Nothing tastes better than a ripe tomato still warm from the sunshine or green peas that were picked moments before. While the tasks involved in maintaining a garden take time, the value of the fresh vegetables it produces can make it worthwhile. When you cut open that first cucumber or hear the pop when you snap green beans, you just might overlook the tilling, planting, weeding and watering it took to produce them.
Pull weeds as soon as you see them. Taking a moment to pluck a few weeds is much easier a task than waiting until it requires hours to pull them. If you've planted your rows evenly, identifying the weeds will not be a problem. Weeds rob valuable nutrients from the soil, taking them away from your vegetable plants. Pull them straight up from as low on the stem as you can grasp, getting out the root, so they can't grow back. Dispose of them in your compost bin as long as they haven't been treated with a chemical fertilizer or pesticide.
Keep ahead of pests. Choose organic pesticides over chemical pesticides to keep your vegetables as natural and healthy as possible. Herbal insecticides are easy and inexpensive to make and work very well.
Check under the leaves on your plants for tiny webs, casings and insects. When you use a pesticide, spray it under the leaves where insects hide, slowly sucking the nutrients from the plant.
Plant a row of nasturtiums or calendula at each end of your garden to attract hoverflies, whose larvae feed primarily on aphids.
A rural garden presents a problem with bigger pests: woodchucks, rabbits, skunks and deer. You may find that a fence is required to keep them out. Bury the bottom of the fence a few inches down to keep them from digging a hole beneath it.
Water your garden in the evening. Watering in the evening allows the water to seep into the soil instead of evaporating in the heat of the day. To avoid blossom end rot on tomatoes, water the ground around the plant, not the plant itself. Water sitting on a developing tomato is the cause of blossom end rot and is easily avoided.
Water deeply. Water at least 8 minutes per section to ensure that the ground gets saturated. You should see standing water on a section or row before moving on to the next section or row.
Thin out rows of vegetables that get cramped. Carrots, radish, chard, lettuce and spinach are typically overseeded and will need to be thinned for optimal plant production. When you thin carrots and radishes, visualize the size of the vegetable and give the plant an area that size. A carrot should have an inch of space around the plant, because a carrot typically is about an inch in diameter at maturity.
Fertilize with a 10-10-10 fertilizer when you plant your garden. As the season progresses, watch your plants for signs of deficiencies, such as yellowing leaves or spindly plants. Kits for testing your soil are available at local garden centers if you suspect problems.