Nothing tastes better then fresh veggies and fruit on a summer day. Except, of course, if you’ve grown that produce yourself. You can almost taste the pride as you bite into your home-grown tomato.
And guess what? You don’t need to be an expert gardener to have the best tasting garden.
Along with rain gardens and monarch butterflies, you will also find a vegetable garden at Amery Hospital and Clinic that’s packed with delicious options. Groundskeeper Luke Whittkop manages the garden and gives these tips to have success with your own.
1) Build a garden bed.
A raised garden bed offers a safe and separated space for your vegetables. And with the DIY craze, there is no shortage of simple plans that anyone can build. If you do build it yourself, be sure to use cedar or fir lumber. They can naturally handle the weather elements like rain and snow.
Pre-treated lumber has chemicals that can affect the taste and health of what your garden. But if you decide to use it, make sure to line the wood with a plastic liner and cut holes for drainage.
2) Weed the right way.
Weeds can be frustrating. They can overtake a yard or garden pretty quickly. And it’s pretty tempting to grab the weed killing spray and saturate your yard. But for your garden, it’s not a good idea. While it’s made to hurt the weeds, it can also hurt people.
The best weed defense is good garden preparation. Tilling an area several times over for a few weeks can kill most of the existing perennial weeds. If you plan far enough ahead, you can also cover your future garden area with a layer of cardboard or newspaper and then several inches of mulch. If left for several months, all the weeds will be smothered and you’ll have a weed-less garden site. You can also spray them with vinegar for a totally natural and cheap weed killer. Just make sure you don’t spray your veggies because it has the same effect on them. Of course weeding with a hoe or hand pulling is the most effective way to control weeds.
3) Keep out animals.
Animals might love your veggies as much as you do. The most effective control for them is a fence. Rabbits will be blocked by only 3 feet of chicken wire. If you have deer, you’ll need to raise it to 6 feet. You can also use bird netting to easily protect specific plants that deer or rabbits are harming.
Repellents, whether store-bought or homemade (like soap, human hair, etc.) tend to have a short period of control. And animals eventually get used to them. Plus, chemical ones aren’t good for you. If you do use a repellent, consider a more natural approach. Options include spraying your garden with a mix of water and cayenne powder, or scattering rotten eggs in the soil. Be aware that any repellent you put on your veggies that tastes bad to them might also taste bad to you. When it comes to natural repellents, I’ve had the best luck with planting mint or marigolds alongside veggies.
4) Get rid of those pesky insects.
Another battle you might have is insects. Most gardeners that grow cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or kale will have trouble with cabbage worms at some point. These are small green caterpillars that eat plants in the cabbage family. But they can be easily picked off. You can also use BT pest control found at garden centers. This is naturally occurring bacteria that is fatal to the caterpillars. It has to be eaten by the pest, so it won’t harm other beneficial caterpillars in the gardens.
Aphids can also be troublesome in gardens but can often be kept under control by spraying them off with a hose. Otherwise, there are many natural and organic insect controls for gardens such as insecticidal soap and Neem Oil.
5) Get some good fertilizer.
Vegetables will only be as nutritious as the soil they’re growing in, so fertilizer is really important. Aged manure is great. Compost can help improve the soil, too, but generally does not have enough nutrients to be the most effective fertilizer.
If you want to start small, PowerUp has tips for how you can grow lettuce indoors in containers. And be sure to check out the yumPower Power Pack for great recipes to use your freshly grown veggies.