Vegetables are fairly easy to grow as long as they get enough nutrients, water and sunshine. The hard part is deciding what to grow, but once you do, your garden will most likely thrive with little more than weed control and monitoring for moisture, disease and garden pests. Fortunately, there are a few tricks to help in these areas.
Protect Vegetables from Pests and Disease
The best way to protect vegetable plants from pests and disease is to make sure these threats are not inadvertently brought into the garden with purchased plants. Check all plants carefully for aphids and whiteflies before buying them. Disease and insect problems may be the cause of yellow or brown leaves on young plants, so choose hybrid vegetable plants that are disease-resistant. Cutworms can also be a threat to newly transplanted vegetables. They chew through the stem at soil level. To protect a plant, cut the bottom out of a used tuna or juice can and place it around the trunk, pushing it about 1 inch deep into the soil. Remove the can about three weeks after the transplant. By then, the plant stems should be thick enough to resist damage from cutworms. In addition, cucumber beetles cause wilt that affects cucumbers, melons and pumpkins. Covering these plants with floating row covers will keep the beetles from damaging the crop. When the plants begin to flower, take off the row covers to allow for pollination. Invite beneficial insects into the vegetable garden by planting flowers. Sweet alyssum, cosmos, coneflower and sunflower all attract insects and predators that prey on garden pests that cause damage to valuable vegetable plants. Purchase tomato plants that have "VF" on the label, which indicates that the tomato variety is resistant to the soil-borne diseases verticillium and fusarium. These diseases can cause wilting and yellow leaves on tomatoes and eventually cause the plant to die.
Give Vegetable Plants a Boost
Water new vegetable transplants with a high phosphorus starter fertilizer to help promote root growth. Support tall vegetable plants with stakes or cages to keep them upright. Transplant vegetables on a cloudy day or in the late afternoon to avoid heat stress.
Vegetable Planting Tips
Loosen soil and remove rocks and clumps to allow carrots to grow long and straight. The soil should be well drained and deeply worked. Onion sets should be purchased before they start sprouting. Separate the onions by size. As unlikely as it sounds, those with a diameter smaller than a dime should be cultivated as large onions, while the larger should be picked early as green onions. Round onions are usually the result of torpedo-shaped onion sets, while round sets produce flat onions.