When deciding what will do best in your vegetable garden it is always important to start with a site analysis. It is important to complete this analysis during the time of year you will be starting your seeds or young plants. You want to be mindful of how much sun your garden is receiving throughout the day. Does the majority of sun exposure occur in the morning or afternoon? Some new plants prefer full sun and can handle the afternoon exposure in the heat of summer. Most summer garden vegetables thrive in afternoon sun and require as much light as possible in order to produce enough energy for fruit production. Another important concern is your average temperature during the growing season. Depending on your hardiness zone it is important to keep in mind the highs and lows based on time of year. Here in Zone 6, we have a couple months for cool season crops in early spring before the summer heat comes along. We also get another opportunity for a fall planting of cool season crops around September. This is an awesome opportunity to stockpile fresh produce before we experience hard freezes.
Canning, jarring, and pickling are incredible ways to enjoy your garden long after the growing season. This is a great activity for the whole family to be a part of and I really think it harps on the importance of food security. We have become so accustomed to having almost everything at our disposal in grocery stores year-round. It can be a really rewarding experience to make your own tomato sauce or pickled veggies and still enjoy them in the dead of winter. Lastly, I would like to touch on soil composition and soil moisture. When planting in raised beds or vertical gardens it is super important to check the media you are growing in. Edible plants prefer soil with a high level of organic matter and nitrogen. This will provide new plants the proper nutrition they require to be successful. Amending your soil early in the season is a good rule of thumb. This will allow time for soil components to break down and come together. Clay soil can be an absolute nightmare when it comes to soil moisture. Clay generally holds a lot of water and contains minimal macropores which allow for drainage and oxygen exchange to occur in the root zone. Dense, clay soil can be broken down over time but it requires patience and a lot of compost, gypsum, and organic matter to kickstart the process. Your plant’s roots will thank you if you can avoid planting in areas with high clay content. This is a great reason to plant in vertical systems, you get the ability to choose your own soil profile from the beginning. Not to mention there is almost no weed pressure, which cuts down tremendously on your time tending to the garden.
Now, let’s talk about plant selection! I will break this down by month to make it easy to reference.