlight weeds need to grow (and keep the soil moist). Then stay on top of fast-emerging weeds by spending 5 minutes each day snooping and pulling. Another option: To prevent weeds from emerging, apply Miracle-Gro® Garden Weed Preventer between rows—just be sure to follow label directions.
It’s true: weather and outside invaders can cause a host of problems when it comes to your tomatoes, but trust us: the effort is worth it! Here are some common signs and what they mean:
There are many reasons why your vegetable plant may stop producing. For one thing, most types of vegetables only produce for part of the growing season. For example, in many climates peas grow in the spring and then disappear, while most pumpkins do not begin to develop until late summer or even fall. The plant tag can help you determine approximately when your plant will produce fruit. The plant’s production can also stop due to extreme temperatures. Take the heat out of your vegetables by watering early and often and making sure they have proper nutrition – then be patient. Plants like tomatoes and peppers may stop producing in the height of summer, then start again when the weather cools down a bit. Another reason could be that you’re not cleaning fast enough. You can encourage many types of plants to produce more vegetables by picking the ripe ones more regularly.
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It can be super frustrating to find that your favorite vegetables have become a backyard animal’s snack. If there are holes in the leaves, the culprit is most likely beetles, caterpillars, earwigs or slugs. To find out who is responsible, examine your plant in the evening when these hungry critters are most likely to be active. Also, caterpillars are likely to leave droppings, while snails leave a telltale slimy trail. When possible, remove pests by hand. If you decide to use a pesticide, choose one that says it’s suitable for use in the vegetable garden.
High temperatures and lack of rainfall can really have a big impact on your vegetable garden. There are a few simple steps you can take to minimize the effects of heat and drought on your summer vegetables: Keep your garden well-watered (ideally in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation), apply a layer of mulch to to help retain moisture in the soil and make sure you don’t over feed the plant. For any fall vegetables (like broccoli or greens) you may have started, tie a shade cloth or sheet to poles (or even lawn chairs) and hang them over your plants during the hottest part of the day.
Harvest time will vary by vegetable. Start with the plant label or seed packet for general time frames, but let the plant be your guide. Generally, ripe vegetables are colorful, tender, and easily separated from the plant. Harvest in the morning when the vegetables are at their crispest and juiciest. It is also important to remember that bigger is not always better. Many vegetables will become stringy and lose flavor if allowed to grow too large on the plant. (I your neighbor once gave you a giant zucchini, you know what we’re talking about). Get specific details on how and when to harvest vegetables.
When it’s time to put your garden to sleep for the winter, remove the plant debris – and if it’s sick, be sure to bag it up and put it in the trash instead of adding it to the compost pile. Consider planting a cover crop, such as oats or rye, to prevent erosion and add nutrients back to the soil. You may also want to cultivate your garden
Q & A: Vegetables
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