Vegetables: Maintenance

April 21, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Vegetables | Selection | Planning and Preparing | Planting | Maintenance | Problems

Links to external web pages are followed by the source's name in parentheses.

Selecting suitable vegetable varieties for the home vegetable garden is a good step toward ensuring the end product meets your needs. However, good taste, texture, yield, and pest resistance also depend on sound maintenance practices.



All-purpose fertilizer.

What's in your soil? How can you adequately provide the nutrients your plants need to grow best? The best way to answer these questions is to take a soil test.

For more information on soil testing, see:

Soil test recommendations can help you determine what types of nutrients or amendments to apply to your soil. In the absence of a soil test, some Extension bulletins recommend certain grade fertilizers for specific situations. Most fertilizer is best incorporated into the vegetable garden before planting, but adding fertilizer through other means such as side-dressing later in the season is often necessary for certain vegetables. To find recommendations on which vegetables need subsequent fertilizer applications, see the following guides or contact your local Extension office:


  • Watering the Vegetable Garden (Clemson University) discusses the considerations of watering: when to water, how to water, and what kind of watering systems reduce watering inefficiencies.

Mulching and Weed Control

Using mulch in the home vegetable garden is helpful to conserve moisture, moderate soil temperatures, prevent weed growth, reduce soil erosion, reduce the severity of some diseases and help prevent vegetable spoilage.

Organic mulches are derived from plant material and over time will decompose. Some organic mulches are good choices and can be worked into the soil after harvest, while others such as wood chips are poor choices for the vegetable garden because they take many years to thoroughly decompose in the soil. Inorganic mulches do not come from plant materials. Plastic is the most commonly recommended and most practical inorganic mulch for use in the vegetable garden because it is relatively cheap and easy to remove. Read more about plastic mulches below.

Mulches for Garden Use

The following articles are helpful for determining which mulches are useful in the vegetable garden.

Following is a quick overview of the pros and cons of various mulches:

Following is a detailed look at how to use some of the most common garden mulches:

Plastic Mulches

Plastic mulches get a lot of attention in vegetable gardening because of some of their benefits of producing earlier crops or higher yields. Use the following resources to learn more about using plastic mulches in the vegetable garden:

Weed Control

Mulching can be an effective tool for weed control. However, there are other methods for controlling weeds, as well. Weeds can compete with plants for water, nutrients, and light. The following article provides helpful ideas for controlling weeds in the vegetable garden:

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.