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Vegetable Gardening at Home

Throughout most of human history the average person’s daily life revolved around the search for food, and nearly every occupation related in one way or another to agriculture and the production of fruits and vegetables. In days gone by, a well-tended vegetable garden was a necessity, if you wanted fresh fruits and vegetables on the table every night.

Today, with the hectic pace of modern life and disconnection from the land, just the opposite is true. Every one knows that we live in an age when nearly any vegetable or fruit imaginable can be found at your local supermarket, trucked or flown in from exotic locales all over the world, and at any time of the year. Peppers in every color and hue from Holland, grapes from Chile, hydroponic tomatoes grown under glass, just to name a few.

You might ask why anyone would consider growing a vegetable when so much is so readily available. That question would never enter your mind if you ever had the joy of sampling the first red ripe tomato of the season, or had strawberry shortcake made with the sweetest strawberries picked from your very own patch, or if you had ever tasted an ear of sweet corn that was picked right off the stalk just a hour earlier.

The produce that you harvest is only the most obvious benefit of growing a vegetable garden. The daily cycles and rhythms of tending a garden have a wonderful soothing effect on the gardener, who may have to sit at a computer in a stuffy office or attend meetings all day in their other, more hectic life.

Finding the right site for your garden is one of the most important keys to growing a healthy and productive vegetable garden. First of all consider the site’s exposure to the sun, six hours of sun daily is about the minimum required, while eight to ten hours would be ideal for most vegetable plants. Choose a relatively level site, with loose, well-drained soil, that is sheltered from heavy winds. If you are able to find a suitable location near the house (convenient for quick harvests before dinner), with a reliable source of water for irrigation, all the better.

If deer and rodents are a problem in your area, you should also consider installing a fence (at least 2′ high) to keep them from snacking on your vegetables. If your garden is small, a few simple hand tools are all you need to turn over the soil and incorporate organic matter and fertilizer. For larger plots, consider hiring a local farmer to till your garden, or you could buy or rent a tiller from an equipment rental center and do it yourself. Refer to our previous gardening tip for more information on proper soil preparation, another key to success.

Wait until all risk of frost has passed (First week of May in our area), and garden soils have warmed sufficiently to plant all of your summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash. You will need to wait until early fall to plant cool season crops like spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and peas.

Consider planting a variety of flowering plants alongside your vegetables. This will not only bring more beauty and color into your garden, but will also attract beneficial insects, some that will pollinate your tomatoes, peppers and squash, and others that will prey upon the harmful bugs that are feeding on your plants. Place plants with similar growing periods together.

When the harvest has ended for this group of plants, the bed can be cleared and prepared for next season’s crop. A garden journal and diagram are very helpful tools for the serious gardener. By making records of your gardening activities, you will be able to repeat successes and perhaps correct failures in your garden next year. You should try to rotate the locations of the different plants in your garden every year. This will help to prevent the build up of soil borne diseases, particularly in plants like tomatoes, eggplant and cabbages.

Behnke Nurseries offers a wide selection of beautifully grown vegetable and herb plants, a huge variety of vegetable seeds, and anything else you will need to make this year’s harvest from your vegetable garden more bountiful and delicious than ever before.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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