Friday, May 30, 2014

Common Sense Gardening: 6 Quick Tips for Vegetable Gardens

There is nothing quite like growing and eating your own fresh produce. Growing vegetables isn’t always easy, but they are absolutely worth the work! Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your vegetable garden.

1) Water smart. Soaker hoses have multiple benefits. They make watering easy, deliver water directly to the plants, they don’t water between rows which would help weeds grow, and they don’t waste water by watering surfaces that don't need water, such as pavement.

2) Create healthy soil. Healthy plants grow from healthy soil. Compost adds fertility and structure vital for healthy soil. You can make your own compost or purchase it from a garden center. Choose slow-release fertilizer and stay away from fertilizers that combine bug or weed killers. These contain chemicals that can kill beneficial insects and contaminate groundwater that we drink.

3) Take care of weeds & bugs naturally. Invest in long handled weed tools to make the labor easier on your back. Use mulch around plants to keep weeds down and conserve water. Minimizing space between plants will also give less space for weeds to grow. If you find you have bugs, take a deep breath, stay calm and find out what they are.  Most insects are helpful or neutral, only a small percent cause harm. Our friends in Clark County created this nifty bug guide. Learn what bugs are attracted to in your garden, and what predator eats them. Adding a bird bath in or near your garden can attract birds that will eat up those bugs. Look for the least toxic solution to a pest problem. Please visit our Integrated Pest Management web page to find prescriptions for common pests.

4) Observe your plants. Take time to look closely at the plants in your vegetable garden. How are they doing? This can help you spot any problems early and help remind you to weed and water your investments.

5) Rotate vegetable gardens annually. Not all plants feed off of the same nutrients and some plants actually add nutrients to the soil. Rotating your plants to different spots of your garden each year will help keep plants productive and balance soil nutrients. This also helps prevent pests and diseases from building up in the soil.

6)  Wash your produce before you eat it. As an official blog of the Health Department, we must remind you how important it is to wash your produce. Even if it comes from your own garden, bacteria from wildlife and other sources can wind up on your produce. To lower your risk of foodborne illnesses, wash your produce (and hands!) before you eat it. For more information about food safety visit


If you have specific questions about Common Sense Gardening, please call Thurston County Environmental Health (360) 867-2674. Happy gardening!

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