Helping Nebraskans enhance their lives through research-based education.

Helping Your Garden Grow

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

Click to email this page to a this page to a friend

A lot of effort goes into producing a successful garden. There are many things to do between planting time and harvest. Consider the following cultural practices in your garden care.

Many small seeded crops need to be thinned. For crops such as beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, and direct-seeded tomatoes or onions, it is necessary to thin some young plants from the thickly seeded row. An advantage of this process is that you can select the best of several plants and remove the poorer ones.

Weeds are a natural garden competitor. They compete with vegetable plants for water, nutrients, and space. The use of mulches and cultivation will help control weeds. Don't allow weeds to get a start. Control them when they are small. Mulching can reduce the time spent in cultivating.

Loosening the soil with a hoe accomplishes several things. First it provides for air penetration. Second it promotes better water retention. And last but not least it kills weeds which compete for water and nutrients.

Because most vegetables have roots near the soil surface, use care when cultivating around or near plants. A light surface scraping is sufficient around plants. Deeper hoeing should be reserved for areas between rows.

Removing some of the flowers that form on certain vegetable plants can increase the size of the fruit that develops. This is a standard practice for gardeners who grow vegetables for exhibit. You may want to try it with tomatoes, squash, melons, and pumpkins.

Removing some of the vegetative growth on certain plants will admit more light to the plant, improve plant growth habit, and promote early fruit ripening. With tomatoes grown on stakes, it is a common practice to prune suckers or shoots that develop in the angle between the stem and branch. Remove suckers as they form and before they are 1-2 inches long.

Most home gardeners have limited garden space. Training plants on stakes or trellises makes more efficient use of that space. Tomatoes are generally staked. Cucumbers and cantaloupe can be trained to a trellis or wire frame. Pole lima beans and pole snap beans also can be trained to a stake or trellis. Drive the stakes soon after plants have been set rather than waiting until they are established.

An effective trellis for home gardens can be made from hoops of concrete reinforcement wire or hog wire. Use hoops about 2 feet in diameter for tomatoes and 1-1½ feet in diameter for cucumbers and cantaloupe. You may need to put a stake or rod alongside the hoop to prevent it from turning over in strong winds.

This resource was added June 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

PHOTO Credit: Soni Cochran, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

Contact Information University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site:
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180