Rules for Successful Veggie and Herb Beds

Photo Credit: Angela Chandler

I’ve gotten some complaints lately from callers/listeners/emailers.  They report that they’ve used “brand new soil technology” and things weren’t looking as good in May as their gardens in years past did. One listener said what bothered him the most, was that the soil smelled bad: and not like animal compost kind of smell, but rather a human waste smell. I did a little research and found out that the bedding mix is from a company you don’t hear me talk about.  It was laced with a heavy percentage of Bio-Solids, which I would NEVER, EVER, EVER use for a veggie bed here along the Gulf Coast.

Here’s an article I’ve sent people to in the past, explaining why I’ve always been opposed to Bio-Solid (human poo) based fertilizers, and especially soils. I’ve known this for years, but studies are finally shedding the appropriate light! They leave behind what are known as “Forever Chemicals”!

And while we are on the subject of bad products, why in the world would anyone believe dyed mulch could be beneficial for a veggie garden? The leaching dye will do nothing biologically beneficial to the soil or roots below. And water splashed from it to the plant will produce a negative reaction as well. Instead, use organically pure Texas-native mulches, or try mulching with compost this year. Compost as a mulch for landscaping is great, and it’s beneficial for a vegetable garden, too.

These are my rules for successful veggie gardening in this region. If you’re succeeding with your veggie beds, see how many you can check off positively. If you’re veggie beds are sickly, stunted and completely unproductive, see how many you can’t say yes to.  That might just reveal your solution.

  1. ‘Tis better to plant a 25-cent plant in a $5 hole than a $5 plant in a 25-cent hole. (In other words, build proper beds).  See my post on this here. 
  2. You’ll never find the quality soils and composts that I suggest at big box stores or mass merchandisers.
  3. Compost, humus or organic matter – You say tuh-may-toe, I say tuh-mah-toh. Whatever you call it, it’s a wonderful thing. Use it! Vegetative Compost/Leaf Mold Compost doesn’t smell!
  4. Avoid Bio-Solid based soils for veggie beds especially.
  5. Potting Soil is for Pots/Container, not raised beds.
  6. Ensure good drainage – With our feast-or-famine rainfall, you’ll eventually see why this is so important. Or you’ll drown your first attempt in a gully-washer.
  7. Let the sunshine in – Pick a spot that can provide up to 6 hours of sunshine. Filtered light won’t cut it.
  8. Pick proven plant varieties – Be sure it’s approved for our growing region. In fact, check with your county extension agent for proven varieties.
  9. Cheat Mother Nature – Because of our heat, if you can start ’em early, more power to you … especially if you’re willing to protect them on late-freeze nights.
  10. Control your appetite – Don’t over-plant, rein in that desire.
  11. Feed me, Seymore!!! – Veggies are heavy feeders (Just ask the Audrey II). The compost is a good start and a nice addition throughout, but amend that feeding with some kind of fertilizer, be it granular, liquid-organic or water-soluble.
  12. Keep your shadow in the garden – Get out there on a consistent basis, looking for insects, weeds and diseases. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  13. Consistency, consistency, consistency! Regular watering and repeated feedings are critical. Don’t ever allow things to dry up before you water.

Some Additional Nuggets You Need to Know:

  • Potting Soil is Not Rose Soil
  • Dyed Mulch Should Never See a Veggie Bed
  • Any Soil Product That Already Has Bio Solids Will Have Even More Next Time You Buy It
  • Enriched Topsoil is Not Rose Soil