Healthy Fruit and Veggie Gardens

Gardening experts at DIY Network share top 10 secrets for making a food plot thrive.

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The Growing Seasons

Vegetables are divided into two categories: warm-season and cool-season crops. Gardeners in cooler climates with short summers may find better luck growing warm-season vegetables (such as tomatoes, peppers and squash) in a greenhouse to extend the growing season. While nearly all vegetables prefer full sun (6 or more hours daily), some cool-season crops, such as lettuce and radishes, can get by with 4 to 5.

Start Small

If you're beginning your first garden, help yourself avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed with weeding and general maintenance. You can grow a surprising amount of food in an 8x10 raised bed.

Build Up Your Soil

The foundation of a healthy, productive garden is a nutrient-rich, well-draining, crumbly soil. Liberally add organic matter such as finished compost and bagged humus.

Time Your Crops

Soil temperatures matter as much as air temperature when you're planting. Even peas, spring crops that are resistant to light frost, won't germinate when the soil is below 39 degrees.

Supply Cover

Here, containers of tomatoes are temporarily growing under plastic, protecting them from a late frost.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

Keeping a layer of organic mulch over your plants' roots helps conserve moisture, warm plants and suppress weeds.

Anticipate Pests

To a raccoon, these young corn plants mean dinner in the making. With the right kind of garden fencing, you can deter raccoons, rabbits, groundhogs, deer, dogs and other unwelcome visitors.

Stay on Top of the Harvest

Pick produce when it's ready. Removing veggies as they mature allows more of the plant's energy to go into supporting the later fruit that forms.

Rotate Crops

Rotate crops annually even in a small garden. When crops of the same family (such as tomatoes and potatoes) are grown in the same place year after year, pests and diseases can accumulate.

Make It Accessible

Integrate your fruit and veggie garden with an area of your yard where you hang out. When the crops are close at hand, you're much more likely to pluck off an insect pest or give a thirsty plant a drink.

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