New strategies for vegetable gardens
The vegetable gardens that I remember from years ago were huge backyard rectangles planted in long, straight rows. Some gardeners still use this format, but many simply don’t have the space or time to do so. Fortunately, there are other options.
Some things never change. Every vegetable garden requires good soil, at least six hours of sun and adequate water supply.
Newer formats include raised beds, containers and simply smaller in-ground garden plots. Within these formats, a number of techniques and strategies facilitate a bountiful harvest.
• Wide row planting – Scatter seeds over an eight to 12-inch band instead of planting in a row. This is a good strategy for leafy crops as they form weed-suppressing canopies.
• Square foot gardening – This intensive gardening strategy marks off the garden into squares rather than rows.
• Bush varieties – Choose space-saving bush varieties of vegetables and fruits that, in their standard varieties, sprawl over large areas. For cucumbers, some good options are Patio Pickle, Pickle Bush, Salad Bush, and Spacemaster. Recommended varieties of green beans include Derby, Provider, and Topcrop. For muskmelons, consider Honey Bun or Minnesota Midget. Top summer squash varieties include Pic-N-Pic and Zucchini Elite. For winter squash, try Bush Delicata or Bush Table Queen.
Of course, many traditional gardening approaches are also helpful when gardeners are limited in space and time.
• Interplanting – Mix a fast-maturing crop such as radishes with a long season crop such as carrots in one row or block.
• Succession planting – After one crop is finished, plant another in the same space. For example, after spinach has bolted and radishes are all harvested, replant with beans or summer squash.
• Use vertical space – Support pole beans, cucumbers, and squash with a trellis or fence. Cage tomatoes.
Even if your vegetable gardening is limited to a few pots on the deck or one small raised bed, you can still enjoy the summer delight of savoring just-picked veggies.
Right now: Watch for the continuing beauty of woodland wildflowers. We’ll be seeing wild phlox, wild geraniums, bluebells, trillium, and May apples.