5 Essential Vegetable Garden Chores

It's planting time in many areas of the country and many gardeners are just starting their first gardens.  Figuring out just what to do in the garden can get a little overwhelming for beginning gardeners so here are 5 essential garden chores that gardeners can do to maximize their success!

11 Things to Consider When
Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
  1. Keep the garden weeded!  I have been guilty of failing to keep up with weeding.  I'll admit it! Weeding is not the most fun task in the world but it is necessary.  Weeds can take away valuable nutrients from the vegetables you are growing.  They use resources like water and when large enough can block out light from your garden.  Keep your garden weeded on a regular basis.  If you can get out there each day and pull a few weeds then your weeding will be simple and easy.  If you wait until there are a lot of weeds you will have a lot of weeds to pull!  Do yourself a favor and keep it maintained!
  2. Mulch the garden.  Mulching goes a long way toward reducing weeds, keeping moisture in the soil, and even replenishing nutrients.  Organic mulches break down over time and feed the soil.  Mulch keeps the soil cooler for roots in the hot summer and water is more available to plants since it hasn't evaporated as quickly. I use grass clippings from a pesticide and herbicide free lawn as a mulch but you can use straw, pine needles, hardwood mulch, leaves, or other organic mulches.  I never use Bermuda grass clippings since they are able to spread into the garden from just a little cutting.
  3. Amend the soil!  I amend the soil each year with organic materials.  I consider mulching as one step in the soil amendment processes but do use fertilizers.  There are three numbers on fertilizers which are abbreviated N-P-K.  Nitrogen is good for leafy plant growth and the other two (Phosphorus and Potassium) help with fruiting, rooting, and general plant health.  I only use organic fertilizers on my plants since synthetic ones introduce salts and other chemicals into the soil.  Organic fertilizers target the soil and fill it with nutrients rather than providing immediately available nutrients to the plant.  If you build a healthy soil you will have healthy plants!
  4. Composting is a must.  You will end up with mountains of plant waste when you garden.  Add that plant waste to your vegetable kitchen waste and you will have a good foundation for a compost pile.  I'm always astounded in the fall to see bags and bags of leaves by the roadsides which would make great compost too.  When your compost is all black and crumbly add it as an amendment to your soil.  Just work it into the top 2 inches or so of soil and let it go to work.  Finished compost adds microbial activity to the soil which helps in the transfer of nutrients into the plant.
  5. Monitor the garden.
     You should be in the garden every day.  Just to walk around and see how things are going and pick the ripe produce daily to keep it coming.  Pests, like these black blister beetles in the picture, can quickly come into the garden on those days you didn't make it to the garden and do damage.  Daily monitoring allows you to see what is happening, what you need to do,how to fix it,  and you can do a little bit of weeding while you're there!  Walk through the garden before work, after work, at lunch, or whenever the mood strikes you and your garden will be better for it.  
There's a saying that says  "The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow."  So get out there this weekend and put your shadow over some plants!

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