6 Tips on How to Grow a Vegetable Garden 

Thinking about growing a vegetable garden this year? I have gathered some valuable information from our green-thumbed experts here at Fair Oaks Farms!

Timing is Key

When should we plant, water, weed and more? Timing is key to any great vegetable garden. After talking with the Director of Horticulture, Matt, I have a better understanding of his method used here on our farm.

Matt works every day in our Chef’s Garden that provides fresh produce for our Farmhouse Restaurant and also manages our new Orchard which is set to open late summer 2019.  So, he’s pretty well seasoned in the planting department.

When do You Start Planting?

Matt will start by planting Cole Crops i.e.; broccoli, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, and brussels sprouts. He traditionally plants them around the last week of April, if the weather isn’t too cold. If the temperatures that week are around 30 degrees, we suggest holding off until it warms up a little. Around Good Friday we will plant asparagus roots, onion sets or slip and seed potatoes. If you’re desiring some color in your garden Good Friday is a great time to plant pansy’s and viola as well. In the 1st week of May, strawberry crowns should be planted.

Mother’s Day weekend is generally our rule of thumb for planting tender annuals that are killed by frost. I.e.; Peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, pickles, and herbs. This is also true for annual flowers as well.” -Matt

If you plant tender annuals before Mother’s Day weekend there will be a chance your vegetable garden will be killed by frost or freezing. We encourage you to be prepared if you plant early. Using frost cloth on cold nights to help keep the frost off of your garden.

How Often do You Water Your Garden?

Ideally, we would like to get one inch of rainfall per week. When we can’t get it naturally, we irrigate with drip irrigation. We believe this process is the best method for conserving water, and not spreading disease.

When to use Fertilizer

In our garden, we use Midwest Bioag fertilizer. This is a granular Matt will broadcast spread. This is made from the manure from our 36,000 cows at Fair Oaks Farms after its digested in our digester. He always uses the fertilizer from the fertilizer plant here in Fair Oaks. Even though this fertilizer is not sold in retail stores we have other recommendations for you.

Through the drip irrigation, Matt will introduce water-soluble fertilizer. Since most gardeners won’t have this capability, we suggest that you broadcast spread 12-12-12 fertilizer before planting and again in 2 weeks. This will help the plants grow well.

Most fertilizers are listed with 3 numbers such as 12-12-12 or 7-10-8. These numbers correspond with N-P-K Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. Nitrogen is needed for growth to get a bigger plant, Phosphorus for bloom/bud development and Potassium regulates growth. -Matt

Here at Fair Oaks Farms we generally weed every week and hoe around each plant. Since roundup ready vegetable plants are not a thing, you may have to bend down and pull some weeds by hand.

The Importance of Calcium

Calcium is one of the most important nutrients when it comes to fruit and vegetable quality. Calcium is needed for proper fruit development. When there is a lack of calcium, we get things like blossom end rot in peppers and tomatoes this is the black spot at the bottom of the fruit. Sometimes I will spray calcium on the leaves and blossoms especially if the plant is under stress from drought or high temperatures. -Matt

When the plants are grown and starting to set fruit it’s important to use less nitrogen. The reason behind this is that we want the plant to focus on the fruit instead of growing more vegetative. When there is too much nitrogen present, calcium cannot be delivered through the plant. This happens since the calcium cannot translocate through the plant. Resulting in plant and fruit deficiency.

Why do We use Cover Crops?

After you have harvested that beautiful garden of yours it is important to prepare the land for next season. Cover crops are a great way to do this.

Growing sorghum, tillage radish or turnips after harvest are just a few crops that can really benefit your plot! When a cover crop is present it will help outcompete weeds, prevent nutrient runoff and more. You will have fewer weeds and even healthier soil with cover crops.

I mean, who doesn’t want healthier soil for gardening?

We hope these tips were useful for you and your garden and are excited about your bountiful results!