Vegetable Gardening Tips

Healthy soil, 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day and having a plan will get you started out on the right foot when planting your vegetable garden. Organic gardening and using “green” practices are a popular part of many gardeners plans.

Plants such as marigolds can deter pests in the garden. 

Try planting borage near plants in the cucurbitaceae family. It attracts bees needed for the pollination process of cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins and squash.

Consider intercropping in your garden. Carrots can be planted in between the lettuce. After the lettuce has been harvested the carrots will grow to fill in the spaces. Beans can be planted at the base of corn and climb the stalk.  Peas can be planted with tomatoes.By intercropping, two or more crops can grow in the same space in a single season.

Pests weaken plants, but before grabbing for the nearest pesticide at the first sign of a chewed leaf, give some alternative solutions some thought. Floating row covers, handpicking and slug traps can be effective ways to naturally reduce the damage to your veggies without the chemicals found in so many pesticides.

Neem Oil has been used for hundreds of years. Azadirachtin is the most active component in Neem Oil. It reduces insect feeding and acts as a repellent.

Soaking garlic or hot peppers in warm water and then spraying the solution on the leaves of affected plants will discourage pests. Homemade preparations of Nicotiana (tobacco) are slightly insecticidal. Be sure to spray the insect itself and check the underside of the plant leaf.   If chemical control is needed, start with something of low toxicity such as an insecticidal soap.  Be aware that broad-spectrum insecticides will kill beneficial insects and soil organisms as well as pests.

Here’s a recipe for a fertilizing garden tea. Fill a container, (bucket, trash can) 2/3 full with manure or compost. Fill the container with water to about 2 inches from the top of the rim.  Cover with plastic and secure with rope, bungee cord, whatever you have. Let it set in the sun and stir it every day or two until it becomes rank and bubbly. That may take about a week.  Strain off the liquid (you may want to affix clothespin to nose for this process) and dilute it to a concentration of 1:10. Water the entire garden with your homemade tea. 

Newspaper, cardboard and mulch can be used between rows to suppress weeds.

Many foliage problems are caused by the foliage being too wet. If using an overhead watering method, apply the water in the morning. This will give the foliage all day to dry.

Short on room to grow vining plants? Train your melons, squash and cucumbers onto a trellis or fence.

Milk jugs, 2 liter soda bottles and other plastic containers make great mini-covers to place over your plants to protect them from frost.

Turn a long handled tool into a measuring stick. Lay the tool on the ground and place a measuring tape next to it. Using a permanent marker, make measuring marks on the handle.  When you need to place plants a certain distance apart, you will already have a measuring tool handy.

I sure hope some of these tips will be useful to you and as always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at  The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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