How to Grow: Caring For a Vegetable Garden

Learn how to care for your vegetable garden in summer. This video includes information on fertilizing, thinning root crops, and watering your vegetables.

For more garden videos, check out the National Gardening Association


Hi I’m Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association, today I’d like to talk to you about maintaining the vegetable garden. You know we spend a lot of time and energy building the soil and planting seeds and transplants in spring. But often by midsummer we forget about the vegetable garden. We really shouldn’t. There’s a few things you can do now that will make your garden more productive for the rest of the season.

One of those things is fertilizing. If you’ve added a lot of compost to your soil and it’s very fertile you may not have to do this but for most plants they can really benefit from a little fertilizer in mid-summer. The timing is really critical for vining crops like cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and gourds. You want to put a little fertilizer around them when they start to run. For legumes, like beans and peas, you don’t have to fertilize. If you have root crops, when you thin those add a little fertilizer. And for greens, like lettuce, every three to four weeks is the best time to fertilize them.

You have a couple different options for fertilizer. Probably the best type for all different kinds of plants is an organic granule of fertilizer. This is nice because it’s easy to use and it’s long lasting. It’ll feed the plant over time. Simply take a small handful and it sprinkle it around the plant. For greens, such as lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard, I like to use a fertilizer that’s a little more faster-acting and more soluble. Fish emulsion is perfect. It’s ground-up fish mixed in with water and it’s very pungent. Just add a couple tablespoons into your watering cans then sprinkle it on your plants. You’ll see they’ll burst from the soil.

Another summer chore is to thin your root crops. Beets, carrots and radishes all need to be thinned. If you don’t thin them you won’t get any roots. The time to thin them is about three to four weeks after they come up. How you thin them is simple. Pull them out so they’re about three to four inches apart. You’ll have to sacrifice some crops but that’s all for the good in the long run.

Water is also a critical issue. It rained here last night but in lots of parts of the country they need to keep the vegetable garden well watered. Keeping the soil moist is really a problem. One of the key things to do is to mulch your garden with hay mulch, straw, pine straw or bark mulch. That will keep the soil really moist. Another thing you can do, for large gardens, is use soaker hoses or drip irrigation hoses. If you have a small garden like this one, and you have a few plants, you can use this little water spike. Water spikes attach to one or two liter soda or water bottles. Simply put them at the end here, cut out the bottom of the bottle. Now you have a little watering system. Take the spike and stick it into the ground right next to your eggplant, your tomato, any large plant that you have and then fill it up with water. The water will slowly drip out the bottom of the spike and feed the roots. You can go away for days and not have to worry about watering this plant.

So spend a little time in the vegetable garden this summer by fertilizing, thinning, and watering you’ll have a more productive harvest for the rest of the season.

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