Preparing Summer Vegetable Gardens
Before you lift even one shovel full of soil to get your summer vegetable garden ready, we’d like to offer a few suggestions on how to achieve better success with your edibles this year.
We tend to be creatures of habit, but why not move your vegetable garden to a different part of the yard? Old lawn areas offer the greatest potential for new gardens, and even if it’s too late to change for this year, consider it for next season. A little rearranging of the landscape is often a good idea. Insects and diseases come and go in rather predictable cycles, and if you break up that cycle you may just minimize some pesky problems. Wherever you situate your veggie garden, the key is to have as much sun as possible, especially from 10am to 3pm when it provides the most light and heat.
In the Lower Mainland, once your garden is cultivated and ready for planting, apply some Dolopril lime at the rate of one 10kg bag per 2000 square feet. Not only does it make the soil less acidic, but this lime also adds valuable magnesium and calcium that tomatoes need so much. Remember, however, that potatoes and lime do not get on well together, so keep lime away from the spud-growing area.
Compost can be added any time over the spring planting period, but it is most beneficial when rototilling or cultivating the garden soil. Many of the nutrients in organic compost and well-rotted manures are quickly available, and some are lost if left in the soil too long before the plants go in.
When you get down to planting seeds, buy the best hybrid and old reliable varieties that you know work well in your garden, but also keep experimenting with new varieties to see if you can improve the flavour, versatility, and production time. Freeze vegetable seeds for 48 hours before sowing to help stratify them. This should speed up and improve germination. Most people plant their seeds far too deep. Folks, the deeper you go, the colder and damper it is down there. Keep your seeds up high where it’s warmer and drier. That’s why raised beds are so popular and effective. The favourite size for raised beds seems to be 4 ft. x 8 ft. x 24 inches high, but they should be at least 18 inches high.
Less is more in gardening, and if we make poor use of our green areas, we needlessly waste space, fertilizer, compost, water, and oodles of time. Keep your pathways to a minimum and increase the size of your rows. Wide-row gardening is the norm around the world, saving space and allowing a longer harvest period. The outside vegetables always mature first, while the ones on the inside, because they are more shaded, mature later.
On that note, be mindful of your plant placement in the garden so that taller plants are at ‘the back’, allowing as much light through as possible, and don’t overcrowd your space either. Good airflow around your plants will help prevent fungal problems later.
Container gardening is the only gardening many folks can do, and it can be done with great success! Select the largest pots you can and set them in the spot that has the most light. Soil from last season will have had much of its nutrient value used up, so start with fresh soil, or at least work a good amount of Sea Soil into the existing soil, to revive it. There are many varieties of vegetable hybrids, created from traditional breeding, that perform well in containers. Shop for these types, or those that are more compact, and you’ll truly have the best fit for your patio planters.
The last concern we have is starting many of our vegetables too early. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, and squashes should be planted out in the later part of May when it’s warm, and night-time temperatures are consistently 10C or higher. Even beans need warm soil for the best success. There is still lots of time to get our gardens in, so there is no harm in waiting until we fully emerge from these cooler, wetter days of spring.
There is so much joy to be had from a productive vegetable garden, so take some time to prepare yours well, plan your placements carefully and wait to plant heat lovers until we actually have heat, and you’ll have fresh produce to enjoy for months to come!