The Q&A Archives: vegetable gardening

Question: In light of the dismal economy, I'd like to start a fruit and vegetable garden in my back yard. In summer, I have sun there nearly all day. I have about 20 by 15 feet I could use but wouldn't necessarily want to start so ambitiously. I was thinking carrots, beets, beans, strawberries and blueberries maybe. People say I have a green thumb with flowers and shrubs but I've never grown vegetables or fruits and I worry about insects and other pests.I have a lot of bird visitors to my garden so I'm resigned to losing some of the fruit. What would be the best and simplest way to start and with what? Thank you. Pauline

Answer: Creating an edible landscape isn't much different than growing flowers so with your green thumb, you should be successful. And, with an abundance of birds visiting your garden, insect populations should remain low, no matter what you plant. Diseases can be kept at bay if you carefully space your plants so there's good sunlight penetration and good air circulation all around your plants. That boils down to knowing the mature sizes of the plants and planting accordingly. I'd start by amending the soil with organic matter to help it drain quickly yet hold just the right amount of moisture. Start small. Choose a plot and spread 4-5" of compost, aged manure, or just about any organic material over the surface. Dig this in to a depth of 8-10" and then level the soil. Since it's mid-summer you'll be restricted to planting short season varieties of veggies. Radishes mature quickly, as do lettuces. In late August you can plant peas and beans and they should be ready for harvest before the first frost. Strawberries can be set out now, too. Your carrots and beets will take a long time to mature but can be planted now for harvest before first frost. You might also consider growing cabbages (they like cool weather so by the time they begin to form heads it should be early fall). You might even find some transplants at your local garden center. Since these already have a head start you can plant them now and harvest before frost. No garden would be complete without some kitchen herbs so you can plant parsley, thyme, rosemary, etc. now and still be able to harvest later this summer. Choose your favorite veggies and give them a try.

Enjoy your new garden!

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