Use this calendar to plan your gardening activities
Start of growing season (average date of last spring frost)
End of growing season (average date of first fall frost)
Length of growing season
Start hardy plants indoors (6-8 weeks before date to set out)
Start tender plants indoors (6-8 weeks before date to set out)
Plant very hardy plants and seeds outdoors (4-6 weeks before average date of last frost)
Plant hardy plants and seeds outdoors (2-3 weeks before average date of last spring frost)
Plant tender plants and seeds outdoors (on the average date of last frost)
Plant very tender plants and seeds outdoors (2 weeks after average date of last frost)
Clean up garden
Plant next year's garden, order seeds
Your personal gardening calendar gives you a spot check on the important dates in your gardening season and lets you know how much you've already achieved and what is still left to do. Find the frost dates for your area and the length of your gro wing season from the chart earlier in this chapter. The hardiness chart at the end of "Planting Your Garden " will tell you which hardiness category your vegetables belong to and when to plant them.
7 here are a great many garden tools on the market. Some are necessary, some are helpful, and some are a complete waste of money. If you're a beginning gardener, approach all this equipment with caution—be sure that you're going to enjoy being a gardener before you spend a small fortune on tools. Remember, too, that one of your motives in being a gardener Is to save money by growing your own vegetables; you'll have to grow a lot of lettuce to pay for a $300 rototiller.
When you decide which tools you need, buy the best you can find and take good care of them. As in so many other activities, it's a long-term economy move to buy good equipment right away—ask any serious cook. Good tools work better and last longer than the cheap kinds that fall to pieces the first time you need them to do any real work.
The first test of a tool is how it feels in your hands. Is it well-balanced? Can you lift it when it's full as well as when it's empty? Gardeners and gardening tools come in different sizes and weights; since you'll be working together, you and your equipment should be compatible.
Follow these three simple rules and your tools will give you long, efficient, and economical service.
The following are the basic tools of the gardener. You may not need them all. Consider the type and amount of gardening you do, and choose the implements that best suit your needs.
Shovel and spade. A shovel has a curved scoop and a handle with a handgrip. It's used for lifting, turning, and moving soil. A spade is a sturdy tool with a thick handle (and a handgrip) and a heavy blade that you press into the ground with your foot. The blade is usually flatter and sharper than the shovel's, and often squared off at the bottom. A spade is for hard digging work; it should be strong but light enough to handle comfortably. A nursery shovel or nursery spade is an excellent all-around tool in the vegetable garden.
Spading fork. A spading fork is also used for heavy digging, and its two to four prongs make it the best
tool for breaking up compacted soil, lifting root vegetables, and digging weeds. The handle is sturdy and has a handgrip; your foot presses the prongs into the ground. Forks with flexible prongs are called pitchforks; the ones with sturdier, rigid prongs are called spading forks.
Choose the planter best suited to your needs.
Planting row guide. A row guide is simply two stakes with a line marked at six-inch intervals stretched between them. It helps you mark straight rows and plant seeds or plants evenly and quickly. A row guide you make yourself works every bit as well as an expensive store-bought one. To make your own, just tie a good string line (as long as your garden at its longest point) between two stakes, and mark the line every six inches with colored markers. Come plantingtime,setupyourguideandpiantalongit.The straight rows of plants you get when you use a guide are easier to weed, water, and harvest than random plantings.
Plant cages. Although these are commonly referred to as tomato cages, you can also use them to support vining crops like cucumbers and squashes. They're usually made of wire or covered wire and come in a variety of sizes. They contain the plant in a manageable space and keep it off the ground. Round cages are the most common, but you can now buy square ones that are a lot more convenient because they fold flat for storage. When you're buying cages, make sure that they're big enough and sturdy enough for the plant variety and that you can get your hand inside to harvest your crop.
TOOLS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING
If you're a container gardener, special tools—in many respects scaled-down versions of regular garden tools—are available for your use.
Hand cultivator. A hand cultivator helps you control weeds. One type has three prongs. The pickax kind has one single-pointed end and a double point on the other end. Choose whatever type you like best.
Hand hoe. This has a shorter handle and a smaller blade than a regular garden hoe.
Trowel. No container gardener should be without a trowel—it's even more useful here than in a full-size garden for filling containers, transplanting, dividing clumps of plants, and leveling soil.
Watering equipment. A watering wand makes it easier to reach the less accessible corners of your container garden. The wand is a hollow metal tube that attaches to the end of your hose, and it lets you water the back rows of your container garden without reaching over and possibly crushing the front rows. If you're an indoor gardener, you will also make good use of a small watering can, and a spraymister to freshen foliage. Any household spray bottle makes a good mister, provided it is thoroughly washed out first.
Spadexvonk - 7he Câûential Soil
Soil is the thin blanket that exists between sterile rock and the sky. Soil supports all life and is itself, in some measure, the product of living things. For all that, we often treat the soil like, literally, the dirt under our feet. We've developed this careless attitude partly because for generations soil has been dirt cheap. There was never any problem about having enough of it. This is no longer true; good soil is getting harder to find. You can no longer take it for granted that you'll find good garden soil lying around in your backyard. If you live in a residential or industrial area, you can be pretty sure that after the developers left, not much good soil remained. It was probably removed and sold before the construction began, or buried under the excavation for the foundation of the new buildings.
Unless you're a farmer or a commercial grower, chances are you simply lay out your garden in the most convenient spot and make the best of whatever soil happens to be there. But even if what happens to be there is less than ideal, there's a lot you can do to turn it into a healthy, productive garden. Understanding soil and how plants grow in it will help you make the most of what you've got right there in your own yard.
Essentially the function of the soil in relation to the plants that grow in it is fourfold: It must supply water; it must supply nutrients; it must supply gases (carbon dioxide and oxygen); and it must be firm enough to support the plant securely. The ideal soil is a middle-of-the-road mixture, holding moisture and nutrients while letting excess water drain away to make room for air.
Don't make the mistake of assuming that your garden contains only one type of soil; several different soils can exist in one backyard. Each natural soil is composed of fine rock particles, organic matter, and microorganisms. A good soil is 50 percent solids and 50 percent porous space, which provides room for water, air, and plant roots. The solids are 80 to 90 percent inorganic matter and 10 to 20 percent organic materials. Water and air should each occupy about half of the porous space.
There are four basic types of soil, and the texture of each is determined by the different proportions of various-sized soil particles. These four types of soil are clay, sand, silt, and loam.
Clay soil. A clay soil is composed of particles that are less than 1/31750 of an inch (1/200 mm) in diameter. These minute particles pack together more closely than larger particles and have a greater total surface area. Clay soil can hold more water than other soils. It often drains poorly, but drainage can be improved by the addition of organic matter to break up the clay particles. If you try to work with a clay soil when it's wet, you'll compress the particles even more closely; then, when the soil dries, you'll be left with a surface something like baked brick or
concrete. Properly managed, however, clay soils can be the most productive of all.
Sandy soil. A sandy soil is made up mostly of particles that are over 1/3175 of an inch (1/20 mm) in diameter. They are much larger than clay particles and irregular in shape, so they don't pack as closely together as clay particles. Because they have less total surface area, these larger particles hold less water than smaller particles and are much more porous. Sandy soil drains like a sieve, but can be improved by the addition of organic matter, which helps retain moisture and nutrients.
Silt soil. In a silt soil the size of the particles is intermediate — between clay and sand. Depending on the size of its particles, a silt soil can act either like a clay soil or like a fine sandy soil. Silt consists of small, gritty particles that can pack down very hard, and it's not very fertile. Silt soil is often found on top of heavy clay, which slows or stops drainage.
Loam. Loam is a mixture of clay, silt, and sand particles. A good garden loam is something to cherish, particularly if it also contains a heavy supply of organic matter. All soil improvement is aimed at achieving a good loam — when you add organic matter or make other improvements to your clay or sandy soil, you're trying to provide the type of loam that lucky gardeners have without all that extra work.
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How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.