Helpful tips for increasing the odds of a bountiful gardening season
By Lloyd Thompson
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
Where is the best place to grow vegetables? The answer: Anyplace that can meet the needs of the vegetables.
Plant needs include adequate moisture, sunlight, nutrients, proper temperature, drainage and a good soil in which to grow. The trick is to find out how to best meet these needs to maximize your garden’s productivity.
Another issue is the need to rotate where you grow certain crops. Multiple years in the same spot can become a big problem over time. Perhaps one of the most overlooked things to consider is whether the location is convenient or not. If it’s not easy to get to or out of sight, you may not spend as much time caring for the garden as you would if it were more accessible.
There is a lot of useful garden information on the Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardeners website, bit.ly/ncwgardening.
Moisture in our area will require irrigation, so an adequate and convenient water source for the garden is essential. If good water isn’t close enough to the garden, chances are the garden will not be successful. I prefer to apply water from drip emitters rather than sprinklers to reduce the fungal issues from water on the plant’s leaves.
Sunlight is a major consideration, since most vegetables require at least eight hours of good sunlight to be successful. Rows running north to south with taller plants toward the east side allows for better sunlight utilization.
Nutrient availability will determine how productive your garden will be. Soil tests will let you know what nutrients you need to supplement. There are some soil test companies that have been mentioned in past articles. You can check our website, or you can email the Chelan-Douglas Master Gardener plant clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drainage can be a big factor, as it’s usually an issue with clayey soils. Few plants like their roots wet or cold, so if you have poor draining soil, growing in raised beds or pots may be more successful.
Good soil is a blessing and trying to “fix” poor soil is a daunting task that requires years of effort. Using compost can help the nutrient and moisture retention ability in our areas of sandy soils. This will be an ongoing task, as the organic material breaks down and needs to be reapplied.
Temperature is the hardest requirement to control in the garden. When we extend the growing season, protection against cold is the most common temperature control. This is usually done by protecting transplants or seedlings from frosty mornings in the spring or covering mature plants in the fall to help extend the growing season and protect them from an early cold snap. This is usually done by using a cloche (a cover) over the plant, or some type of cold frame. The use of masonry or rock to create a heat sink to hold heat at night, can also extend the growing season. Growing plants in a more protected area or using mulch can also help.
I try to incorporate caring for the vegetables and fruits into my daily routine. However, time away for camping and travel tends to interfere as the summer season progresses. This year I am going to try more plants, such as tomatoes in pots, and use the garden space for more early and late season crops that can be harvested when I am not so busy traveling.
The answer to the question of where is the best place to grow vegetables is dependent upon your ability to meet the plant’s needs. The process of growing good vegetables takes lots of time and effort to perfect, and even then, many things will still be out of your control. But with thoughtful planning and problem-solving, the rewards of a bountiful harvest will be well worth the time invested.