Growing vegetables in your backyard means you can have an abundance of healthy seasonal produce, control when you harvest your veggies, and save money. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun! Vegetables that ripen in the garden can have more nutrients than store-bought ones that are often picked early.
However, growing vegetables is not always simple, particularly when you’re starting out. Chef and Electrolux ambassador, Massimo Mele, is an expert when it comes to good produce and has recently taken to growing his own garden. Below, he offers up his top five tips for a healthy vegetable garden and growing produce you’ll actually want to use.
Stagger the Planting
By staggering planting dates, you extend the harvest and keep it coming in at a stable pace. This is particularly important throughout summer says Massimo. “The first year I just planted everything I could where I could find soil. This resulted in an abundance of produce, too much all at once really,” he says.
If you have a few garden beds and plan on producing a large quantity of vegetables, it’s also a good idea to rotate them. This helps minimize pests and diseases, reduce chemical use, maintain healthy soil, and manage nutrient requirements. “Giving the soil a break is key to its health,” says Massimo. “I usually rotate my beds through winter and spring.”
Ensure Your Soil is Healthy
“Don’t underestimate the power of healthy soil,” says Massimo. It is the foundation for your garden and a living, breathing organism. Poor quality, depleted soil, won’t hold water and will make it impossible for your plants to thrive and survive. “This means whatever you buy to feed it or help it, make sure it is of the highest quality and organic. The produce will speak for itself,” he adds.
Compost and Mulch are Key
There are several benefits to composting. It can improve the structure, water retention and drainage of the soil in your garden, as well as increase the retention of nutrients. “A friend said to me a long time ago, think of compost like a lasagna that has lots of layers you keep building. I thought she was crazy but one year on I have happy worms and warm smelly compost,” he says.
Massimo also encourages you to use mulch. Mulch will help water to stay in the area it’s intended for, giving it extra time to penetrate harder soils. An organic mulch will also break down slowly over time with the addition of water, providing an extra boost of nutrients for your plants to feed off.
White it might be tempting to dive straight in, it’s best to start small and work your way up to the more complicated produce. “Start off with herbs and go from there,” Massimo recommends. They are a good way to get started and they’re instantly rewarding!
Some plants actually help each other grow and thrive. Many companion plants attract bees and pollinating insects or are said to simply enhance the growth or taste of their neighbors. “Pair plants carefully,” says Massimo. “I’ve noticed that certain plants grow well when planted next to other specific plants. In the same way, some plants don’t grow well when paired with a particular plant family.”
Try these combinations in your vegetable garden based on the tips above:
- Sage and cabbage
- Basil and tomatoes
- Beets and beans
- Cucumbers and starflowers
- Beans and corn
- Peas and lettuce
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.