How to Grow Vegetables

After Planting

After planting, just set a 3-inch-long cardboard tube around the seedling. Push the tube down so half is submerged, thus preventing underground attacks. Then once the seedling has grown into a plant, you can remove the cardboard collar.
  • Tear the tops and bottoms off peat pots when setting out vegetables. Peat pots, which are supposed to decay when submerged in the soil, don't always break down the first year they are planted. This leaves plant roots captive inside. To complicate matters further, if the peat rim emerges above the soil surface, it can dry out and steal moisture from the surrounding soil and nearby roots. Peat pot problems are easily solved by tearing off the top and bottom of the pot before planting. This helps eliminate the danger of drying out and gives roots a way to escape if the peat pot persists.

  • Plant vertically to save space. Instead of letting beans, cucumbers, melons, and squash sprawl across the ground, you can let them climb a trellis or arbor.

  • Add height to a vegetable garden with a tepee covered with bean and pea vines. This space saver works similarly to a trellis but has a different look. Make the tepee of six or eight 6-foot-high poles tied together at the top. Plant pole beans, lima beans, or peas around each pole, and they will twine up to the top.

  • Side-dress long-growing crops, such as indeterminate tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, with a balanced vegetable-garden fertilizer to keep them producing. After the first harvest, sprinkle some granular fertilizer around the perimeter of the plants, then work it lightly into the soil and water well. The extra nutrients can encourage blossoming of new flowers and development of fruits afterward.

  • Use newspaper covered with straw between garden rows to eliminate weeds and retain moisture. This dynamic duo works more efficiently together than either one alone. At the end of the growing season, rototill the paper and straw into the soil to decay.

  • Plant melons and cucumbers in the compost pile. (They might grow there anyway if you toss old fruits on the pile in the fall.) Warm, moist, nutrient-rich compost seems to bring out the best in melon and cucumber vines.

  • Extend the fall harvest season for crops such as cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli with a warm coat of straw. Although it may never be fashionably chic, straw does trap heat effectively.
Put bales or piles of straw around the plants, leaving the south side open to the warm sun. Thusly treated, these naturally frost-tolerant plants may stay in good condition deep into fall or even into winter in warmer climates.

Find out the most successful methods of growing asparagus, beans, and cucumbers in the
next section.