Bugs, disease, pH levels of soil, fertilizer, plant food... it may seem confusing at first, but it's not. Successful gardeners learn and employ very simple methods to ensure healthy vegetable plants and harvests. Each puzzle piece in maintaining a healthy vegetable garden is logical when compared to the other pieces, and none are difficult to incorporate into a hobby or full-time venture.
When gardeners talk about the "pH levels" of soil, lowercase "p" stands for "potential" and uppercase "H" stands for "Hydrogen." pH refers to the plants' ability to attract Hydrogen ions. Some plants require a higher pH for good health, while others prefer a lower pH for good health.
pH levels are measured on a scale of 0, which is the most acidic, to 14 which is the most alkaline. Neutral soil is considered about 6, and most vegetables like a pH level somewhere between 4.5 and 8. Inexpensive kits are available at garden supply and some hardware stores to test the pH levels in soil.
Plant sweet soil crops together and plant crops that prefer slightly acidic soil with each other.
Sweet soil crops that do well in the same section of the garden include tomatoes, carrots, peas and beans. Both summer and winter squashes do well near tomatoes and enjoy sweet soil. Lettuce does well near tomatoes and carrots.
Broccoli and cabbage family plants prefer slightly acidic soil; they must be planted far away from the sweet soil crops. Grapes also prefer slightly acidic soil.
Raised Bed Gardening
Planting vegetables in raised beds is a great way to ensure a healthy harvest. Instead of large raised beds, build many smaller raised beds and plant one crop per bed.
The soil in raised beds warms up a little faster than soil in the ground, which is also good for the vegetable plants. By laying weed block on the bottom of the raised bed and filling it with sterilized soil and organic plant food, gardeners perfect their chances for weed free, healthy crops.
Helpful Herbs and Flowers
Plant nasturtium flowers around both summer and winter squashes. Nasturtium repels squash bugs.
Pot marigolds near sweet soil crops to deter beetles.
Rosemary and sage both deter the carrot fly. Plant them next to carrots.
Oregano is a good "all purpose" pest deterrent.
The joy of using rosemary, sage, and oregano to deter pests is that they also provide fresh, flavorful cooking herbs.
This simplest compost is a pile of food scraps, leaves and dirt. Frugal gardeners start one in an out-of-the-way corner of the garden or yard. Every day, they bring the food scraps out, toss them on top along with any dried leaves. They then turn the pile with a four-tine pitchfork.