This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
One of the hardest parts can be caring for young plants early in the growing season. If the weather gets unusually cold, cover the garden at night to avoid damage.
Vegetable gardens need at least two-and-a-half centimeters of water each week. If the soil feels dry to a depth of about four or five centimeters, your garden needs water. Water early in the day. Use enough water to go deep in the soil. Soil with a lot of sand may need water more often.
People love fresh vegetables. So do insects and animals. You can surround a small garden with wire fence material. This may not keep out birds or some digging animals, but it can reduce unwanted visitors.
You can remove harmful insects by hand. If you want to use poisons, be extremely careful. Follow all the safety directions.
There is another way to fight insects. Avoid planting a crop in the same place every year. Insects lay eggs in the soil, so they reappear yearly. Moving a crop from place to place in the garden can keep insects away from the plants they like to eat.
To reduce garden work, spread eight to ten centimeters of mulch under and around vegetables. Mulch can be made of tree bark or almost any vegetable material -- even pages of newspaper. Mulch will help limit the growth of weeds and hold water in the soil. Mulch also provides fertilizer as it breaks down. You can talk to an agricultural adviser about other fertilizers to add to the soil.
Harvest vegetables during the cool part of the morning if possible. Here is advice for some popular kinds:
Harvest beans and peas when they have grown full, bright and green. Do not wait too long.
Heads of broccoli should be harvested before any yellow flowers appear. More growth will develop later, for a continuous harvest.
Some greens like collards, mustard and spinach produce more leaves after a first harvest. They will continue to grow all season.
Pick green onions when they reach the desired size. Pick other onions when their top leaves turn yellow.
A home garden can be hard work for several months. But a good crop is the best reward.
This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Thanks again to Larry Bass from the North Carolina State University Extension Service for his advice. And you can find all our reports on our Web site, voaspecialenglish dot com. This is Steve Ember.