Whether in containers or in the ground, at some point your veggies start looking tired. Sometimes they are past their prime and their usefulness is done and other times they just need a little help. Here are some of my tips for keeping your veggies happy and productive.
1. Get the right fertilizer and use it!
Veggies are heavy feeders because we are harvesting pounds of “fruit” off of them frequently. Just as our bodies need fuel to keep us going, so do plants and even more so, veggies. I faithfully use organic fertilizers in my garden, particularly Gardner & Bloome Tomato, Vegetable and Herb fertilizer. I don’t just apply fertilizer either. I use Steve Goto’s (The Tomato King) recommended method of Lasagna Gardening. In his seminar at The Greenery this spring, he recommended applying 1/4″ of worm castings then organic fertilizer (as recommended on the package) and topped off by 1/2″ of compost or Gardner & Bloome Harvest Supreme. I have changed to this method for my entire garden this year, even in containers, and the difference is night and day! He recommended feeding veggies in containers using this method every month while in ground every other month. In some cases I have stretched my feedings to every 3 months in the ground but as soon as I see a decline in plant health, I fertilize.
2. Successive plantings
This is a not-so-secret trick to productive gardens. Many types of veggies have a life span or after a while get so full of bad bugs that it is best to start over. The trick is to remember to start the successive plantings! Whether you write it on a calendar or enter it as a reminder in your smartphone, you will probably need to remind yourself. I know I do and I am in my garden every single day! What can you plant successively? Just about anything that has fewer days to maturity than we have to the middle of October. Summer squash, beans, carrots (I plant them monthly all year long!), beets, radishes, corn, annual herbs like basil, cucumbers and some melons. For instance, I have planted 3 crops of green beans so that I have lots to eat fresh this summer and hopefully enough to can.
It is also about time to start some tomatoes for a fall and possibly winter crop. You may have heard of this before. The trick is to use cool weather tomatoes. These are generally determinate tomatoes. I recommend varieties like Red Siberian or Glacier. Both of these are available on our Botanical Interests seed rack right now. You could also use any paste tomato, Principe Borghese or Early Girl.
3. Prune it back
Some veggies can be reinvigorated by tipping or pruning. I generally tip them (literally pinch the growth tips) or cut veggies back by 30% to reinvigorate them. I find they respond the best to pruning when done on milder days (like this week!) and make the cut just before a node (the intersection where the leave attaches to a stem) that has a bud growing out of it already. Make sure to fertilize when you do this! If it is too soon to fertilize then use a good liquid fertilizer (like G&B All Purpose Liquid) as a soil drench or foliar feed (sprayed on the leaves) for an instant pick me up.
4. If it is done, rip it out!
This is hard for gardeners to do. We always want plants to live but when it comes to vegetable gardens we usually have limited space but need our plants to produce! If you have tried all of the above tips and the plants do not respond then it is time for them to come out to make room for something else! If you are not ready to plant right back in there is no harm in letting the soil rest until the next growing season…Fall is around the corner!