After transplanting new plants, create a berm of soil around
their base with a slight depression in the center. This directs
water down toward the central root zone, and reduces the
amount of water lost to runoff.
Arrange your plants in “tiers” facing the sun. Watch how the
sun travels in your garden. Plant your garden with the shortest
plants at the southern end, and build up to the tallest plants at
the northern end. Make sure your taller plants don’t block the
sunlight for the smaller plants. Plants which are supported by a
trellis, like squash, peas or pole beans, should be placed toward
the northern and eastern edges of the garden plot, so as not to
shade other plants.
Plant successively. Rather than plant a crop, such as lettuce
or broccoli, all at once, it’s better to plant several crops spaced
two weeks apart. This will prevent a windfall of one crop all at
one time, and will extend the harvest over the full length of the
Protect your seedlings. A small, clear shelter will protect
seedlings from pests, warm the soil, and provide more favorable
conditions for delicate seedlings. Use a cloche or cold frame for
the job. However, be sure that the soil is kept watered, as the
cloche will prevent rain from wetting the soil.
Tuck plants into bare spots. Bare spots invite weeds. Fill
in any bare spots with small annuals like lettuce, celery, mint,
nasturtium or parsley.
Don’t add nitrogen once plants are established. Manure,
bloodmeal, canola meal and other high-nitrogen sources are
essential for vigorous plant and leaf growth, but should be withheld once the plant is established or shows any signs of flowering.
Too much nitrogen will promote more plant growth when the
plant should be producing fruit. Large, leggy plants with little
fruit yield are an indicator of too much nitrogen.
Keep a planting record. Make a note of which plants are planted
in each bed. At the end of the season you can note any problems or
improvements for subsequent crops. Also, this record makes it easy
to decide which beds to rotate crops into the next spring.
Rotate crops each year. Rotation will often prevent reinfection of
vegetables from disease spores from last years’ crops. Tomatoes,
for instance, are susceptible to verticillium wilt, which remains in
the soil over the winter and can attack a new crop.
Greg Seaman is the founder and editor of Eartheasy.com, an online guide to sustainable living. Greg and his family have 30 years of organic gardening experience, having lived off-grid and maintained two vegetable gardens and
an orchard since 1980. This article is the second in a three-part series
on backyard vegetable gardening. To see all three articles, visit:
eartheasy.com/grow_backyard_vegetable_garden.html. View article
resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness
The basic soil requirements for plants to grow and produce
fruit are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
The relative amounts of these elements is listed on most
bags of fertilizer and soil amendments.
Nitrogen is essential for vigorous stem and leaf growth.
Sources of nitrogen include manure, bloodmeal, bonemeal,
canola meal and cottonseed meal.
Phosphorous is essential for strong root systems and
flowering. It can increase fruit development and seed yield.
Sources of phosphorous are rock phosphate, blood meal,
bone meal, cottonseed meal and urine.
Potassium is essential for cell division and strong stems.
It helps fight disease, improve the quality of fruit, and de-
crease the water requirement of plants. Sources of potas-
sium are wood ashes, greensand, manure and compost.
You’ll need to schedule your planting according to the
seasonal temperature range in your region. Early-season
plants like peas, Swiss chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cau-
liflower, turnips and onions grow best at temperatures be-
tween 50 and 70°F ( 10–20°C). These plants prefer a cooler
time of the year to grow, and will usually tolerate frost.
Vegetables like lettuce, celery, cabbage, carrots, radishes,
parsnips and leeks have intermediate temperature require-
ments. They grow best in temperatures between 60 and
80°F ( 15–25°C). Set these out after the early-season plants
Warm-season vegetables grow best in temperatures
above 70°F ( 20°C) and will die if exposed to frost. These
include corn, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, beans and all
the vine crops. So make sure the majority of their growing
season is in the warmer months.
For crop-specific instructions, read the seed packets.
Planting schedules, planting instructions and days to ma-
turity will be listed on the seed packets you buy for each
vegetable you plant.