Establishing a home or back yard garden is easy. There are several vegetables that can be grown in a home garden. The selection of vegetables or fruits should be largely influenced by the gardener’s preference. The tomato is the most popular vegetable for the home garden followed by members of the mustard family (cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower). Several other vegetables and fruits (sweet pepper, hot pepper, lettuce, okra, cucumber, pak choi), are ideally suited for home gardens.
Select a full sunlight spot for your home garden. Most vegetables prefer generous amount of sunlight and large amount of water.
Soil should be tilled to at least 12 inches or soil added to the garden space and a generous amount of organic matter (manure, compost, Rescue), and a complete fertilizer (11:22:22, 15:5:35) incorporated into the soil. This organic matter will improve the physical and chemical conditions of the garden. Nutrients (plant food), Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Sulphur (S), will be increased and/or become more available, water holding capacity will be greatly increased and soil aeration will be enhanced.
The space required depends upon the growth pattern of the vegetable, the fertility of the garden, the desired size of the produce and the size of the garden. Small vegetables (lettuce, pak choi, cabbage) should be spaced six inches apart in the row, larger vegetables (tomato, sweet pepper, hot pepper), 15 to 24 inches apart and trellised. If larger fruits are desired at harvest, vegetables should be planted 24 to 36 inches apart. Some varieties may need 4 feet between plants and 5 to 6 feet between rows to allow comfortable harvest room.
Buying high quality disease free seedlings from the Jamaica Bauxite Institute Nursery is the best way to start your home garden as it saves several weeks in growing time.
Apply starter fertilizer (11:22:22, 20:20:20 or 15:5:35) when transplanting. Cultivate shallowly to keep down weeds without damaging roots. Mulching with organic matter is recommended but black plastic is also suitable for mulching. Generous application of organic materials (Rescue, compost, manure) is encouraged to improve the soil conditions, retain moisture and provide nutrients (N, P and S).
Water the plants thoroughly and regularly during dry periods. Don’t let your garden dry out before it even hits full stride. Get into the rhythm of watering regularly early in the morning to ensure happy, healthy plants. Do not over water.
Regular inspection should be done to identify insects, pests and diseases. Manual removal of insects and pests are strongly suggested. If not possible, one tablespoon of Malathion or Actara per gallon of water can be used effectively to control insects and pests. Champion or Amistar can be used to control fungus.
Plants confined in home garden may need daily or even more frequent watering. Side-dress nitrogen fertilizer (20:20:20) equivalent to one tablespoon per plant after the first week. Trellises or cages are used to train vegetables (tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper) with great success but mulching will produce similar effect.
Vegetables should be harvested when fit or as the gardener desires them. Vegetables and fruits are of highest quality when they are reaped fresh daily. Tomatoes and sweet pepper can be picked every day or two. Harvest the fruits when color has started to develop and ripen them further indoors.