Maintaining Your Vegetable Garden

Row of raised beds with leafy vegetables growing in them
  • 5-50 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-300

Wouldn't it be nice if after preparing your garden soil and planting your vegetables all that was left was sitting back and waiting a while to harvest your crop? Unfortunately for a successful garden that isn't the way it works. Growing a bumper vegetable crop still requires you do some garden maintenance. Usually a little bit every other day is enough, but your garden does need to be watered, mulched, weeded and protected from garden pests before you'll be able to enjoy your harvest. Here's some tips on how to successfully maintain your vegetable garden.

1. Watering

When plants are small, they don't need a lot of water so you only need to ensure the soil around their roots is kept moist. However as plants grow they need more water and towards the end of the growing season, ensure water is getting down at least a foot below the surface.

On average vegetables need about a inch of water per week which may translate into watering your vegetables only once or twice a week. However, hot temperatures, low humidity and wind all will cause water to evaporate more quickly.

When you water you garden, it's best to give your plants a thorough watering rather than just a quick drink. A light sprinkling can actually do more harm than good since it will draw roots up close to the surface where they can be damaged by exposure to the hot sun.

Try to water in the morning or evening, rather than in the heat of the day (to avoid water evaporating before it can be absorbed into the soil), and try not to get the leaves wet (to prevent the spread of disease).

2. Mulching

Leafy green plants with greenhouse in the background

Spreading mulch around your vegetables and between the rows will help maintain moisture in the soil, prevent weeds from taking root and give you a place to walk in your garden.

Landscape fabric held down with metal pins then covered with wood chips makes a great garden mulch.

You can also use old newspaper, dry lawn clippings or composted leaves (dampened to prevent them from blowing around).

3. Weeding

weeding a garden

Weeds will love to grow in your nicely prepared garden soil so you need to keep them from getting established. It's best to keep after them every day or at least every second day, before they have a chance to get their roots firmly established.

A sharp hoe or a cultivator to cut them off below the surface will eliminate young weeds, but if they have established strong roots, you'll need to dig them out, root and all.

4. Controlling Garden Pests

Not all garden insects are harmful, and some can actually help by eating harmful insects so you need to be selective about controlling pests in your garden.

The most effective way to control pests is using a chemical pesticide, but be sure it is the appropriate pesticide for your problem pest. Indiscriminate use of pesticides could kill the "good" insects as well as the "bad" ones and actually hurt your crop. If you practice organic gardening, mix up your own insecticides to address the problem.