vegetable garden ideas

How often should you water a vegetable garden? A former professional grower advises how to get the schedule right


After perusing seed catalogs or retailer websites, deciding which vegetables to grow can be fun.

Seeds can be direct sown, but require a warm place to germinate, or plugs/plants can be purchased for instant impact. Vegetable gardens need a site that gets full sun, ideally 6-8 hours a day. Water is heavy, so site your plot near a water source for easy access.

Growing your own vegetables is a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience, though it does not come without effort. Watering is an unavoidable part of growing crops and many novice growers can find themselves wondering how often they need to water their plants.

Judging when to water plants, especially vegetables as many crops are very hungry plants, can be tricky. The regularity of watering is admittedly highly variable and can range from not at all, to every few weeks, to every day, but there are methods of helping you judge how often is often enough. By keeping track of the weather, working the soil to hold more moisture, watering deeply, and regularly checking the moisture levels in the ground, you can make a more informed decision on how often you should water a vegetable garden.

I worked in several large vegetable gardens during my time as a professional gardener and watering could potentially take up many hours a day, especially during the summer. You had to be organized, know the crops you were working with, and make judgement calls about what needed to be watered when. I was not always lucky enough to have irrigation systems and lots of the watering had to be done by hand, so that was where good monitoring and planning was essential.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Squash plants need a lot of water while they are developing fruit

(Image credit: Getty/rbkomar)

How often do you water a vegetable garden?

soil type. The temperature and level of natural rainfall will be the main outside factors that dictate how often a vegetable garden needs watering.

The type of soil is a factor as a sandier soil will drain quicker than other soil types and require more regular watering. This can be combated by adding organic matter or compost, either incorporating it into the soil or on top as a mulch, which will improve the ability of the soil to hold onto moisture and make it available to roots for longer.

It tends to be thought that most vegetables require an inch or two of water each week. During wetter periods it means you will not have to water at all, while on the sunniest days of midsummer you may need to be out there every day or two watering plants in hot weather. It is important to track the weather and keep an eye on the forecasts to help guide your watering decisions. You could also get a rain gauge, such as this outdoor rain gauge on Amazon, as well as try to collect as much natural water as possible through rainwater harvesting.

The way you water will also dictate how often you have to water a vegetable garden. Correct watering can mean less regular watering, as vegetable plants will benefit more from deep and less frequent watering. A common garden watering mistake is to water lightly and only tickle the surface, that does the plants no good and also means you have to water more often. Giving the plants a good drink will drastically reduce how often you have to water, and you can further help retain more moisture in the soil by mulching the vegetable garden to reduce evaporation.

Knowing your vegetables is imperative to get the regularity of watering correct. There are some drought-tolerant vegetables that you can grow, but there are also lots of thirsty vegetables that want a lot of water. The likes of beans, beetroot, tomatoes and squashes need lots of water and lots of vegetables will need extra water when they are flowering or developing fruit. In particular, crops such as squash, pumpkins, zucchini and tomatoes want lots of water when the fruits are swelling and legumes such as peas and beans will develop better pods with regular watering.

Checking the moisture levels should be done regularly to see how much water is in the soil deeper than the eyes can see. You can do this with your fingers or a moisture meter, such as this long probe soil moisture meter available on Amazon, and this will help you make a more informed decision about whether to water. This can help prevent issues stemming from overwatering.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Timing is key to ensuring as much water as possible stays in the soil

(Image credit: Getty/Betsie Van der Meer)

How often should you water a raised vegetable garden?

If you are growing in raised garden beds that can have an impact on the regularity of watering. Raised beds offer many advantages to gardeners and can be a great option for small vegetable garden ideas, however, they do need watering more often, especially during the warmer months. It is down to the fact that the elevated soil is liable to dry out quicker than soil in the ground, meaning you have to water more often. Water applied to a raised vegetable garden can run through the soil quicker than in the ground and leech away from the rootzone. It can leave plants more susceptible at times of drought. Adding compost or organic matter to the soil can help with water retention and mulching can help reduce evaporation.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Raised beds will dry out quicker than the ground

(Image credit: Getty/Anna Mardo)

How often should you water a vegetable container garden?

There are a great number of crops that work as vegetable garden container ideas, but any pots will need more checking and watering. Any of the best vegetables to grow in pots will need lots of moisture and the soil in pots can dry out very quickly, especially on hot days. 

While a twice-weekly check may suffice for a lot of the year, and a water every three or four days, this will ramp up during the summer. On very hot days you should check pots at least once or twice a day to see how dry the soil is, and water as required. 

When watering plants in containers, check the moisture level a few inches down and always water deeply. This is usually until you see water running out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Crops in containers need to be checked daily in hot spells

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How often should you water a newly planted vegetable garden?

Newly planted vegetables and vegetable seedlings need watering more often than fully grown plants. As they do not have a fully developed root system they cannot find moisture deeper down and their roots can quickly dry out if the surface gets baked. 

Any young vegetable plants that have been recently planted, or transplanted seedlings, need to be checked on a daily basis and well-watered as required. During the hottest months, this could potentially be once, or even twice, a day to ensure these newly-planted vegetables survive.


Should I water my vegetable garden every day?

vegetable garden hacks that can help to water crops and cut down on daily watering, such as a garden olla that can be buried in the ground to slowly leech water through its porous terracotta surface to slowly hydrate plants around it.

What are the best times of day to water a vegetable garden?

A soaker hose, such as this one on Amazon, can be used to slowly provide drip irrigation to the base of plants where it is needed the most. 

If you are thinking of starting a vegetable garden, it is always better to start small. Going big from the start is a common vegetable gardening mistake and it can make maintenance, such as watering, feel daunting from the off. Make sure you take into consideration the time involved looking after the plot on a daily basis. 

Starting small allows you to get that enjoyment, build confidence, and pick up skills, such as mastering proper watering as you learn and tend your plot. 


Should I mulch my vegetable garden? Veg growing expert reveals why it can give you better crops

Growing A Vegetable Garden

A vegetable garden doesn’t require acres. You can grow enough lettuce for a salad in a 12-inch container.

Select varieties suited to your climate zone and seed starting date. Keeping records of planting and harvest dates helps manage your time and space.

Mulching is a very important task in helping to create the best soil in a vegetable garden. By developing the soil health and structure, it means better crops and bigger yields.

There are many benefits to mulching, it improves soil fertility, boosts water retention, and reduces weeds competing with your vegetables. Choosing the best mulch can be tricky, however, as there are a variety of organic and inorganic options available.

I have been lucky enough to work in several vegetable gardens in the UK, learning from many highly experienced vegetable growers. One consistent thing has been the use of mulches in the vegetable garden, giving the soil an annual mulch prior to every growing season.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

A thick layer of mulch in a vegetable garden offers many benefits

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Should I use mulch in my vegetable garden?

soil types in the vegetable garden and around plants. All successful vegetable garden ideas should incorporate mulches into the annual maintenance. Mulches are hugely popular and play an important role in organic gardening techniques such as no dig gardening and lasagna gardening.

Adding that layer of mulch over the soil surface firstly helps to suppress and get rid of weeds. By smothering small weeds, and weed seeds in the soil, it goes a massive way to reducing the weed population of the vegetable garden. That means less unwanted plants competing with your vegetables for water and nutrients, and also less time needed painstakingly weeding the vegetable garden.

Organic mulches also add nutrients to the soil as they break down, often they are slow-release and the vegetables can benefit for many months from the nutrients being released. They will also improve the soil structure in terms of aeration and drainage, which all combine to make a healthier vegetable garden as a whole.

Mulches also help to retain moisture in the vegetable garden as it reduces water evaporation and keeps more moisture locked into the soil for plants to use. It also helps keep the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

The final aspect is that using mulch in the vegetable garden can actually make the plot look more aesthetically pleasing. Bare soil not only looks unappealing but it actually loses nutrients through erosion, so covering it with a mulch not only makes the vegetable garden look nicer but it keeps those vital nutrients in the ground.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Organic mulches improve soil health and fertility

(Image credit: Getty/Tony Giammarino )

What should I mulch my vegetable garden with?

As mentioned before, there are many types of mulch and most options for mulching a vegetable garden can be classified as organic or inorganic. Sometimes you will also see these described as biodegradable or non-biodegradable mulches. 

Organic mulches tend to be the preferred option for many home vegetable gardens and need to be applied at least once a year. Some of the traditional options include compost, leaf mold, well-rotted manure, straw, bark, or grass clippings from mowing a lawn. If you have a small vegetable garden or kitchen garden then organic mulches should be the preferred route to go.

These mulches break down slowly and are incorporated into the soil by worms. They add nutrients into the soil as they break down and are well-balanced in terms of nutrients. Any manure must be well-rotted before being added to the vegetable garden, or it can be harmful to plants.

Cardboard is also hugely useful in the vegetable garden and can be used as a mulch. It is a budget-friendly way to smother weeds and it does boost the soil as it decomposes. Always make sure that you use plain cardboard with all tape, labels or staples removed before laying as a mulch layer. Cardboard is used commonly as the base layer as part of no dig beds and building lasagna garden beds, where it is covered with further layers of compost and other materials.

Inorganic mulches don’t break down and are more permanent additions to the vegetable garden. They are low-maintenance and very good at suppressing weeds, but do not add any nutrients to the soil. 

Common options for inorganic mulches include landscape fabric, rocks, gravel, or pebbles. If you use landscape fabric or plastic mulches, which you can get on Amazon, you can make holes in the material to grow plants through for a low-maintenance vegetable garden. 

Nowadays there are some biodegradable options for landscape fabrics, such as ones made of paper, hemp or coco coir. 

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Vegetables can be planted through inorganic mulches

(Image credit: Getty/Pramote Polyamate)

When and how to mulch a vegetable garden

You can apply mulch to a vegetable garden at any time of the year but the best time is in fall and spring. It tends to be the same for mulching flower beds as well. Vegetable gardens I worked in always mulched during fall and the early months of spring. But never mulch on top of frozen ground. 

Adding a thick layer of around two-to-three inches of organic mulch in spring ensures the soil is weed-free and rich in nutrients when the vegetable plants are starting to grow. If you are mulching around any existing plants, such as perennial vegetables or fruit bushes, leave a ring around the plants and do not bury them under the mulch.

Try to weed the vegetable garden before applying any mulch and also, if it has been particularly dry, water the garden to help lock in as much moisture as possible. If you are laying inorganic mulches, these can simply be laid straight on top of weeds and they will be smothered. Landscape fabric or plastic sheets will need to be either weighted down or have the edges dug into the soil to stop it being blown away by winds.

Think carefully about your chosen mulch, how you spread it, and where you lay it. This is especially important if your vegetable garden is near the house. There have been incidents where mulch catches fire and mulching materials such as shredded rubber, pine needles, and cedar mulch are not recommended for use within 30 feet of the home.

If you are thinking of how to start a vegetable garden then it pays to plan long term and think how you will add mulching into your annual schedule. Not improving the soil is a common vegetable gardening mistake and your plants and your harvests will be impacted by not working to boost the soil health. 

I think that mulching a vegetable garden is an essential task that should not be overlooked. There are so many ways and means to do it, so there are solutions for any size of vegetable garden and any budget. You can get healthier soil, bigger harvests, and less weeds – what’s not to like about that. 


What’s the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden? 9 top feeds to boost … – Homes & Gardens

Starting A Vegetable Garden

The satisfaction of eating homegrown vegetables can be second to none. But it can also be frustrating if you’re not prepared for a successful growing season.

There are a number of important steps to take to ensure that your vegetable garden thrives and produces a bountiful harvest.

Using fertilizers in a vegetable garden helps to increase your yield and have strong, healthy plants that have better resistance to pests and diseases.

Fertilizers can be organic and inorganic, however using feeds is not a one-size-fits-all tactic. It is important to know what you are targeting when you choose the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden. Know what nutrients each crop wants and which fertilizers will provide that. 

Feeding your crops is going to be key to any successful vegetable garden ideas. Whether you use compost, manure, homemade fertilizers, or store-bought feeds, they all offer advantages to certain crops. We look at 10 of the best fertilizers for a vegetable garden to see what nutrients they offer and what crops they are best for.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Using fertilizer in the vegetable garden will boost harvests

(Image credit: Getty/Dougal Waters)

How to choose the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden

plant fertilizer numbers. Their make-up in the feed is outlined by three numbers, for example 10-10-10. Each nutrient is important for differing reasons, such as nitrogen promotes leaf growth while potassium is great for flowering and fruiting.

Choosing the best fertilizer means knowing the nutrients required for a great crop. Feed plays a big role in getting the best harvests and not fertilizing crops is a common vegetable growing mistake to avoid. It is always recommended to get your soil checked, to understand your soil type, soil pH, and nutrient make-up, as this can show any nutrient deficiencies that feeds can help target.

Great soil health is a combination of structure, water retention and availability of nutrients. It is a continual process to develop and maintain your soil for the benefit of crops, and using fertilizer is an important part of that. 

Choosing the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden is essential for you to get the most from your crops. Your main choices are between organic and inorganic fertilizers.

Organic feeds come from natural plant sources, or from animal origins, and include the likes of compost, manure, and plant-based fertilizers. These are often slow-release feeds that provide nutrients to the plants over a long period of time and many can be made at home.

Inorganic feeds are more synthetic forms and include the likes of tomato feed and also granular fertilizers that are sprinkled around the plants. They are more concentrated forms of fertilizers that give a quicker hit of nutrients to plants than organic feeds, but do need to be regularly applied over the course of the growing season. 

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Understanding the nutrient requirements helps shape fertilizing choices

(Image credit: Getty/Galeanu Mihai)

1. Compost

Being able to use homemade compost is the dream of all vegetable gardeners, though compost can be easily bought in to use on the vegetable garden. Good quality compost is made by the decomposition of a wide range of garden materials, including leaves, plant debris, vegetable scraps, organic kitchen waste, or grass clippings from mowing a lawn. 

Compost has all the vital nutrients required for strong vegetable growth and releases it to the plants over a long period of time. The material also helps with soil structure and water retention. Compost can be dug into the soil or put on the surface as a mulch. It is also commonly spread on the surface of a vegetable garden as part of no dig gardening techniques. 

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Compost offers vital nutrients to plants over a long period

(Image credit: Getty/kirisa99)

2. Manure

Manure has been used in the vegetable garden for many years, commonly dug in during the fall and winter months as a way of preparing garden soil for spring. Animal waste tends to always be mixed with soil in the garden and must be well-rotted, as fresh manure has the potential to harm plants. 

Manure from various animals can be used, but the most common are chicken manure, which is high in nitrogen, and cow or horse manure, both of which are lower in nitrogen and more all-round in values of NPK. Animal manure is a good method if you want to add phosphorus to soil. 

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Manure should be well-rotted when added to the vegetable garden

(Image credit: Getty/lucentius)

3. Blood meal

Blood meal is a product made from dried animal blood and comes in a powdered form. The main benefit of blood meal is that it is high in nitrogen. That makes it a useful feed for leafy greens and it can be used to replenish vegetable beds that have been drained of nitrogen over a period of cropping. 

Any vegetables that show signs of nitrogen deficiency, including yellowing leaves, could benefit from the addition of blood meal. The use of blood meal can also help to make soil more acidic, with vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, squash, and pumpkins doing well in mildly acidic soil. You can buy blood meal from Burpee (opens in new tab)

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Leafy greens like chard want a high nitrogen feed such as blood meal

(Image credit: Getty/Martin Hambleton)

4. Bone meal

Bone meal is a by-product from the animal processing industry and the animal bones are washed and ground into a powdered form. Bone meal is low in nitrogen and potassium but very high in phosphorus. 

As phosphorus is a valuable nutrient for root development, that makes bone meal a great feed when growing carrots or growing parsnips. 

Other great uses for bone meal in the vegetable garden come when growing alliums, as it helps boost growth when growing garlic and is also a top choice when fertilizing onions. You can buy bone meal from Burpee (opens in new tab) or try this Organic Healthy Grow variety from Walmart (opens in new tab)

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Bone meal can be used to feed alliums, such as garlic

(Image credit: Getty/Trine Loklindt/EyeEm)

5. Comfrey feed

If you want to make plant fertilizer, comfrey is one of the best homemade fertilizers for the vegetable garden as it contains high levels of NPK nutrients as well as other valuable trace elements. 

To make comfrey fertilizer, simply cut down comfrey and add it to a bucket of water to brew for a few weeks. The resulting tea is diluted with water and then applied to the plants. In the vegetable garden, if you are growing tomatoes, growing cucumbers, or growing peppers, then these fruiting vegetables will all benefit from the addition of comfrey feed.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Comfrey is commonly turned into a tea to feed plants

(Image credit: Future)

6. Tomato feed

A feed that is higher in phosphorus and potassium is essential for fertilizing tomatoes as they grow, however they can offer benefits to other vegetables too. A dedicated tomato feed, such as the Neptune’s Harvest available at Walmart (opens in new tab), helps plants to both produce flowers and ripen fruit. 

As well as boosting tomatoes, such a feed can also be used when growing eggplant, beans, peppers, chillies, and squash. Tomato feed can even be used to fertilize potatoes. Use tomato feed to boost fruiting vegetables, however do not use it when growing lettuces or other leafy vegetables as it does not offer the high levels of nitrogen that such crops require.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

A liquid tomato feed is full of concentrated nutrients and needs to be mixed with water

(Image credit: Alamy/Deborah Vernon )

7. Sulphate of potash

Sulphate of potash is a feed that is very high in potassium and can promote the ripening of vegetables and fruit. It is applied in spring and summer to the vegetable garden and can be beneficial when growing potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas and beans. 

A high-potassium feed such as sulphate of potash is also recommended for fertilizing garlic during the growing season. This Hi-Yield Potash variety from Walmart (opens in new tab) would be suitable. 

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Potash is beneficial when growing potatoes 

(Image credit: Getty/digihelion)

8. Sulphate of ammonia

Sulphate of ammonia is very high in nitrogen and therefore a great feed for vegetable plants that want to put on leafy growth. It is very beneficial for brassicas, as well as growing spinach, lettuce, onions, or leeks. 

Sulphate of ammonia should be worked into the top surface of the soil and watered in. It is important to not get any of the feed on the leaves or stems as it could burn the plant due to its high level of nitrogen. This Ammonium Sulphate granular fertilizer from Walmart (opens in new tab) has an NPK number of 21-0-0. 

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Spinach is among the leafy crops that want high nitrogen provided by sulphate of ammonia

(Image credit: Getty/Alexandra Ribeiro / EyeEm)

9. All-purpose plant food

There is a range of inorganic all-purpose plant food available in stores and online. They come in either granular or liquid soluble form and tend to contain all three of the essential plant nutrients. These products all offer vital nutrients to plants and will help them grow. 

One example is the Expert Gardener All-Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food available from Walmart (opens in new tab). This feed comes in liquid form and is mixed with water to be added to vegetables. It has an NPK of 24-8-16 and offers all the vital nutrients vegetables need to grow strong and healthy. The high nitrogen and potassium content makes it a great option for many vegetables and fruit, particularly the likes of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and pumpkins. 

A granular example of an all-purpose feed that is ideal for the vegetable garden is the Miracle Gro Shake ‘N Feed Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food available at Amazon (opens in new tab), which is scattered on the surface and mixed into the soil. This fertilizer has an NPK of 10-5-15, so it offers a lot of nitrogen and potassium to crops and is also ideally suited for use on any fruiting vegetables.

Vegetables to grow in a greenhouse in fall – 9 of the best crops to plant undercover

Liquid feeds are applied often to plants as they release their nutrients quickly

(Image credit: Chalabala/Getty Images)


When is the best time to fertilize a vegetable garden?

starting a vegetable garden and making your plans for each year, it is important to remember that the best time to fertilize is in the winter or spring before each growing season commences. 

Traditionally, growers would add manure or compost to their beds at the end of one season, ready for the next. This can be done as soon as late fall or early winter. When it comes to using fresh manure, for example, adding it in the winter allows the material to break down over the months and be in the best condition ready for when you plant vegetables. 

Feeding the soil in spring means that the essential nutrients are available to young crops when you plant vegetables in spring and early summer. Though spring is the best time for major rejuvenation of the soil, many fertilizers can also be added when the vegetables are planted and throughout the season as and when required. That applies to lots of the inorganic and liquid feeds, such as tomato fertilizers, that are mixed with water and applied when watering plants throughout the growing season.

There is a large variety of fertilizers that are suitable for any vegetable garden or kitchen garden. However, there is no need to feel daunted by the range. A simple bit of research can reveal the nutrients required by each crop you are growing. When armed with that knowledge, it makes it easier to pick the best fertilizer. Many of the feeds listed above can be beneficial for multiple crops, so it means you need not end up with a garden shed or store room full of lots of different fertilizers.