I am sure everyone reading this will already be aware of the term going green. I am also sure that everyone realizes that we are in a bad economic situation in Michigan and in the country. Today I would like to discuss vegetable gardening, because it is one way to go green and save some green at the same time.
Facts about vegetables: Vegetables like sun. They will do best if planted in the full sun. If you are like me and have very little full sun in your garden, you can put them in partial shade, just be aware that they will take longer to mature and you may not get as much produce. One way to combat this problem is to plant early and keep things covered in cold weather. Another way to increase production is to build a raised garden so you are not competing with the surrounding trees and shrubs. Raised gardens are also easier to work with especially if you make them no larger than 4′ wide so you can reach from one side to the other. One more way to combat a partially shaded garden is to buy plants rather than seed. These will mature quicker and produce sooner. Another method for early ripening is to pick plants that have a shorter maturity date. There are tomatoes for example that will mature in a shorter amount of time.
Preparing the space. It is best to incorporate compost in the garden especially if your soil is clay or sand. If you have the perfect silty loam soil you probably wouldn’t need compost but 99.9% of us do not have that kind of soil. If you do not have your own compost bin (shame on you) you can purchase compost at your local nursery (Reder Landscaping) by the yard. Rototil the compost into the area and then grade it smooth to make a nice bed for sowing or planting your vegetables. One way to plant your veggies is to build hummocks for them. By this I mean your rows will be a little higher than the space in between. This is especially useful if you have a wettish soil. If you have a dry area I would not recommend it.
Planting: plant your seeds or seedlings according to label requirements. Keep in mind that they will grow and they will do this quickly. Some veggies take up a large amount of space. Some veggies need a trellis or something to climb on. Some veggies need a cage, like tomatoes. Put the trellis’s and cages around the plants as soon as you plant them so you can train the plant on the structure and not struggle to get it on or in there once it has grown 2 feet. Some people think that you have to plant your veggies in straight rows. This is not true. In Europe they plant their veggies among their perennials and it adds another dimension to the perennial garden. It is not advised to plant them with shrubs or trees as there is too much root competition and shade.
Care: Watering and fertilizing are the two main things you will have to do. Unless you have a huge garden, you will probably not have to worry about too many bugs. In Midland since we spray for mosquitoes, a lot of other pests are affected too. None the less, keep your eye out for bugs and if you see some, get them identified before you spray any chemicals, they may be beneficial insects. Make sure you read the label on any pesticide you use and make sure it is safe for the veggies you are spraying it on.
What to plant: This depends on your space, but if you have a small area it is useful to plant an entire salad. Lettuce, cucumber, tomato, carrot, and maybe some salad burnet to give it a little extra punch. Leaf lettuce is easier to grow than head lettuce. Leaf lettuce can be harvested numerous times if you simply cut off what you need and let it re-grow. Remember the bunnies in your garden like these same vegetables so you may need to put a small fence around your garden.
Don’t be afraid to try new varieties, its fun to experiment. Some of the most fun things to try are actually what we call heritage vegetables. They are old varieties that have been forgotten. There are seed sources that specialize in this type of plant. Enjoy going green.