Summer is upon us and in order to grow better vegetables, you need to stay on top of the basics: feed, sow, stake, protect, mulch, monitor and shelter. So it only takes a bit of effort and you'll reap the rewards all summer long from your garden!
Niki Jabbour's Secrets to Growing Vegetables Like a Pro
Feed! Add generous amounts of compost or aged manure to vegetable beds prior to planting and between successive crops. Avoid adding manure to beds where root crops will be grown. Too much nitrogen can result in hairy or split roots.
Sow! I always make sure that I have a steady supply of ready-to-go seedlings to replace spent crops. I keep my grow-lights going into midsummer, continually nurturing fresh seedlings for the garden.
Stake! Insert stakes or supports for vining crops like pole beans, peas and indeterminate tomatoes at planting time. If you wait until the plants are growing well, you risk damaging their root systems when you drive in the stakes. (For more information on staking tomatoes read this.)
Protect! In cool climates, use plastic-covered mini hoop tunnels to shelter heat-loving crops like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and melons from the unpredictable spring weather. Leave the covers on for several weeks past the last frost date or until the weather has settled, opening the ends on warm days.
Mulch! Once the soil has warmed up in late spring, apply a two- to three-inch-thick layer of straw, weed-free grass clippings or shredded leaves to garden beds. Mulch reduces garden maintenance by helping the soil retain moisture, suppressing weed-seed germination and reducing the occurrence of soil-borne diseases like tomato blight.
Monitor! Keep a sharp eye out for common garden pests like aphids, slugs and cabbage worms. Hand pick any you find.
Shelter! Once the heat of summer arrives, many cool-season greens like lettuce, arugula and spinach quickly bolt, turning the leaves bitter and unpalatable. My quick fix is to float a length of 30-percent shade cloth on hoops above the garden bed, creating a stress-free spot for my salad greens so they don’t bolt.
Niki Jabbour grows edible plants all year near Halifax, Nova Scotia. She's a frequent contributor to Horticulture and the author of Veggie Garden Remix and other titles. Visit her online at Savvy Gardening. This article was excerpted from Edibles Year-Round in Horticulture 2014.