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Dean Johnson

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Vegetable Gardening

vegetable garden


Vegetables grow best if they get lots of sun and lots of water, so no matter what you plant make sure you're planting in the sunniest part of your yard and within easy reach of your garden hose.

We've laid this page out chronologically under the following topics, and you can link to any one of them directly or scroll through them in order.


Planting Techniques

random sowingRandom Sowing: With leafy vegetables like lettuce, you can simply sprinkle the seeds over the soil and then sprinkle enough soil over the seeds to cover them up. Water carefully, though, with a sprayer or small watering can because too much moisture will flood them out of the bed.

furrow plantingFurrow Planting: Usually, growers will use a hoe to create a straight furrow in the soil, plant a couple of seeds every couple of inches along the furrow and then use the hoe to re-cover the furrow with soil. Plants are easier to weed and to thin out when they're in a straight line, assuming you leave a couple feet between the rows to walk.

seed stripsSeed Strips: You can buy the tiny seeds of certain vegetables like radishes and carrots on paper seed strips. Then you stretch the tape out, lay it in the furrow and cover it up. That's a lot faster than dealing with the tiny seeds. The paper will decompose as the seeds sprout.

transplants, starts, seedlingsTransplants, Starts, Seedlings: These are vegetables started from seed indoors, separated into small containers and then brought outside for planting in the garden. They're most commonly used in colder climates with shorter growing seasons, and they're planted by removing them from their containers, setting them in a small hole and covering their rootballs with soil.


Planting Cool Season Vegetables

planting vegetablesThe planting season begins with the heartiest seeds and transplants, known as the cool season vegetables.

They are the least susceptible to sudden frosts and can actually go in a few weeks before the date of the average last frost in your area (which a local nursery can give you).


Some Common Cool Season Vegetables:

  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Swiss Chard
  • Beets


Planting Warm Season Vegetables

warm season vegetablesMany vegetables are susceptible to the cold, and these warm season vegetables shouldn't go in till after the date of the average last frost.

For these vegetables, plan on leaving space in the garden and planting these later in the spring.


Some Common Warm Season Vegetables:

  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers

By the way if you plant all your sweet corn at once, you'll end up having to harvest much more than you can eat all at once. So if you're planting 3 rows of corn, try planting them 1 row at a time with a week in between each planting to stretch the harvest out.


Succession Planting

succession plantsWith certain fast-growing vegetables (like lettuce, radishes and broccoli), you can squeeze two or more crops out of the same part of your vegetable garden by succession planting.

Just monitor the growth of your first crop and harvest that as soon as its mature.

Remove the debris from that planting and then re-plant new seeds in the same area, watering as needed.

TIP: Some vegetables like lettuce do not do well in the heat of summer, but it grows fast. So after harvesting one or two lettuce crops, you can plant a quick-growing, warm season vegetable (like beans) in its place.



Maintaining Vegetables

vegetable gardenIf your garden gets enough sun, then about all you really need to do is make sure your veggies get about an inch of water every week, supplementing rainfall with watering as needed.

But to keep the soil relatively moist and cool and to keep down weeds, we mulched between our plant rows with a layer of newspaper (which decomposes) covered with grass clippings to hold the paper down. That also keeps you from churning up mud when you work in the garden.

Certain vegetables will grow better with a little boost of fertilizer during the summer:

tomatoes and tomatoe plantTomatoes benefit from a low-nitrogen mix high in potassium and phosphorus to promote flower and fruit growth. Just work a small amount into the soil around the plant's roots. Corn will grow faster with a couple feedings of a high-nitrogen fertilizer, once at about a foot high and then at about 2 feet high.

And here's a tip we picked up: Give your tomato plants a gentle shake once the flowers appear to help the pollination process that leads to juicy tomatoes.


Harvesting Vegetables

onion harvestingHarvesting a large garden can actually get to be a nightmare if you don't monitor it fairly carefully, especially in a really successful growing season.

It's not a bad idea at planting time to set up an expected harvest schedule based on each vegetable's predicted harvest date (found on the seed package).

Then make it a point to get into the garden at the proper times and remove the ripe vegetables. Otherwise, they can rot pretty quickly in the summer heat.

And don't be surprised if you're bringing out a basketful of fresh vegetables every day for 2 or 3 months.


Preparing for Winter

Dean Johnson cooking corn on the cobAfter a summer of work in the garden, it's tempting to let any garden cleanup go till spring. But the following steps can save you work in the long run:

  • Remove all vegetation.
  • Turn the soil over with a shovel.
  • Add organic amendments.
  • Add fertilizer to replenish soil as directed on package.
  • Roto-till to mix the elements and aerate the soil.
  • Rake the soil smooth.

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