Tending To Your Growing Plants
It is important to keep your garden as free of weeds as possible. Weeds compete with the crop plant nutrients and can stunt their growth.
The best way I've found to control weeds is through heavily mulching. Mulching has additional benefits other than just weed control. Mulching helps water retention and as the mulch decays, it adds additional organic matter to your soil. As I have said, I collect the grass clippings when I mow the lawn and add them to the garden as mulch. I also use hay as mulch, you just want to make sure that the hay you use was not treated with an herbicide.
You can also use a technique called solarization. Remove as many weeds as you can from the garden by raking, moisten the soil, then cover it with heavy black plastic weighting down the edges. Leave the plastic cover in place for about six weeks. This will "cook" and kill the weeds that would otherwise have sprouted.
Vinegar is also an excellent weed killer. Mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing soap with 1 gallon of regular vinegar, the soap helps the vinegar stick to the weeds. Some people recommend using horticultural vinegar. Horticultural vinegar is 20% acetic acid and it is very effective, however it's much more expensive than regular vinegar and you'll pay more for shipping than the cost of the product. I would try the store bought variety first.
I tend to plant more seeds than necessary, especially for crops like carrots and beets. I do this to make sure that I have a full row. Once the seedlings sprout and after the plants emerge, thin out the weaker plants allowing room for your crops to grow.
There are all sorts of methods for staking your plants, especially vine types like tomatoes and cucumbers. we plant a lot of tomatoes, two 50 foot rows. I tried a number of methods but settled on building a permanent trellis, see image to the left. Whatever method you choose the goal should be to keep your plants and their fruit off of the ground.