April in the...Edible Garden
by Aileen Carroll for Van Winden’s Garden Center
Tips for veggie-growing success!
Choose a sunny spot. Most fruits and vegetables appreciate at least 8 hours of direct sunlight and many need 12 for optimal performance. If you are limited and do not have garden spaces with that much sun then opt for cherry tomatoes, kale, or lettuces this summer.
Freshen up your soil. Did you know you should be adding 2-3 inches of fresh potting soil to your raised beds each fall and spring if you’re growing veggies year round? And if you’re planting in the ground you should do the same but with compost!
Whether you till this new soil in is a personal choice and there are pros and cons to each method. There is lots of new science coming out that shows the strong benefits of ‘no-till’ for soil health!
Decide on seedlings or seeds. If you’re unsure about your gardening skills then play it safe and start with seedlings. These will let you jump right past the tricky first few weeks after seeds germinate. If you have a bit of experience under your belt (or you’re feeling lucky) then planting seeds is often a very fulfilling endeavor. Be sure to read the fine print on the back of the seed package as some seeds like to start with some sunlight and others prefer darkness, some like to be soaked overnight and others need to be thinned. You’ll also see how many “days until germination” which can tell you when you can expect to see your seeds sprouting.
Plant some deep. Some plants are able to grow roots from their stems. Planting tomatoes, kale, peppers, broccoli and cauliflowers a few inches deeper than usual can mean more roots and plants that are better able to deal with our hot summer weather.
Consider your spacing. Different plants often need different amounts of space to grow well. A strawberry plant might need 1 sq. ft. but the average pumpkin plant will need something closer to 30 sq. ft. Requirements for each plant are often written on the plastic plant tag or can be found by a quick internet search. Pay attention to these details and make sure you give each plant the room it needs to grow to its potential. Overcrowded plants can lead to disease (due to poor airflow) and increased fertilizer needs.
Add some flowers. Besides adding beauty, veggie gardens will really benefit with the addition of certain flowers. French marigolds have stinky roots and leaves that can mask the smell of tomatoes and brassicas, thus hiding them from many bad bugs. Nasturtiums work as a type of ‘banker plant’ by luring aphids and other pests away from your tender greens and ensuring that there are pests around for good bugs to eat. Plant nasturtiums alongside lettuce, squash, tomatoes, and artichokes. Alyssum is another type of banker plant that attracts and feeds beneficial predatory insects. It will attract the good bugs that you need to save your vegetables from pests!