Growing Vegetables

Growing vegetables can be a fascinating hobby as well as a way to supplement the family income. A vegetable garden need not be large to be practical. If properly planned and cared for, much produce can be grown in a limited space.

Selecting the Site

Most gardeners have little choice in selecting a site for vegetables. For best results the site selected should be in full sun and free of competing tree roots. The soil can be modified, but little can be done to reduce shade and competition from trees. Unless a suitable site is available near the house, it might be better to rent land in a community garden plot.

Planning the Garden

To get the most from a limited piece of land requires careful planning. Spacing to be left between the rows is determined by the size of the mature vegetables and the method of cultivation. In a small garden where cultivation is done by hand, the size of the mature plants should decide the space between rows. One must also be more selective in planting vegetables in a small garden. Space can be saved by not planting more of any vegetable than is needed. It is not necessary to plant the whole package of seeds. Rows of 6 to 8 feet may be sufficient for vegetables like leaf lettuce and chard. For ease in planting, group the cool-season vegetables and the warm-season vegetables. Sweet corn should be located where it will not shade other vegetables. More tomatoes can be grown in a limited space if the plants are trained on stakes.

Interplanting and succession planting help utilize space efficiently. Radishes can be seeded with parsnips in the same row. The radishes will be ready to eat in a few weeks and will not interfere with the slower-growing parsnips. Tomato plants can be started between rows of peas. The peas will be harvested before the tomatoes need the space. Sweet corn can be planted at two-week intervals until early July to provide a longer period of harvest. Cool-season vegetables that have a short growing season, like lettuce and radishes, should be planted in midsummer for a fall crop. Space occupied by early vegetables that have been harvested can be worked up, fertilized, and replanted to a fall crop.

Make a paper plan of your garden, drawing it to scale. First, list the vegetables you wish to grow. Decide on the length of row needed for each vegetable and on the spacing required. Arrange the vegetables according to the proper planting date so that you can plant from one side to the opposite.

Choice of Varieties

Part of the fun of gardening is testing new varieties. Your county Agricultural Extension Service probably has a list of recommended varieties which is usually revised annually. You can also consult experienced gardeners in your neighborhood to see what they are growing. Simply because a variety is new need not mean that it is superior to some of the older varieties. If you have been growing varieties that you like, continue growing them while you experiment with a few plants of a newer variety.

Order your seeds early to be sure of obtaining the varieties you would like to grow. Seeds can generally be purchased from a local

Indoor

Transplant

Direct Seed

Spacing in

Vegetable

Seeding

to Garden

in Garden

Row (inches)

Asparagus

May 1

18

Bean, lima

May 20

4

Bean,snap

May 10

4

Beet

May 10

2

""Broccoli

April 1

May 10

18

Brüssel sprout

April 15

June 1

18

* Cabbage

April 1

May 10

18

Carrot

May 10

2

""Cauliflower

April 1

May 10

18

Celery

February 1 May 10

15

Chinese cabbage

July 1

12

Corn, sweet

May 20

18

Cucumber

May 10

18

Eggplant

April 1

June 1

24

Kohlrabi

May 1

4

Lettuce, head

April 1

May 10

10

**Lettuce, leaf

April 20

2

Muskmelon

May 20

24

New Zealand spinach

May 10

8

Onion, seed

March 1

May 1

April 20

2

Onion, set

May 1

2

Parsley

May 10

6

Parsnip

May 10

2

Pea, garden

April 20

2

Pepper

April 1

June 1

18

Potato

May 10

15

Pumpkin

May 20

36

** Radish

April 20

1

Rhubarb

May 1

24

Rutabaga

June 1

4

**Spinach

April 20

4

Squash

May 20

36

Swiss Chard

May 10

4

Tomato

April 15

June 1

36

Turnip

April 20

2

Watermelon

May 20

24

Note: Dates are for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Plant 1 week earlier or later for each 100 miles south or north.

*May be direct seeded July 1 for a fall crop. **May be direct seeded August 1 for a fall crop.

garden center. For some of the newer varieties, you may need to send away to a mail-order company. Be sure to buy seeds that are dated and show germination percentages.

Soil Preparation

For best results, the soil for vegetables should be well drained and moisture retentive. Adding organic matter improves both heavy clay soils and lighter sandy soils. Fall plowing is preferred to spring plowing, especially for clay soils. Avoid working clay soils when they are wet. Adding a complete fertilizer, like a 10-10-10, right before planting helps ensure that plants receive adequate nutrients to produce an optimum crop. You can use 1 pound of such fertilizer as a side dressing for each 25 feet of row, or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet can be broadcast and worked into the soil.

Starting Plants Indoors

Many vegetables that require a long growing season must be started indoors to have transplants to set into the garden at the proper time. Growing these transplants was discussed in Chapter 3. Another choice is to purchase plants from a reliable grower or garden center. Cool-season crops like head lettuce, broccoli, early cabbage, and cauliflower should be started indoors by April 1 to mature a crop before the onset of warm weather. Warm-season vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes should be started indoors in early April (see chart). Onions for winter storage should be started about March 1. Good transplants of most vegetables can be grown in about 6 to 8 weeks. If you know the proper date for transplanting to the garden in your area, you can determine the proper time for starting the seed. Most gardeners start their seeds too early and, as a result, end up with tall, leggy plants.

Direct Seeding and Transplanting

Most vegetables can be seeded directly in the garden. Frost-tolerant vegetables like leaf lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. This will vary with the soil type and the spring. Most years, in the Twin Cities area, frost-tolerant vegetables can be planted about April 20. About May 10, it will be safe to plant beets, carrots, chard, parsnips, potatoes, early sweet corn, and snap beans. It will also be safe to transplant your head lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower to the garden. About May 20, after the soil has warmed up, plant lima beans and the vine crops including cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins. For eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, wait until Memorial Day weekend. The above dates are for the Twin Cities area. For each miles north or south of the Twin Cities, vary the planting dates by about one week.

Depth of planting and spacing of seeds in the row are also very important. Small seeds like lettuce and radish should be planted from lA to xh inch deep. Larger seeds can be planted about 2 inches deep. Make a shallow trench with a hoe or hoe handle. Scatter the seeds lightly in the trench. Small seeds are difficult to space, but a little care in seeding can save much time later in hand thinning. Cover the seeds with finely pulverized soil and firm the soil by tamping with the back of the hoe or by walking down the row. Loose soil left over the seed soon dries out. If it does not rain within a few days of seeding, watering may be necessary to ensure a satisfactory stand.

Watering

Timely watering often means the difference between good production and poor production. About 1 inch of rainfall or an equivalent amount of water added by irrigation is needed each week during the growing season. When watering, it is best to soak the soil thoroughly to the depth of the root systems of crops being grown. This takes about 1 inch of water if the soil is dry. To test your irrigation system, place a pan with straight sides in the center of the spray pattern of the system. Keep track of the time it takes to accumulate 1 inch of water in the pan. Once a week is usually often enough to water, except possibly on sandy soils. A light sprinkling that wets only the surface of the soil is of little or no value. It is wise to install a cheap rain gauge so you will know how much water to add.

Thinning

Small-seeded vegetables like lettuce, carrots,parsnips, direct-seeded onions, kohlrabi, etc. must be thinned before they start to compete with each other for light, water, and plant nutrients. A spacing of about 2 inches between plants is right for most root crops and leafy vegetables. There is no easy method of thinning. In most cases thinning involves getting down on your knees and pulling out the surplus plants.

Weed Control

A clean, weedless garden is the sign of a good gardener. The best method of maintaining such a garden is to start cultivating and hoeing before the weeds germinate. Frequent, shallow cultivation is most effective in killing the small weeds before they cause trouble. Most annual weed seeds germinate only if they are near the soil surface. Deep cultivation not only destroys crop roots but also brings a fresh crop of weed seeds to the surface, where they germinate and grow.

The best control for perennial weeds like quack grass, Canadian thistle, and milkweed is to eliminate them before starting the garden. This can be accomplished by applying Round Up or Kleen Up to the foliage of actively growing weeds. This is best done in the fall, although such perennial weeds can be treated in the spring if you allow 2 weeks between the date of treatment and the time you plant your garden. Read the label carefully and follow instructions. If perennial weeds should get started in an established garden, hoe them out immediately before they develop underground rhizomes. Once they start to grow, they are difficult to eliminate by cultivation. If this does happen, spot spraying with Round Up is the answer. Usually this can be done in the fall after the vegetables have been harvested.

The best control for annual weeds is shallow cultivation. A pre-emergence weed killer like Dachtal can be used around established plants to keep weeds from germinating.

Mulching

Some vegetables benefit from summer mulch. Straw or clean hay can be used between the rows and under plants. The mulch not only helps smother annual weeds but also aids in conserving moisture and in keeping the soil cool. Vine crops and tomatoes that are unstaked are frequently mulched. The mulch helps keep the fruits clean and disease free. Some gardeners also use a mulch between rows of potatoes. The mulch reduces the sunburn problem on exposed potato tubers.

Mulches also cause some problems. They provide ideal habitats for slugs, which are often troublesome in a wet year. Mulches should not be applied until the soil has warmed up in the spring. If put on too soon, the soil remains cool and slows down the growth of warm-season vegetables.

Pest Control

Most vegetables can be grown with a minimum amount of pest control. The important thing is to become acquainted with the various diseases and animal pests and take appropriate action before serious injury occurs. (See Chapter 5.) In my garden I sometimes find I must spray to control flea beetles, striped cucumber beetles, asparagus beetles, cabbage loopers, aphids, and red spiders. Few of the vegetables require more than one or two sprays during the season, and some can be grown using no pest control. With our growing concern for our environment, it is important to use safe chemicals and to use them only when required to save a crop.

Your Agricultural Extension office has the latest recommendations for pest control. Always read the labels on chemicals and follow the manufacturers' recommendations. Since new chemicals appear on the market each year and some are removed for one reason or another, you should be sure that you are following up-to-date recommendations.

Harvesting

To realize the greatest nutritional value and good eating quality in vegetables, they must be harvested at the right time. One learns by experience the correct stage of maturity for each vegetable. Peas should be harvested as soon as the pods are filled. Snap beans taste best when the seeds in the pod are immature. Zucchini squash should be harvested while the fruits are still small, for if allowed to mature, the fruits are quite useless. Sweet corn must also be harvested at the right stage, as soon as the kernels are filled but while still tender and sweet. One reason for growing vegetables is to enjoy them at their peak of perfection.

Processing and Storage

Home processing of homegrown vegetables has increased greatly in recent years. For some vegetables home canning may be preferred, but for most vegetables freezing preserves the garden freshness better than canning. If you are in doubt about the best method to use, consult a home economist in the Agricultural Extension Service.

Winter storage is practical for certain root crops like carrots, beets, and parsnips as well as for potatoes. Such vegetables require a cool, moist storage. The temperature should be above freezing but below 40° F. For a few vegetables an ordinary refrigerator can be used. With larger quantities a root cellar or a specially insulated room in the basement is required. To maintain high humidity, crops should be stored in earthenware crocks or baskets lined with aluminum foil.

Onions should be stored in a cool, dry place. Hanging the onions in mesh bags from the ceiling in a cool room that does not freeze is ideal. Squash and pumpkins like a dry storage with a temperature of about 60° F. The furnace room in most homes is suitable.

Kinds of Vegetables

Space does not permit a discussion of all vegetables that can be grown. The following groupings contain most of the vegetables that are likely to be grown by the average gardener.

SALAD CROPS

Celery, lettuce, and parsley are the three most common salad crops. Celery requires a long growing season and is seldom grown in the home garden. It dislikes our hot, dry summers. If you grow celery, start the seeds indoors in February and transplant to the garden in early May. Keep plants watered during dry weather.

Since quality celery is generally available on the fresh market, there is little incentive to grow it.

Leaf lettuce grows quickly to an edible stage. Seed can be planted early in the spring and again in late July or early August. The plants grow best during cool weather. As soon as the weather turns hot the leaves get bitter and flower stalks form. Some varieties like 'Buttercrunch', 'Green Ice', and 'Summer Bibb' are more heat tolerant and slower to bolt and flower than some of the older varieties. Head lettuce is grown with difficulty. It is best to start the seeds indoors in mid-March and transplant to the garden in early May. By growing early-maturing varieties like 'Minetto', you may get heads to form before the onset of hot weather.

Parsley can be seeded directly in the garden in early May. Thin the seedlings so that the individual plants are 4 to 6 inches apart. A few plants are sufficient for the average-sized family. Plants can be dug in the late fall and carried over the winter as houseplants, thus providing fresh parsley throughout the winter months.

GREENS

Swiss chard, New Zealand spinach, and spinach are the most common greens grown. Swiss chard tolerates hot weather and continues to produce until the first frost. Seed should be planted in early May. Harvesting can start as soon as the leaves are large enough and continue until late fall. Few insects or diseases affect chard. 'Fordhook Giant' and 'Large White Rib' are popular green-leaved varieties. Rhubarb chard, with its red leaf veins and petiole, adds color to the garden and is excellent when cooked.

New Zealand spinach is a hot-weather green and is not related to spinach. Seeds can be started in early spring. You must acquire a taste for New Zealand spinach. If you do not like it, do not bother to grow it.

Spinach is a cool-weather vegetable that must be grown either as an early spring crop or as a fall crop. It grows best in rich soil that is adequately supplied with water. 'America' and 'Melody' are All-America winners that are slow to bolt.

Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

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Responses

  • kathryn
    What vegetables can be planted mid summer?
    7 years ago
  • zula
    Can you still buy dachtal herbicide?
    7 years ago
  • maddison
    Which veghies should be started early?
    6 years ago
  • MAY
    What vegetables should be planted near parsnips?
    6 years ago
  • zak
    When growing root crops like beets how much water should they receive per week?
    5 years ago

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