Care of the Vegetable Garden
Agricultural Extension Service
The University of Tennessee
R. Allen Straw, Assistant Professor, Plant Sciences
Originally prepared by David W. Sams, Professor Emeritus, Plant and Soil Science
A productive garden requires considerable attention
and care. Insects, diseases and weeds must be controlled;
water and nutrients must be supplied; plants must be sup-
ported; and harvests must be made at the proper time for
best fl avor, yield and nutritional quality. This factsheet dis-
cusses these practices.
Lack of proper weed control probably limits production
in home gardens more than any other production practice.
Weeds compete with vegetable plants for water, nutrients
and sunlight and must be controlled if garden vegetables
are to grow and produce well. Weeds also serve as a refuge
for insects, as well as alternate hosts for diseases. Weeds
may be controlled by cultural practices, mechanically,
chemically or by a combination of these three practices.
Begin cultural controls by preventing weeds from
developing mature seed. Maintain clean cultivation while
vegetables are growing. Whenever vegetables are not pres-
ent in the garden area, mow or turn under weeds before
they develop seed.
Weeds are easiest to remove when they are small. Hoe
or till frequently, but shallowly so as not to cut vegetable
roots or allow valuable moisture to escape. Pull weeds di-
rectly in the row by hand. Weeds pull easier with less dam-
age to surrounding plants when the soil is moist.
Use mulches to control weeds and to retain moisture. Both
black plastic and various organic mulches may be used.
Black plastic mulch absorbs sunlight and speeds
warming of garden soils. Lay strips of black plastic over
previously fertilized and worked garden soils a week be-
fore planting. Weight the edges of the strips with soil. Cut
slits or x’s in the strips at the desired locations and seed or
transplant through them. A sharpened bulb setter may also
be used to cut holes