Top 10 Rules for Growing a Kitchen Garden

Growing fruits and vegetables isn't rocket science, but it does involve science. Here are easy tips to help ensure your success in growing food in the garden.

By: Marie Hofer

Photo By: Julie Forney

Photo By: Image courtesy of W. Altee Burpee & Co.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Gardener's Supply Company

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

©Image courtesy of National Association of Realtors

Photo By: All-America Selections

Photo By: Photo by Jamie Rector

Find the Sun

Most vegetables want six hours of direct sun a day — and more if they can get it. Exceptions include lettuce and radishes, which can get by with less.

Start Small

If you're beginning your first garden, help yourself avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed with weeding and general maintenance. You can grow a surprising amount of food in a bed just 10-foot square.

Build Up Your Soil

The foundation of a healthy, productive garden is a rich, well-draining, crumbly soil that has good tilth. Liberally add organic matter such as finished compost, bagged humus and straw.

Time Your Crops

Soil temperatures matter as much as air temperature when you're planting. Even peas, which are spring crops that are resistant to light frost once they're growing, won't germinate when the soil is below 39 degrees.

Have Cover at the Ready

Beware of a late frost, and have protection ready. A cloche works at protecting plants from frost in the same way as the cold frame. It can be anything from the traditional glass bell jar, a full cover with hoops or something as simple as a milk jug that has been cut in half. Simply place the cloche over the plant when frost threatens.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

You wouldn't think twice about mulching your ornamental beds, so do the same with your veggie and fruit plantings. A layer of organic mulch helps conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Anticipate Animal Pests

You don't want unwelcome animal pests making a meal of your fruits and veggies. Talk to your neighbors and try to learn what pests to expect in your area. With the right kind of fencing or screen as shown around these strawberries, you can deter raccoons, rabbits, groundhogs, deer, dogs and other unwelcome visitors.

Mingle Your Plants

Too much of the same kind of plant in a grouping sends "eat here" messages to bad bugs.

Stay On Top of the Harvest

Pick produce when it's ready. Removing beans as they mature allows more of the plant's energy to go into supporting the later fruit that forms.

Don't Hide Your Veggies

Where you can, find a way to integrate your fruit and veggie garden with an area of your yard where you tend to hang out. When the crops are close at hand, you're much more likely to pluck off a bad bug or give a thirsty plant a drink.

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