By Benedict Olawumi
Crops from few gardens or farms are as enjoyable or rewarding as growing your own vegetables. The joy you have when you stroll through your garden and harvest all you need to cook a meal cannot be quantified and that you’re experiencing the freshest, most flavorful and nutritious produce nature can create.
Successful vegetable gardening is about consistency – making sure growing conditions are properly maintained for the entire growing season. Let plants go dry just for a little while, or forget to fertilize, and you may sacrifice a large portion of your harvest.
1. Choose locally adapted varieties and plan at the right time.
Not all vegetable varieties grow well in all areas. Ask your local growers which varieties are best for where you live. There may be varieties that resist diseases specific to your area, or that produce better crops under your climate conditions.
Make a list of those vegetables you enjoy most, and think about which are hardest to find or most expensive to buy in stores – those are the ones you’ll want to grow.
Divide the crops you want to grow into Cool- season, (raining season ).Common cool-season crops include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce and other salad greens, peas, radishes, spinach and all green leafy vegetables, corn(first season and sweet corn). Popular warm-season crops include dry beans, 2nd season corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, squash, pumpkins, Squash, Tomatoes, Watermelons.
Find a garden spot, Use containers, build a raised bed, dig up your front yard, or whatever else you can think of. If you have a choice, your garden location should be flat and exposed to full sun all day.
Seed packets generally state the proper time to plant. In some areas planting windows are very narrow and you must plant them fairly precisely for a bountiful harvest. Your local nursery or extension office is the best source for local planting dates.
2.Prepare the soil properly before planting and make nursery beds.
Use whatever tool(s) you have handy to break up the soil throughout your garden. If at all possible, add some fertilizer and soil amendments. Work in generous amounts of organic matter such as compost or composted manure. If you don’t use composted manure, which already contains nitrogen, also work in a complete fertilizer.
Talk to an experienced person for suggestions about what to buy, emphasizing that you want to grow organically. You can even have them test your soil and provide recommendations for special soil amendments. For container gardeners, you don’t have to test the soil but be sure of the quality of top or loamy soil.
Use your tool(s) to prepare smooth beds where the topmost soil is very fine (no large lumps). Leave paths in between the beds that are at least 30 cm wide.
3. Plant properly.
Sow seed at the proper depth and space, following directions on seed packets or as advised by your trainer. Vegetables planted too closely together will produce poorly. If you’re planting, transplants, take care not to set them too deeply or the stems may rot – use your trowel to dig a hole just deep enough so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the ground.
Regularly (at least once a week), and put down leaves, straw, newspaper, and/or cardboard around your crops to keep weeds from growing. Harvest crops as they mature.
4. Water consistently and add more fertilizer
Maintain even soil moisture so plants do not dry out, but don’t over-water. Water deeply, and give the soil time to dry partially before watering again. Inconsistent watering will reduce yields in most vegetables, and make others – like cucumbers and lettuce – taste bitter. Installing a drip irrigation system connected to an automatic timer is your best bet.
Add more nutrients in form of compost to the soil after three months for crops in the container or use Foliar Organic fertilizer.
Maintaining vigorous growth is very important with almost all vegetables. However, be careful not to over-fertilize, which can cause some vegetables, especially tomatoes, to produce less.
A 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter applied over the roots of your vegetable plants will cool the soil, reduce weeds, and help prevent soil moisture fluctuations that ruin quality. You can mulch with dry grasses or fodders, or cover crops.
6. Eliminate weeds& Harvest often.
Weeds compete with vegetables for water, nutrients and sunlight, thus reducing yields. Pull weeds by hand and cultivate the soil frequently to keep them to a minimum.
Many vegetables, especially beans, squash, pepper and cucumber, will stop producing if not harvested frequently. Pick every few days. If you can’t eat all you gather, share with friends or neighbors.
7. Control insect pests.
Many insects enjoy fresh vegetables as much as you do. Always keep an eye open for insect damage, and protect your plants with a solution labeled for use on vegetables. Use natural plants like Neem leave solution, Neem oil, Garlic, Onions, Chilli Pepper etc to make solutions to spray your crops when there is any notice of pest or to prevent against pest infection.
***Mrs. Benedict Olawumi can be reached on Whatshapp: +2349025021313