Edible gardening guide

How to grow delicious vegetables, herbs, and fruit at home

Caring for your vegetables

Important guidelines for watering, fertilizing, controlling pests, and more


For many vegetables, the fertilizer applied at planting time will be sufficient for the entire season.

But heavy feeders (such as corn) or those requiring a long growing season, including broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes, may need one or two follow-up feedings.

Lightly scratch dry granular fertilizer into the soil (keep it off plant leaves), then water it in thoroughly; or use a water-soluble fertilizer according to label directions.


Removing weeds is important, since they'll compete with vegetables for water, food, and light. As noted above, a mulch will help prevent weeds from getting started in the first place; those that do appear can usually be eliminated through hand-pulling, hoeing, or cultivating.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to get rid of weeds before they set seed. 

Controlling pests and disease

Various pests and diseases may occasionally afflict some of your vegetables. To avert or at least minimize the damage, take the following basic steps. If you encounter a problem not discussed here, contact your Cooperative Extension Office or knowledgeable nursery personnel for help.

1. Keep the garden healthy. Plants growing in the best possible conditions are better able to resist pests and diseases.

2. Keep the garden clean. Composting or discarding spent plants and tilling the soil (especially in fall) can help you avoid trouble, since a number of insects and diseases overwinter or spend some stage of their lives on plant debris.

3. Plant resistant varieties if they're available. Many tomato hybrids, for example, are resistant both to verticillium wilt and to fusarium wilt, another disease caused by a soil-dwelling fungus. (Fusarium wilt enters plants through their roots. Lower leaves may turn yellow or appear scorched; severely infected plants wilt and die.)

4. Mix different kinds of plants. Large expanses of just one sort can encourage equally large populations of pests fond of that plant. Mixed plantings favor more kinds of insects, including those that prey on the troublemakers.

5. Rotate the location of crops from year to year to prevent the buildup of diseases and insects specific to certain plants in any one part of the garden.

6. Encourage natural controls such as toads, lizards, many birds, and beneficial insects. Avoid chemical sprays, if possible; they wipe out helpful creatures along with pests, leaving the garden vulnerable to new attack.

Next: Where to grow your vegetables



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