Sites For Vegetable Gardens
Sites For Vegetable Gardens
The vegetable garden site needs several important characteristics.
First, it should be in full sun although some crops tolerate shade. The leafy crops grow in partial shade as do some of the root crops. Save the sunniest areas for crops producing fruits above ground such as tomatoes and peppers.
Trees offer competition to vegetables when their roots grow under the garden and compete for water and nutrients. The roots of black walnut contain a chemical that kills the roots of other plants. Tomatoes are especially sensitive. A black walnut may have roots extending beyond the branches as far as the distance from the trunk to the tips of the branches. Walnut injured tomatoes wilt during the first sustained period of hot weather.
Most vegetables grow in any good garden soil. The soil fertility can be determined by having the soil tested. Add lime only when a soil test indicates a need. A good garden needs at least 8 inches of topsoil and the subsoil ought not to be near the surface.
Loams are the best soil type. Sand produces earlier crops and smoother root crops but dries out very quickly and has poor nutrient retention. Clay holds water and nutrients but has poor aeration and drainage. Poor soils are improved by the incorporation of organic matter. A poorly drained soil warms up slowly in the spring.
Avoid placing the garden in a frost pocket. Cold air flows into low areas making them more susceptible to frosts. Some slope helps cold air drain off the garden but should not be so steep that erosion is a problem. Southern exposures warm up earlier in spring.
A windbreak may be needed. This can be a fence or screen of tall shrubs. The windbreak shouldn't cause other problems by shading the garden. The garden should be accessible to the storage area for tools, a source of water, and the kitchen.
Planning The Vegetable Garden
Crops such as leaf lettuce or radishes may be grown in flower beds near the house.
Use proper spacings when planning the garden. Consider cultivation techniques and crop space needs when deciding on row spacings.
When possible, run rows north and south. This exposes both sides of the rows to the sun and will lessen the effect of taller crops shading lower crops. Locate tall crops at the north end of the garden where they will be less likely to shade lower crops. Plant corn in short side by side rows to facilitate pollination. Perennial crops are grown at the edge of the garden where they offer less interference to spring soil preparation.
Small plantings of different crops may be put in the same row if space requirements are the same. Arrange crops across the garden by planting dates.
Avoid planting the same or related crops in the same area more often then once every three years.
Grouping early maturing crops together clears space for summer plantings. Plant early crops in the high, warm, and dry parts of the garden, if such spots exist. This is especially true of crops needing warm soil.
Make the plan on paper to give a record of where the crops were grown. This will assist in crop rotation. Make notes on the plan as to how the varieties performed during the growing season.
In small gardens, limit crops to those that give much produce in a small space. Don't worry too much about some vegetables crossing. Only the seed is affected, so there is no problem unless seed is saved. The only exception is corn. Several types of corn grown close together, will cross. Ears will contain kernels of another type of corn.
Selecting Vegetable Varieties
Look for disease resistant varieties. This is the only way the home gardener can control some diseases.
Consider the days to maturity. The days to maturity refers to the length of time it takes a plant to produce something to eat. Varieties producing something in the shortest time are called early varieties, those taking the longest are late varieties. Where many varieties have a large range of maturities, some may be referred to as midseason. Consider bush varieties of vine crops as they save space. Planting varieties with different maturity dates spreads the harvest over a longer period of time.
Order seed early to get the best selection. Seed will also be in hand when planting time comes around.
Seed varies in its ability to live from year to year. Seeds normally only good for one year are corn, leek, onion, parsley, parsnip, rhubarb, and salsify.
Seed good for three to five years asparagus, beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, okra, peas, pepper, radish, spinach, turnip, watermelon. Seed good for more than five years is beet, cucumber, eggplant, muskmelon, and tomato. Plant old seed thicker as germination percentages may have declined. Seed stored in poor storage conditions will not live long.
Preparing The Vegetable Garden
Don't work the soil when it is wet. Working wet soil destroys the soil structure. Squeeze a handful of soil to form a ball. If the ball doesn't break apart under light pressure the soil is too wet to work. Don't just check at the soil surface. The top may be ready but may be still too wet several inches deeper.
If the soil is clay or sand it can be improved by working in organic matter. The source of organic matter may be last years mulch, compost, or a green manure crop. Add lime only if a soil test says it is needed. Most vegetables prefer an acid soil. When lime is needed, it should be worked in well. Regular applications of wood ashes act like lime and raise the pH.
Once the soil is ready it should be raked smooth.
The following table lists crops commonly started early indoors. The first column of times is the indoor planting date, the second column is the outdoor planting date. Crop Plant Seed Plant in Garden Broccoli March l0-20 April l5-May l Brussel's Sprouts March l0-20 April l5-May l Cabbage March l0-20 April l5-May l Cauliflower March l0-20 April l5-May l Eggplant March l0-20 After May 20 Kohlrabi March l0-20 April l5-May l Head Lettuce March 20- As soon as large April l0 enough Onion March l5- April l5-May l April l Peppers March l0-20 After May 20 Tomatoes March 20- After May 20 April l0
Planting times are approximate and take into account the amount of cold some crops tolerate. Check the information on individual crops for planting times. Memorial Day is a handy and easily remembered frost free date for warm weather crops. Make sure the rows are straight and marked. Plant only part of a row of crops like radishes, then plant again in a few days to stagger the yield. It will be necessary to thin the plants. Firming the soil over the seed will speed up germination.
Thinning is necessary when crops are grown from seed. Too many vegetables act like weeds. Overcrowding root crops causes poorly formed roots. Spacings to be thinned to are in the information given on individual crops.
The garden needs an inch of water per week. Overhead sprinkling is done during the day. Trickle irrigation and ooze hose may also be used. A way to water the garden without getting the foliage wet is to use a sprinkler hose turned upside down and placed next to the row. Mulches help conserve soil moisture.
Weeding Vegetable Gardens
The most common form of weed control is shallow cultivation. Vegetables are shallow rooted so cultivation should be shallow. Cut weeds off just below the soil surface with a good sharp hoe. Mulches may be used. If grass clippings are used, it is possible some plants may be injured by herbicide residues on the clippings.
Sensitive plants, such as tomatoes, may be injured by residues up to four weeks after the herbicide was applied to the lawn. Black plastic may be used on all but cool season crops. Plastic is not biodegradable so is taken up each fall. Mulches high in carbon, such as straw and sawdust, require the addition of extra nitrogen. Herbicides are available for use on vegetables but are only practical where large areas of one vegetable are grown.
Fertilizing Vegetable Gardens
Make fertilizer applications based on a soil test. When a soil test is not available, use enough equal analysis fertilizer so that l to l l/2 pounds of actual nutrient are applied per l,000 square feet of garden. Too much of one nutrient can be as bad as too little. For instance, too much nitrogen causes excessive leaf growth and few vegetables. Spread the fertilizer over the garden just before it is worked the last time prior to planting. Large concentrations of fertilizer placed near the seed will kill seedlings. Vegetables vary in the amount of fertilizer they need. Some crops need additional fertilizer during the growing season. These applications will be indicated in comments on individual crops. Less fertilizer may be needed if manure is used. If no fertilizer application is made to the garden as a whole, prior to planting, see notes on individual crops as to how much fertilizer to use prior for planting.
Pest Control On Vegetables
Descriptions of specific insect and disease problems are given with each crop. Before doing any spraying have the pest identified. Regular inspection will discover pests before they build up to large numbers and do much damage. Use the proper pesticide for the pest and crop involved. Use disease resistant varieties where possible. Be aware that some problems that may look like diseases, aren't.
Help control pest problems by controlling weeds. Weeds sometimes serve as hosts for insect or disease problems that spread to the vegetables. Make sure healthy plants and seeds are planted. Rotate crops to help control soil borne diseases. Stay out of the garden when it is wet. Some diseases are easily spread down the row by clothing brushing a diseased plant then the next healthy plants. This form of disease spread is easiest when the leaves are wet.
Get crop residues out of the garden as soon as the crop dies or is frosted. Many diseases overwinter in crop residues.