Gardening 101
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Want to start a garden?  The following information is very basic.  If you have specific gardening questions, please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help you. 

 Here are a few tips to get you started:

To select your vegetable garden plot, consider what vegetables need to thrive. Vegetables and fruits need 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. The vegetable garden plot should be well-drained and convenient to water (vegetables require 1 inch of water weekly or 75 gallons per 100 square feet).

Once you have selected the garden location, draw a plan (to  scale) of the area you are planning to place your garden.  Make allowances for paths, borders, etc. Next, take inventory of your likes and dislikes in vegetables. Put down on paper every vegetable you wish to grow. Then go back to your plan and mark out a definite space or number of rows for the different vegetables. Looking at seed packets to determine plant spacing is helpful.  Select early, midseason and late sorts of these vegetables. This will give you a constant supply of vegetables throughout the growing season.  When you start to garden, be sure to follow your plan. To ignore your carefully planned garden may lead to your garden failing to yield satisfactory crops.

Study the peculiar characteristics of certain vegetables and utilize them to best advantage. Some vegetables thrive even in partially shaded positions, while others require lots of sunshine for best results.

Adding 2-3 inches of old manure and compost (or well-rotted leaves, peat moss) to your soil in early spring prior to preparing the soil will not only improve drainage, but also make it fertile. If soil is undesirable, consider raised beds. If space is an issue, try container gardening and window boxes. You could plant vegetables amongst flower beds or bushes.  I have edible flowers and herbs in all of the flower beds in the front of my house.

Soil that is loamy, well drained, and high in organic matter is ideal for your vegetable garden. Visit your local cooperative extension or health department and pick up a free soil-test kit. The ideal pH for vegetables is 6.0 to 6.5. The test tells you if your soil needs lime added (available at your local gardening center).

Many vegetables are slow growing during the seedling stage of development. Take advantage of this by utilizing space between these rows for quick-growing crops. For example, sow beet seed by middle of April and set young lettuce plants between the rows. By the time the beet tops develop, the lettuce will be used.

A distance of 20 inches between the rows is ample for most vegetables in a carefully managed home garden. Tall peas, tomatoes and corn should be allowed at least 2 to 2 1/2 feet and should be staked for best results. The proper thinning out of all kinds of vegetables is advisable. Do not permit root crops to crowd each other in the row. Thin out radishes, beets, onions, turnips, etc., to stand about from 2 to 4 inches apart in the row, according to variety. Enjoy the benefits of thinning by eating these "baby" vegetables. Beans will yield more and better pods if plants stand 4 to 6 inches apart in the row.

As to the actual location of the different rows and crops, here is a good rule to, follow:

If the land runs east and west the taller plantings should be on the north, so that the light will not be shut off from the lower growing vegetables.

When purchasing plants, look for seedlings grown in large pots (check for a strong, well developed root system) with healthy green leaves and a sturdy constitution. Avoid neglected, spindly, or overgrown seedlings.


Note that not every seedling transplants well when older. Cucumbers, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and gourds are best started by direct sowing or from young seedlings planted carefully to minimize root disturbance.

Tear the tops and bottoms off peat pots when setting out vegetables. Peat pots, which are supposed to decay when submerged in the soil, don't always break down the first year they are planted. This leaves plant roots captive inside. To complicate matters further, if the peat rim emerges above the soil surface, it can dry out and steal moisture from the surrounding soil and nearby roots. Peat pot problems are easily solved by tearing off the top and bottom of the pot before planting. This helps eliminate the danger of drying out and gives roots a way to escape if the peat pot persists.

Vining and sprawling plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, some beans, gourds, some squashes, pumpkins, etc. do best when staked or caged (wire cage that you can stick your hand through to harvest) instead of letting lie on the ground:  easier to harvest, less rot and takes a lot less room in the garden.  I made "A" frames out of heavy fencing for the cucumbers and peas to cling to as the grow.  I can see the peas better and I harvest straighter cucumbers.

Mulches can be used to prevent weed germination and growth, and ultimately reduce time and labor required to remove weeds. Mulches fall into two categories -- organic mulches are derived from plant material and decompose naturally in the soil, and inorganic mulches which do not decompose and therefore must be removed from the soil after serving to increase soil moisture retention, to enhance soil warming, and to reduce weeds.

Organic Mulches: Some of the most commonly used organic mulching materials are manures, bark chips, ground corncobs, grass clippings, leaves, newspapers (shredded or in layers), and straw. Organic mulches allow some flexibility in fertilizing and watering since they can be raked back from the plants. They should normally be applied uniformly three to four inches deep around the base of the vegetable plant. Do not mulch with straw or lawn clippings containing weed seeds as you will be planting weeds in your garden.

Inorganic Mulches: Black plastic is the most frequently used inorganic mulch. Clear plastic is not recommended because it does not exclude the light that weed seeds need to germinate. Gardeners should make sure there is adequate moisture in the soil before any mulch is applied, especially plastic films. It is also necessary to apply most of the fertilizer required by the plants before the plastic is installed. There are also several durable weed fabrics that are very effective in weed suppression. They are capable of lasting up to 20 years or more when covered with soil.



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