Top 8 Food Gardening Tips

Mark harvesting swiss chard

The growing season has finally arrived and now you just wait for the everything to ripen, right? Wrong.
The road to a successful harvest is bumpy. But we can help smooth it out for you and enhance your chances of a bumper crop. Here are our top eight food gardening tips as we welcome June:
Stake. Double your tomato crop by getting the plants off the ground, where the fruit is susceptible to rot and ground dwelling insects. Get the air to circulate freely through the plant, the sun to ripen the fruit evenly and make better use of your vertical space.
Weed. Weeds need weeding out because they rob the soil of nutrients and the space around your desirable plants of, well, space. They are fierce competitors. This is the ideal time of year to cut them down with a sharp hoe or pull them root and all. No competition = better quality food plants and crops.
Water. Apply water infrequently. Standing at the end of a hose and soaking your vegetable plants might be good therapy for you but it is bad for plants. Best to water deeply but not too often. Push your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If the soil feels damp or cool, wait to apply water until it is dry. Then water thoroughly.
Mulch. Minimize the time it takes to raise quality vegetables, fruit, and herbs in your garden with mulch. We use a 4 to 5 cm layer of finely ground up cedar bark mulch around most of our garden plants. This insulates the soil from the drying effects of the sun, you water less often. And it reduces weeding by up to 90%. What are you going to do with all that extra time on your hands?
Compost. Add a layer of composted manure or finished compost from your composter around the root zone of all food plants, about three to four centimetres thick. A row of beans, beets, Swiss Chard, you name it, all benefit from the natural nutrients found in compost. A plant feeds itself by converting the energy of the sun and absorbing nutrients from the soil. Feed the soil and the plant will take care of the rest. Do this and there is no need for chemical fertilizers which, by the way, are going up drastically in price this year.
Bug the bugs. The Colorado potato beetles that plague your potatoes and the tomato horn worms that horn in on your tomato crop are not the boss. You are. Show them. Apply diatomaceous earth to the beetles (any beetles), it is harmless to humans and pets, and handpick the horn worms and drop them in a bucket of soapy water, ok, with a pair of gloves. Inspect your crop daily for pests. Once you find some, act. They quickly move this time of year, even the slugs. The ones on your couch, not so much.
Pick and enjoy. The leafy greens that are growing an inch a day will bolt to seed overnight if you are not paying attention. These are the longest days of the year, and the sun is at the highest angle in the sky, which means that every plant in your garden is growing faster now than ever. Most food growing in the garden is best picked before it finishes its natural job of going to seed. Rhubarb, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and mesclun mix like to bolt right before your eyes.
Stop harvesting. Perennial food crops like asparagus, rhubarb and chives can be over-harvested. Be sure to leave some asparagus spears, rhubarb leaves (and stems) and chives to, well, chive on, because as they do, they build up energy in their root zone that will support the next healthy crop. Take no more than 60% of the crop and leave the rest.
You have waited all year for this very special time in the garden to arrive. Enjoy the growth, the freshness of summer and a healthy garden harvest.