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VEGETABLE-GROWING TIPS

--- Anne K Moore April 3, 2009 ---
Photos by Anne K Moore ---

When choosing seeds for the vegetable garden, look for varieties that mature early, midseason, and those that mature late.  Be ready to plant again once your first crop is finished.  This practice is called succession planting.  Garden soil with no garden plants is an open invitation to weeds.    

Most radish seeds are for early spring crops.  There are also late maturing radishes.  One of my favorite late radishes is the Daikon, an Asian white winter radish that is very mild.  You can use it in stir-fry as well as eating it fresh or steamed.  It only takes 60 days to mature after sowing outdoors.  It needs cool weather and shorter days to develop its extra long, crisp roots.  Do not plant veggies that require cool days in hot weather or you might only get a crop of flowers on top.

You can sow onions, potatoes, turnips, lettuce, carrots, and peas early and/or late in the season.  They all like cool weather.  Hot weather will send them to the compost heap.

If you have a long growing season, plan to sow all kinds of beans more than once in warm weather to get successive crops.  The same goes for tomatoes.  Plants might not be available for a second tomato crop.  Order seeds and start your own plants for a fall crop of tomatoes.

The hot weather lovers include melons, eggplant, sweet corn, peppers,  tomatoes, and pumpkins.  They shouldnŐt go into the ground until the soil has warmed up, usually late spring.  Squash belongs in this group, too. 

Over the years, gardeners have tried companion planting to ward off 'bad' insects and disease and entice 'good' insects to visit.  Some gardeners plant marigolds, especially the single-flowered Tagetes patula, throughout the garden to keep root knot nematodes at bay.  They are supposed to release a chemical from their roots that kills nematodes.  Fish emulsion as a fertilizer is supposed to help also.  These are old remedies.  I would use them to prevent a problem.  I doubt they would make a cure.  (Beneficial nematodes are available to control some garden pests.  These are good guys; they do not attack vegetables.)

Dig your garden in any fashion that suits you.  Prepare seedbeds with compost worked into the soil.  Even if you use chemical fertilizers, be sure you also feed the soil with natural amendments.  Chemicals do nothing to improve soil tilth.  This tip came to us from Mary Pownall of Vail Coloroado.  (Show 25/1212)  'I mix cottonseed or alfalfa meal 1/1 with fish meal and spread it on the whole garden early (as soon as the snow melts).  Does wonders for everything.'  This works on vegetables as well as on perennial and shrub borders.

Rake the seedbeds smooth.  Add stakes for your tomatoes and peppers at the proper distances apart, before you put in your plants.  If you will be raising vines, like pole beans or snap peas, build their structures and then seed beside them.

Vegetables need more than sunshine and fertilizer.  DonŐt forget the importance of pollinators in your vegetable garden.  Without pollination, there will be no crop. 

Entice bees and butterflies to visit by planting annual flowers among your vegetables.  Use showy colors in blocks.  Yellow or orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights') are good choices.  So are zinnias.  They have the benefit of giving you cut flowers for your table.  Herbs also draw in beneficial insects.  Bees love borage.  Look for basils that blossom, like 'Queen of Sheba' or Thai Siam Queen. 

Don't forget to locate tall vegetables, like corn or tomatoes, where they won't shade out lower growing plants.  Try a little companion planting.  Run squash vines or melon vines up sweet corn stalks.  If you are new to vegetable gardening, don't plant so much that the weeding and harvesting become a chore.  Locate your vegetable beds where you can easily add water and harvest the crops.

Grow your own good, fresh food.  There is something very rewarding about feeding your family something you grew yourself.

NOTE:  Root-knot nematodes are easily visible on the roots of tomato plants.  If the plant declines, the leaves turn yellow, and it struggles along, barely setting any fruit, then dig it up and look at the roots.  The nematodes usually show up as swollen knots.  



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