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    How to Care for Edible Gardens

    Become self-reliant and well fed by growing your own vegetables, herbs and fruits. Growing your own food is easy as long as you provide four basic things: full sun; rich, well-drained soil; deep waterings; and a healthy dose of fertilizer.

     

    The Big Four of Growing Edibles

     

    Full Sun

    If there's one thing that all edibles love, it's full, head-on sun. There are a few vegetables and herbs that tolerate shade, but even those need at least three to six hours of direct sunlight. If your vegetable garden gets anything less than full sun, try carefully removing the lower limbs of nearby trees (hire an arborist for large branches) to let in more light. Some vegetables that can tolerate a little partial shade include peas, salad greens, spinach and broccoli. Mints, sweet woodruff and dill are some herbs that handle shade well.

    Rich Soil

    With few exceptions, rich, well-drained soil is something any vegetables and fruits can appreciate, though many herbs from the Mediterranean area prefer soil that is less rich. Plant edibles in the richest and most fertile soil possible, amending it if needed. Add bags of composted manure, leaf mold, topsoil or compost to your existing soil and mix them in well.

    Lots of Water

    Give edibles lots of water, but be sensible. Make sure that the soil has plenty of moisture-retentive compost, humus or composted manure mixed in, so all that valuable water doesn't drain away. Vegetables typically need 1 to 2 in. of water per week, while some herbs such as rosemary and lavender can get by on less. Water more in hot weather and less in cold weather, and only water when the soil dries. Water thoroughly each time so that the moisture can sink deep into the root system. While most edibles like lots of water, they will suffer if their roots sit in it.

    Good Fertilizer

    Vegetables need plenty of nutrients for the best crop. Before you do anything, contact your county extension service (check online or the government pages in the phone book) to learn which fertilizer is right for your soil type. Each vegetable is different and prefers different types of fertilizer in different amounts. The three numbers on a fertilizer label stand for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), in that order. Some fertilizers contain secondary nutrients and micronutrients that will help replace any missing elements in the soil. Regardless of the fertilizer you choose, do yourself a favor by adding plenty of rich organic material to the soil before planting. Plants will require fewer feedings, retain more water, and fight off pests and diseases with vigor as a result.

    Now that you know the basics, you can start growing your own healthy food.

    TSC Edible Gardens Supplies:

    • Fertilizer
    • Topsoil
    • Compost