Optimizing your garden's growing conditions and choosing the best plants for your garden site are some ways to improve not only growing speed but also harvest yields. Before planting your vegetables, assess the site and sketch out the areas where different vegetables can receive the best conditions for their needs. If you have already planted your garden but your vegetables are not thriving, then improve your garden maintenance and apply appropriate fertilizers.
Knowing when to plant a vegetable is essential in accelerating its growth rate. Cool-season vegetables like lettuce, spinach and radishes require cool temperatures. When these vegetables are grown in hot temperatures, their growth rate slows and their quality declines. Warm-weather vegetables, like eggplant and tomatoes, require heat to grow. Frost and cool weather stunt and slow their growth. Choose vegetables appropriate to your climate, and plant them during optimum times.
Flowering and fruiting plants require six to eight hours of sunlight per day during the growing season. Southern-facing garden areas are most likely to receive this kind of light. Northern garden areas, as well as areas shaded by trees or buildings, receive the least amount of light. Plant root and leaf crops in shady areas and other vegetables in areas with full sun. Sunlight accelerates plant growth.
Site your garden in an open area. Vegetables growing near bushes, hedges and trees have diminished vigor and growth rates because they are forced to compete with more established plantings.
Temperature and Germination
Warm ground temperatures encourage germination. Most plant seeds germinate in soils with consistent temperatures within the range of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Early germination is one way to speed up the time it takes for plants to mature. Provide seeds with an early start by using pea cups or starter containers. Place seeds in the cups and keep the containers in a warm environment -- a sunny windowsill, a cold frame or a hothouse. If this isn't an option, then keep the outdoor planting bed warm by covering it with black plastic mulch or landscape sheets or fabric. These materials insulate the soil and allow seeds like cantaloupe and watermelon to get a head start.
Fertilizer and Harvest
Plants require three macronutrients for survival -- nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous -- and an additional number of micronutrients and trace elements. Test your soil to determine what nutrients are lacking, and then apply fertilizers to improve your soil's fertility. Soil tests are provided through private companies and through university extension services. You will receive fertilizer recommendations based on the test results.
Apply light fertilizer in spring to allow phosphorous and potassium to help establish roots and fruit. Side dress with nitrogen throughout the growing season to help growth. Remember that a bigger vegetable isn't always the best vegetable. Harvest your crop when it is ripe, not when it is large. For instance, okra crops are best when harvested while small.
Care and Maintenance
Irrigate your plants regularly and consistently. Deep watering is more effective than shallow watering. Allow water to soak into the top 6 inches of soil, and water again when the soil feels dry. Applying mulch helps retain water and prevents weeds. Weeds steal valuable nutrients and moisture from your vegetables and contribute to poor growth. Keep your garden weed and debris free. Debris encourages pests, fungi and bacteria, all of which contribute to delayed growth.
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