February is a great time to start organizing your vegetable garden. As the amount of daylight slowly increases each day, you can begin to consider which veggies you want to plant this season, how many you will have space for, and if you will be starting any from seed. Many seasoned gardeners find that keeping a journal is a helpful way to remember what worked well the year before and what they would like to do differently for next season. You can start by considering three important factors.
Location: The area should be exposed to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Taller plants, such as tomatoes, corn, and trellised plants should be planted on the north side of the garden so that the smaller plants will not be shaded by the taller ones.
Spacing: The size of your garden plot will determine how many plants you are able to grow in that space. Your vegetable plants will need plenty of room above and below ground to grow and mature. Most vegetable plants are sold with tags that will list the spacing requirements. Generally, small plants such as garlic and green onions need about 3-4 inches between plants on all sides. Vegetables such as chard, lettuce, and cabbage need about 6-9 inches between plants. Larger vegetable plants, including tomatoes and peppers, need about two feet of space. Using a trellis is a great way to conserve valuable garden space. Vegetables that can be trellised include peas, beans, cucumbers, small squash, small melons, and eggplants.
Companion Plants: Companion planting is the practice of planting vegetables alongside certain plants that will attract bees and other beneficial insects to the garden while deterring pests. Planting sunflowers near the garden will distract ants and aphids. Whiteflies are a common pest in vegetable gardens, but if you plant one of the stronger scented varieties of marigolds or basil they will repel whiteflies, nematodes, and more. In a similar fashion, chrysanthemums and dahlias will repel root nematodes and other crawlers.
Enjoy the warm weather!