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Keep your veggies healthy and they will do the same for you

Register • Jun 24, 2014 at 7:30 PM

A haphazard spring with temperatures both in the high and low ranges has made judging how the garden grows a bit tricky this year. Add to that bouts of excessive rainfall on consecutive days early in the growing season, followed more recently by dry, windy weather, and the puzzle of vegetable and herb gardening might seem a bit complicated.

Not to worry. Just like flowering plants, vegetable and herb plants are resilient and know what they are doing as long as their owners are attentive to the plants’ needs and recognize the signs of distress, disease or pest invasions.

Take the process of vegetable gardening one step at a time. Know the properties of the soil (apply lime to the soil based on soil test results) and don’t forget to fertilize. Use mulches to conserve moisture, control weeds and reduce fruit rot caused by fruit contact with the soil. Make sure the plants have enough water. An inch of water each week is a basic rule of thumb – too much or not enough moisture does more harm than good.

Watch plants carefully to detect any problems. It is like a scouting mission to determine whether there has been a pest invasion or if the plants show signs of distress or plant disease. Identify the problem, and then take the steps necessary to resolve the issue. For plant diseases consult with professionals who can help identify the problem and make recommendations for alleviating the problem. Pesticides can help resolve insect problems.

In both instances it is imperative that particular attention is paid to the use of chemicals. Follow directions listed on labels and use the product only for those plants listed on the packaging.

Keep the garden weed free. Weeds compete with vegetable and herb plants for water, sun and nutrients. They also attract insects. Don’t crowd plants. Once the plants are established, if there are several crowded together, thin them out to avoid competition for water, sun and nutrients.

Establish a routine. That is essential to success in vegetable gardening. Take time from a busy schedule on a regular basis to attend to necessities. Don’t put off watering plants, but if time is short devise a system for weeding that makes efficient use of time. Make it a daily habit to check on the garden. Twenty minutes a day is not a lot of time and the end results are rewarding.

While most gardeners think in terms of summer vegetable yields, fall gardening can also be rewarding. The key is to plant before the threat of a first frost. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, peas, beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots thrive in cool weather both in the spring and the fall.

Mid-October is the time of year to watch for frost warnings. As a rule of thumb when expanding the vegetable garden experience by growing plants from seed for fall harvesting, the following recommendations for Ohio gardeners are: plant seeds carrots the first week of August; peas, second week of August; beets, fourth week of August, lettuce and spinach, fifth week of August, and radishes, third week of September.

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