Planning Your First Vegetable Garden
Growing your own vegetables has got to be the ultimate way to enhance the flavor of any meal. There is nothing compared to the taste of a vegetable just picked and then brought into the kitchen and prepared as part of a meal. The flavors and texture of fresh picked cannot be described it can only be experienced to get the true essence of fresh.
Many vegetables are so easy to grow that it is a shame more people don’t put out the effort for once you do then you will be hooked. With vegetable seeds costing so little you are almost guaranteed to save money over what you would spend going to the produce market. So not only will you have fresh produce you will save money as well.
What To Grow
What vegetables should you start off within your first garden? I think that the answer to that lies in what do you like to eat and use the most. If you only use spinach once or twice a year it would probably be a safe bet that that should not be on your list. If you have a lot of salads then defiantly lettuce, endive, and Bok Choi to name a few most of the time you can get two plantings early spring to early summer and late summer to late fall. These crops are great as you can continue cutting leaves until they go to flower. You can also plant radishes in spring and fall they grow well in cool moist condition and are ready in just 25 to 28 days from germination.
Plan More Than One Crop
You can rotate your planting areas as well when the salad greens and cucumbers are starting to fade replace them with cucumbers or bush beans. If you want to add plants that will harvest all season broccoli is a great choice. After the first harvest, additional smaller flower heads will grow throughout the summer and can be harvested. A Late summer planting can be made for fall harvest. Tomato and green pepper are two summertime favorites that will provide you with a great harvest in August. Also, onions carrots and other root crops can be grown and harvested at the end of the season.
Just be sensible and do not go too crazy the first year start small and plant what you eat the most this way not only will you enjoy the flavor and nutritional goodness you will enjoy the experience as well. After your first garden, I am sure you will be chomping at the bit just like the rest of us gardeners for the next spring to get here quick.
Start Your Garden Right
Laying the foundation of a new vegetable garden requires that the main ingredient be right. That ingredient is soil. The soil is the heart of your garden get it right and it will help make other mistakes you might make not so bad. Really your soil can make or break your garden. Vegetables need a soil that is rich in organic materials and composted manure. It should hold moisture well but never become over saturated. When you squeeze your soil in your hand in should hold together but when you disturb it should break apart easily. The soil you are starting out with is probably not like this but you can amend whatever type of soil that you have. If your soil is very loose and will not hold together, does not stay wet very long, and will fall right through your fingers then you probably have sandy soil. The best way to improve this soil is by building it up so that it will retain moisture. Adding peat moss is good as well as compost if you can get enough the inner husks of coconuts called coir is also becoming popular. You will also add a lot of organic matter such as shredded bark and leaves.
If you have very heavy clay soil is very dense and will not drain well it will hold too much moisture but when it dries it is hard as a rock. It is hard to grow plants in clay so amending the soil with a lot of organic matter will be the key to making this a great garden soil. Use shredded bark, wood chips, sawdust, manure, or shredded leave but do not add peat moss or coir as they retain moisture and you are trying to break up the soil so it will dry.
Another important thing is the planting bed should contain this amended soil and be loosened to at least 12 inches. By providing the 12-inch depth of loose soil the roots can grow deeply unrestricted so your plants will be strong and healthy. The farther the roots spread the more nutrients the plant will receive allowing plants to reach their full potential. The healthier and stronger a plant is the less disease and pest problems they have as well. Once you have your soil taken care of your chance of a successful harvest is so much higher.
Always Duplicate Success
One of the surest ways to a good vegetable garden is to have a successful growing experience. It is important to keep a journal of what you are growing each year and successes and failures with each of your crops. This does not need to be a scientific analysis but just a simple record of planting dates, harvest dates, and the type of weather conditions during the growing season. This information will help you the next year and will also help lead to answers if things do not grow well.
Home Grown Vegetables
May is a great time to be vegetable gardening. Snap bean, squash, sweet corn, and Irish potato harvest is not too far away if they were planted early. Irish potatoes are harvested as soon as they are large enough to eat. However, the main crop is harvested after the vines have yellowed. Multiplying onions that over-wintered can be pulled, sun-dried and saved for replanting in August.
Hopefully, the tomatoes are faring well and setting small fruit. Many times, though, young fruit will develop a blackened area on the underside (blossom-end) of the fruit. This usually occurs this time of year and is known as Blossom End Rot. It can be devastating to tomatoes. Unlike other diseases, blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency rather than by fungi, bacteria or virus.
Calcium is supplied to the tomato in water absorbed from the soil by roots. Through a series of plant processes, calcium and other nutrients ultimately find their way into the fruit. However, even with adequate calcium in the soil, blossom end rot can be brought on by anything that interrupts this flow of water in the plant such as drought or soil flooding. Preventing moisture stress is, therefore, key to minimizing Blossom End Rot.
Usually, in garden soils with adequate calcium, plants will eventually produce normal fruit. That is, it’s usually only the first two clusters or so of fruit that are affected. The recovery may be due to increased soil temperature and an increase in the size of the plant’s root system.
Some gardeners use liquid calcium chloride sprays on their tomato leaves in an attempt to prevent blossom end rot. However, calcium does not move into the fruit very easily by this method. The best way to get plenty of calcium into the tomato plant is to keep the soil evenly moist, provide good drainage (i.e. raised beds) and keep soil calcium levels up by adding lime based on soil test results. Affected fruit should be pulled and discarded.
The tomato is obviously the most popular garden vegetable. Yet, raising tomatoes can be quite difficult due to the number of pests and environmental factors that work against even the best tomato growers. For instance, there are at least seven factors that cause tomatoes to wilt. These include diseases like Fusarium, Bacterial Wilt, Southern Blight, and Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. They can also be attacked by Nematodes, which are tiny parasitic worms. And, of course, too much or too little water can cause wilting.
Probably the most heartbreaking of these wilt causing agents and the least preventable is bacterial wilt. Tomatoes with this disease wilt rapidly and rarely recover. Some describe the affected tomatoes as looking like they had hot water poured over them. The deadly bacteria that causes the disease fills the plants plumbing system to the point where water flow is cut off and the plants wilt and die.
When bacterial wilt affects tomatoes one year we are generally assured that it is there to stay. It’s, therefore, best to find a new garden spot or to raise tomatoes in containers. Containers should not be in direct contact with infected garden soil.