Eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes belong to the potato family, Solanaceae. They have similar cultural requirements. For best results, the seed should be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before it is time to set the plants outdoors. Since these are warm-season plants, little is gained by transplanting them much before Memorial Day. This means that the seed should be started during the early part of April. Short, stocky plants are best for transplanting to the garden. Tall, leggy plants are the result of either starting the seeds too soon or growing the plants in too little light. If plants are set out earlier than Memorial Day, be prepared to cover them if frost is predicted.
These fruits do best where they receive full sunlight. Peppers should be spaced about 18 inches apart in the row. Eggplants require a 24-inch spacing. Spacing to be left between tomato plants depends on the variety and the method of training. Staked tomato plants can be spaced about 18 inches apart. Unstaked plants need a 2- to 3-foot spacing. Tomato rows should be about 4 feet apart. A summer mulch helps conserve moisture and control weeds. Watering during dry periods contributes to producing a maximum crop of high-quality fruits.
Staking tomato plants requires much time. The chief advantage is closer spacing of the plants, which permits more plants in a limited space. The yield per plant is actually reduced by staking. A stake should be driven into the ground near each plant when it is set in the ground. As the plant grows, lateral branches are removed as they form, and the stem is tied to the stake, using soft cloth strips or raffia. Some gardeners allow only one stem to develop. Others may permit two or more to grow. The fruits on staked plants are cleaner and easier to pick than those on unstaked plants that are allowed to spread over the ground.
Tomato fruits should be picked as they ripen. When frost is predicted, the fully developed, green fruits should be harvested and allowed to ripen indoors. A temperature of 60°F. or above is needed to ripen the fruits.
Tomatoes are subject to several leaf diseases including septoria leaf spot and early blight. These diseases usually appear about the time the fruits start to ripen, and unless they are controlled by preventive sprays like Maneb or Zineb, they can seriously reduce the crop. Blossom-end rot is a physiological disease caused by alternating wet and dry spells. Affected fruits develop a sunken, black spot on the end opposite the stem. Watering during dry spells and mulching to conserve moisture help prevent blossom-end rot.
There are too many tomato varieties on the market to describe them all. I have found 'Big Boy', 'Big Girl', Celebrity', 'Early Girl', and 'Moreton Hybrid' to be excellent varieties. Try one or more new varieties each year, but for your main planting stay with varieties that have already done well in your garden. I live with the Septoria leaf spot problem by planting several varieties with different maturity dates and by putting in more plants than I need.
For sweet peppers, I like the 'Bell' types. Both 'Lady Bell' and 'Golden Belle' are good. I have had good success with the old 'Black Beauty' variety of eggplant. 'Dusky' is a new hybrid whose fruits mature several days earlier than older varieties, and it is very good.
Beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, and turnips are the most commonly grown root crops. For a spring crop, radishes and turnips can be planted as soon as the soil is workable. They can be planted again, in late July or early August, for a fall crop. Rutabagas require a longer growing season and are normally not planted until late May or early June for a fall crop. They grow the most in late fall when the weather is cool. For this reason the best rutabagas are grown in the North. Beets, carrots, and parsnips should be planted in early May. Sweet potatoes are not grown to any extent in the North. On sandy soils and in warm years sweet potatoes can be grown. Plant only the early-maturing varieties and transplant rooted cuttings as soon as the danger of frost is past.
All root crops with the exception of sweet potatoes must be thinned to allow room for the roots to develop. Thinning of beets can be delayed until the tops are large enough to use for beet greens. Carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips should be thinned as soon as the plants are large enough to pull. The sooner the plants are thinned, the less the damage to the remaining plants. Unless radishes have been seeded very thick, thinning can be delayed until small, edible roots have formed. Thinning of carrots can proceed in two steps. The first thinning should space the plants about 1 inch apart. The second thinning should be made when the roots are large enough to use as baby carrots. A 2-inch spacing is adequate for the final thinning.
For radishes, I like 'Cherry Belle' and 'White Icicle'. 'Tokyo Cross' is a good turnip. 'Purple Top', although an old variety, is still a popular rutabaga. There are many carrot varieties on the market. For heavy soils, I prefer 'Nantes Half Long'and 'Red Cored Chantenay'. On sandy or organic soils, a longer carrot such as 'Imperator' may be preferable. Beets are popular for greens and also for the edible roots. 'Detroit Dark Red' is a longtime favorite with many gardeners. 'Red Ball', 'Avenger', and 'Warrior' are new varieties worth trying. 'Hollow Crown' is a widely planted variety of parsnip. 'All-America', a recent introduction, is one that you might like to try.
Insects and diseases can be a problem with root crops. The cabbage maggot attacks the roots of radishes, turnips, and rutabagas. Carrots are affected by hairy root, or yellows, a disease transmitted by the six-spotted leaf hopper. This is the same disease that causes aster yellows and purple top on potatoes. White grubs also feed on the roots of most of these crops. Treating the soil with Diazinon controls the maggot and white grub. To control hairy root on carrots, kill the leaf hoppers with a good insecticide like Sevin.
I have found that the maggot is more of a problem in the spring than in the fall. I always grow a good crop of radishes in the fall by tilling in the seed pods that are allowed to develop on my spring-planted radishes. This is done in mid-August. By early September I am harvesting the fall crop, and this continues until the ground freezes.
The potato is the most widely grown and used vegetable. Most farm gardens and many city and small-town gardens have one or more rows of potatoes. There is nothing quite like new potatoes, freshly dug from your own garden. The quantity of potatoes to be grown depends on the size of your garden and the size and eating habits of your family. Unless you have good conditions for winter storage, you should not plant more than you can use during the summer and fall months. Early-maturing varieties, planted in late April or early May, should produce tubers of edible size by early July. Planting early and late varieties ensures a continuous harvest for nearly 4 months. Even with poor storage conditions you can store potatoes for several months. If soil and growing conditions are favorable, you should obtain at least a 10 to 1 increase from your seed potatoes. A peck of "seed potatoes" should produce bushels. 'Anoka' is a good early variety, 'Kennebec', a good mid-season variety. 'Chippewa'has some resistance to scab, and 'Pontiac' is a popular red variety. Russets are best grown on sandy soils.
Following World War II, the Colorado potato beetle was all but eliminated from potato fields by the wide use of DDT. Since the use of DDT has been banned, the potato beetle has staged a comeback. These pests attack both my potatoes and my eggplants every summer. I have been reasonably successful in controlling them with Sevin, but repeat applications are needed.
The common onion is grown for both green onions and mature onions that will be stored and used in the winter. Set onions of the globe type are usually planted for green onions, which are pulled and used as soon as they reach edible size. For winter use, the sweet Spanish type is usually grown from seed. Best results are obtained by starting seeds indoors under lights or in a greenhouse during early March. Transplant to the garden about May 1. Southern-grown transplants may also be purchased at most garden centers. Onions can be direct seeded but better results will be obtained with transplants. The onion maggot and thrip are the chief insect pests of onions. Onions like loose soil. Commercially, they are often on peat soils. In the home garden, best results will be obtained when liberal quantities of organic matter are worked into the soil.
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi are all members of the mustard family and have similar cultural requirements. Most grow best during cool weather.
Kohlrabi is normally seeded directly in the garden and thinned to a 4-inch spacing. A bulbous growth develops at the base of the stem, and this is harvested and used when 2 or more inches in diameter. The "bulb" is peeled and cut into sections and used fresh or boiled. If you have not eaten kohlrabi, you have missed a treat. 'Grand Duke' and 'White Vienna' are popular varieties.
Brussels sprouts are not eaten until late fall. Start seeds indoors in mid-April and transplant to the garden around June 1. Small heads form from axillary buds along the base of the stem. These taste better after the first frost. 'Jade Cross' is the preferred variety to grow.
Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are commonly grown. Plants are normally started indoors and transplanted to the garden. It takes about 6 weeks to grow the plants. For an early crop, transplant to the garden in early May. For a late crop, transplant to the garden in late June. Chinese cabbage, which also belongs to this family, should be grown only for the fall crop. Plants started in early July should mature before the onset of cold weather in the fall. 'Green Comet' and 'Premier Crop' are good broccoli varieties. 'Snow Crown' and 'Snow King' are popular cauliflower varieties. 'Self-Blanche' is a new variety that does not require tying the leaves to protect the heads from injury by the sun. There are many varieties of cabbage from which to choose. Look for disease resistance when selecting a variety. 'Stonehead' is a popular home-garden variety that matures in midseason.
It is important to harvest at the right stage of maturity. Cabbage heads will split if left in the garden too long. Broccoli should be harvested before the yellow flowers develop. Cauliflower heads should be shaded by tying the leaves up around the head.
Aphids and the cabbage looper are the worst insect pests, and measures must be taken to keep these insects under control. The cabbage maggot can also be a problem. Malathion will control the aphids, and Sevin or Thuricide will control the cabbage looper.
This group includes cucumber, muskmelon, watermelon, pumpkin, and squash. Most people have difficulty distinguishing squash from pumpkins. The true pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) have a hard stem attached to the fruit. The true squashes have a soft or spongy stem attached to the fruits. Unfortunately, some pumpkins are called squash and some squash pumpkins. The 'Table Queen', 'Butternut', and 'Zucchini' squashes are actually pumpkins. The 'Big Wax' pumpkin is really a squash. Most canned pumpkin used for making pumpkin pie is made from winter squash.
Of the vine crops, cucumbers are a little more tolerant of cool soils and can be planted about May 10. Other vine crops should not be planted until the soil starts to warm up. It is generally safe to plant most vine crops by May 20. Starting plants indoors in separate containers may save a few days in time of ripening, and this could be an advantage in the North where the growing season is short. Vine crops normally trail along the ground, and this is no problem in large gardens. But where space is limited, they can be trained to a trellis. Bush types are also popular for small gardens. Know the needs of your family and do not plant more than you will use. A few hills of zucchini squash are enough for the average-sized family.
Muskmelons and watermelons prefer a sandy loam soil that warms up early to get the plants off to a good start. Other vine crops do well on the heavier soils.
Melons should be harvested at the right stage of maturity. With muskmelons a change in fruit color and the ability to separate the fruit from the vine with a slight twist indicate the proper maturity for harvest. With watermelons it is more difficult. Usually the underside of the fruit is greenish yellow and the fruit produces a dull thud when tapped. Experience is the best teacher in knowing when to pick watermelons. With cucumbers and summer squash, size is the determining factor. As indicated earlier, small fruits of a summer squash like 'Zucchini' are of much better quality than large ones. Winter squash and pumpkins must be picked before a hard freeze. A light frost that kills the vines seldom hurts the fruits.
Selecting the right variety for your area is important. There is a wide choice of cucumbers. Newer varieties have greater resistance to disease than older varieties. The Japanese have developed a mild-flavored, thin-skinned type that does not require peeling. 'Sweet Slice' and 'Burpless' are varieties of this type. 'Victory Hybrid' is an All-Am erica winner that produces only 14 female flowers. Many muskmelon varieties have been introduced in recent years. I have had good results with 'Ambrosia', 'Harper Hybrid', and 'Luscious'. 'Earli Dew' and other 'Honey Dew' types have been introduced. Some of these will mature in the Twin Cities area. For watermelons, I like 'Stokes Sugar', 'Summer Festival', and 'Fordhook Hybrid'. For summer squash, I prefer 'Crookneck' and 'Zucchini'. Many strains of Zucchini are on the market in both green and yellow colors. For a winter squash, 'Butternut' and 'Table Queen' have done best in my garden. I grow pumpkins only for Halloween; 'Jack-0'-Lantern' has proved to be a good variety.
The striped cucumber beetle can be a real problem on young vine crops. They seem to time their emergence with the germination of the seeds. When plants are small, the cucumber beetle can practically defoliate the plants overnight. Watch for this pest and use immediate control measures if you see the insect. Sevin gives good control. Stalk borers are a problem mainly on squash and pumpkins. The larvae enter the stem and eat out the insides, causing vines to wilt suddenly. Sanitation, including weed control, reduces the numbers of borers. If the presence of the borer is noticed in time, the stem can be split open with a knife and the larvae removed. Putting dirt over the stem at intervals encourages stem rooting, and this will keep the vine alive. Fall plowing exposes larvae to low temperatures.
Sweet corn is another vegetable that requires much space. It is best to plant several short rows of a given variety than a single long row. This is because of wind pollination: a short block of several rows ensures more even distribution of the pollen. Rows of sweet corn should be 30 to 36 inches apart. Spacing in the row is also important. If you plant 3 to 4 seeds per hill, space the hills about 18 inches apart.
To have a long season of harvest, one can either plant at one time several varieties with different maturity dates or make succession plantings using fewer varieties.
There are many varieties of sweet corn on the market, ranging from early to late, some with white kernels but most with yellow. Plant breeders have introduced supersweet strains that are of excellent quality. New varieties appear every year. If space permits, experiment with several varieties to see which ones do best in your garden.
Sweet corn tastes best when harvested at the right stage of maturity and minutes before cooking and eating. There is no comparison between homegrown corn and corn that may have been on the grocer's shelf for a few days. High temperatures after harvesting convert the sugars to starch, so for a sweet taste, harvest right before eating.
A number of insect pests and diseases cause damage to sweet corn. The European corn borer enters the stalk and causes breakage. It also enters the ears. If injury is noticed, spray with Sevin and repeat at five-day intervals. Direct the spray into the leaf axils and developing ears. Remove stalks from the garden as soon as corn is harvested. The corn earworm is much larger than the corn borer and can affect the central stem as well as the ears. Early corn is less likely to be affected than late corn. Spraying the silks with Sevin when they first form and repeating at two-day intervals will prevent injury to the ears. Corn smut is the most common disease. Removal of the smut galls and sanitation reduce the frequency of the disease. Some varieties are more susceptible than others.
Snap beans, lima beans, and peas are the legumes most commonly grown. Peas are frost hardy and can be planted about as soon as the soil is workable. The earlier you plant peas the better, since the fruits should reach edible maturity before hot weather. Edible-podded peas, such as 'Sugar Snap', have become popular in recent years. For shell peas, I like 'Frosty', 'Green Arrow', and 'Wando'.
Snap beans can be planted about May 10. Succession plantings can be made to provide for a longer period of harvest. Both the green pod and the yellow or wax pod are popular. There are flat and round-podded varieties of each. Their bush types are most commonly planted, but pole types produce more beans in a limited space. 'Tendercrop' and 'Bush Blue Lake' are excellent green-podded varieties. 'Pencil Pod Wax' is still a good yellow-podded bean, although there are numerous new varieties to try.
Lima beans require warm soil. They are normally not planted before May 20. Both large- and small-seeded varieties can be grown, but results are usually best with the earlier, small-seeded varieties like 'Henderson Bush' and 'Fordhook 242'.
Harvesting at the right stage of maturity is the secret of getting quality legumes. Pea pods should be well filled, but they must be harvested while the peas are still tender and sweet. Snap beans should be harvested before the seeds develop in the pods; limas, as soon as the seeds are large enough.
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Interested In Canning Juicy Tomatoes? Here's How You Can Prepare Canned Tomatoes At Home. A Comprehensive Guide On Tomato Canning. The process of canning tomatoes at home has been a family tradition with many generations. Making home canned or home tinned tomatoes is something that is remembered by families for years! You must have surely seen your granny canning tomatoes at home in order to prepare for the approaching winters. In winters, one is usually unsure of getting fresh tomatoes.