Siting & Design
Nutrient Demands & Companion Planting
Different plants use nutrients in different ways. For an efficient garden, organize plants by nutrient demand. Plants harvested for their leaves, like spinach, use high levels of nitrogen. Plants grown for flowers and fruits like broccoli or tomatoes need phosphorus. Root crops like garlic and onions use lots of potassium. Spreading these crops out throughout beds will allow nutrients to be used efficiently. Rotating rows each year will prevent nutrient depletion. Beans and peas help replenish nutrients in the soil.
Plants in vegetable gardens form communities, working with (and sometimes against) each other to grow and produce. For example, marigolds can repel squash bugs and tomato hornworms. Plants like carrots and dill attract beneficial insects like ladybugs that prey on damaging pests. Plants in the mint family repel cabbage moths. A good resource for vegetable companions is available here.
Choose a warm spring day to plant. A few days of overcast weather will help transplanted seedling adjust to their new home. Sun and wind can be hard on tender seedlings. Planting in the afternoon will also help transition seedlings. Rake soil up in mounds to create rows or beds of loose soil for the seeds and seedlings.
Refer to the spacing on the seed packet or plant label. Keep plants far enough away from each other to allow air to circulate between plants, but close enough to shade out weeds later in the season.
Seeding or transplanting
These plants grow well when sown directly into the ground. Seeds should be planted in the ground at a depth two to three times their width. Water after sowing:
Corn, peas, beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi.
These plants grow the best when planted as seedlings, whether started indoors or purchased from a nursery. Press soil around the base gently and water in to get rid of air pockets around the roots:
Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions.
Growing plants need about an inch of water a week. Water plants lightly and frequently when they are young. As plants grow, encourage healthy roots systems by watering less and forcing the roots to seek water deep in the soil.
Keep beds free of weeds while young seedlings are growing. Biodegradable recycled paper weed barrier covered with mulch will help keep moisture in and weeds from germinating. At the end of the season, these products can be tilled into the garden to decompose.