Vegetable gardens require regular care and maintenance to keep your plants thriving well enough to produce a crop. Proper care begins at the planning stage and involves treating the soil before any seed or plant takes root. Vegetable gardens require considerable effort, but the rewards of having your own foods far outweigh the effort. Taking care of a vegetable garden involves learning how to prepare the soil, keep it weed free, stake and control plant growth, protect the garden from pests and water as needed.
Mark the perimeter of the garden using wooden or metal stakes. This area should receive at least six hours of sun each day. The ground should be level and not indented, to prevent pooling of water.
Prepare the soil the season before by adding organic soil conditioner, clean topsoil and compost to the top 12 inches of garden soil will allow plenty of time for these nutrients to work into the soil. Remove as many weeds as possible to make taking care of your garden easier during the next season .
Water plants from the base rather than sprinkling water over the leaves. Consider using a soaker hose to moisten seeds and roots. Vegetable gardens need about 1 inch of water a week during cooler summer months and 2 to 3 inches during peak growing stages, according to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service. Water early in the morning to prevent evaporation of water during the hottest part of the day.
Use a hoe, rake or trowel to dig up weeds when they are small. Weeding should be done every time you see a weed pop up, to prevent weed growth from getting out of control.
Apply a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch to your entire garden to limit weeds. Use regular mulch, straw or grass clippings. Mulch suppresses weeds and also aids water retention and keeps the soil cool on hot days.
Deter animals and pests by maintaining a chicken-wire fence around the garden plot. Soak old rags in white vinegar and attach them to the fence posts. Also sprinkle cat, dog or human hair around the fence line to discourage unwanted visitors.