Vegetable garden plot soil balance

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Q: I live in Chilliwack, B.C. I have a new vegetable garden plot this year, some vegetables are doing very well and others not so well, so I am wondering if the soil is lacking something. It is fairly sandy.

My zucchini is a large plant with lots of leaves and lots of flowers, but the zucchinis are very small and slow growing, never getting more than 6 or 8 inches long. In past gardens I had trouble picking them before they looked like baseball bats! My peas and beans are doing very well, and producing lots, but the carrots are extremely slow and small. The onions and beets aren’t coming along as well as they should either.

There could be a number of reasons why some vegetables aren’t doing as well as others. Sheena Adams, GardenWise’s organic gardening specialist, has some great tips about companion plants in vegetable gardens. It’s possible that some of your plants could be affected by what’s planted nearby. Check out her article ” Good companions: planting tips for vegetables”  on our website.

For small and slow-growing zucchinis, you may want to check if the zucchinis are healthy, or if they are suffering from fruit rot. Conway Lum, plant problem expert, has some suggestions on our website for dealing with this problem: “Zucchini fruit root”. If the plants seem healthy, make sure they are planted in full sun with well-drained soil. Improve air circulation and give them more room to grow by training vines to stakes. Young, small zucchinis will actually be more tender and flavourful than large zucchinis, which can be woody, tough and tasteless.

Carrots can be fairly fussy. They like light, well-drained, fertile soil, rich in organic matter, sandy and peaty. Your beets may be suffering from the recent hot weather: they are typically a cool-season crop that does well in spring or fall. They require moist soil and often take a long time to germinate. Both carrots and beets need careful thinning. Here are some pointers on growing beets from gardener Sharon Hanna’s blog: “How to grow beets“, and you can find some information from Sheena Adams on growing carrots, beets and other root vegetables here: “Growing roots vegetable roots”

If your onions are newly grown from seeds, don’t expect them to grow to too thick this season if they are still small (under 20 cm). They are typically slow growing to begin and require regular watering and fertilization. Be careful with over watering as it can cause neck rot and fungal disease. If your onions grew quickly and have since slowed and the tops have fallen over, they may have already matured.

For additional tips on how to properly grow a vegetable garden, try “Grow a phenomenal food garden” by Carolyn Herriot.