6 tips for keeping your vegetable garden healthy this summer

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By Kurt Knebusch | Ohio State University

COLUMBUS — Lots of Ohioans started gardening this spring, some for the very first time, possibly including you.

In a time of pandemic and staying at home, gardening gets you out into fresh air and sunshine, keeps you properly socially distanced, and yields healthy food for your family.

Call it, yes, a victory garden—one that stretches your food budget, limits your time in the grocery store, and helps ease the strain on food supply chains.

So how, now that your garden is growing, can you keep it strong all summer long?

Tim McDermott, an educator with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), shared his top six tips, especially for beginners. He runs the Growing Franklin food-producing blog.

Test your soil

A soil test will tell if the pH and nutrients are right for growing good, healthy crops. Learn more in the CFAES fact sheet at go.osu.edu/allaboutsoiltesting and at go.osu.edu/franklinsoiltest.

Use mulch

Spreading mulch on top of your soil will help it stay cool and conserve moisture—keys in the dog days of summer.

“Your plants will be happier because of it,” said McDermott, who works in the Franklin County office of CFAES’ Ohio State University Extension outreach arm.

Try grass clippings, composted leaves, plastic film, sawdust, hay, or straw. Mulch also helps suppress weeds.

Consider containers

Not enough room for a garden? Or wanting to add to what you’ve started? Consider growing crops in containers.

“It’s a great way to grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs in small spaces,” McDermott said.

Learn more in his blog post at go.osu.edu/containergarden1 and his webinar at go.osu.edu/containergarden2.

Give enough water

Garden plants need about an inch of water a week—but may need more in hot weather.

Nix weeds

Nip any weeds in the bud—literally or figuratively, as the case may be. Tackle them early—don’t let them go to seed.

“It’s easier to stop one plant instead of many,” McDermott said.

Plan for fall

Fall’s a great time for gardens. “The rain comes back, there’s plenty of daylight, and the bugs start to go away,” McDermott said. “Plus pollinators are looking for food.”

Kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and lettuce are some of the good crops for autumn.

“Remember that your growing is supported by OSU Extension,” McDermott added. “We have offices in all 88 counties as well as Ask a Master Gardener and Ask an Expert help lines (go.osu.edu/askamastergardener and go.osu.edu/extensionaskanexpert).

(Kurt Knebusch is a technical editor for Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences with focuses on organic farming and gardening; sustainable agriculture; natural resources/ecology; forestry; wildlife; Wooster campus news.)

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