Planning

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I think the main reason I grow vegetables stems from happy childhood memories, ol sitting on the back steps at the end of summer, slurping a freshly picked, sun-warmed tomato, the juice tickling and pouring down my chin. Unbeatable flavor straight from the garden. As a child, I enjoyed only the harvest. As an adult. I love the exercise and good health that come from

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working in a garden. It's rewarding to watch the changing, ripening fruit and, later, to share the harvest with friends and neighbors. Over the years I became increasingly aware of the harmful pesticides used on commercially grown vegetables. I like knowing that my home-grown vegetables are safe and nutritious for my children. These are some of my reasons for growing a vegetable garden.

It is important for you to examine your reasons for growing a vegetable garden. There are many sorts of vegetable garden, and what sort you choose should depend on what you hope to achieve. A vegetable garden takes more planning than any other form of garden. V egetables need more from the soil than other plants, so you must prepare it properly.

Not only must the soil be brought to as nutritious a condition as possible, but the plan for the growing season could include intensive planting, too (using the same soil for more than one crop). You will want a soil rich enough at all times to bring a full measure of vitamins, nutrients and flavor to your crop and, finally, to your table.

When planning a vegetable garden, the first decision is to choose a site for the garden. It should be fairly level, but not at the bottom of an incline where water will stand in puddles after a heavy rain. Be sure it's away from any tree or shrub roots, which compete for space and nutrients in the soil (to say nothing of the unwanted shade the foliage of the plant may provide). Vegetable crops need light and warmth from the sun, and the spot you choose must provide at least six hours of direct sun per day. The more sun, the better; for a vegetable garden, full-sun locations are best.

Beginners should think small. A 10-foot-by- 10-foot garden will be very productive without being a burden. There is a lot to learn and to remember in your first garden. Gardening, like riding a bike, seems difficult to the beginner but is a cinch once you get the hang of it.

Start with a diagram of the garden; it needn't be accurate to the inch. Use graph paper and a scale of lA inch to the foot for easy reading. The purpose of a diagram is twofold. First, when you plan what you grow this year and in what location, you'll know what quantities to plant; second, you'll know which crops to locate next to each other. Your notebook will remind you next year on the position of crops in the garden, when they were planted, when seedlings first appeared, and when you harvested. Keeping a record will help you learn when to pick the early crops and when you can follow with the second planting. You can plan ahead and start the seeds indoors so the seedlings are ready as garden space becomes available.

It is important to rotate crops from year to year. This helps avoid soil and insect problems that result from repeated planting of the same crops in the same areas. "Rotating" means only that you do not grow the same plant in exactly the same spot two years in succession. For proper crop rotation, you need move plants only a few feet away from their previous location.

CHECKLIST FOR PLANNING A VEGETABLE GARDEN

  1. Plant the tallest-growing vegetables at the north end of the vegetable garden, so they don't shade the shorter plants.
  2. Rotate vegetables every year.
  3. Check spacing requirements for the recommended distance between rows. Close spacing leaves little room for weeds, but more space is needed to accommodate the use of a mechanical cultivator. Give the roots all the room they need to grow.
  4. Plan paths for walking and working in the garden. Will you want to bring a wheelbarrow into the garden? If so, paths should be three feet wide. Leave comfortable working room.
  5. Group long-season crops together for ease in preparing the soil. The bed will need to be prepared only once; it can be mulched, the crop harvested, and finally plowed under all at once. Long-season crops include cucumber, eggplant, New Zealand spinach, peppers, pole beans, salsify, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.
  6. Group short-season crops together for more convenient rotation and succession planting. They deplete the soil of nutrients more rapidly than do long-season crops. Such crops include radishes, lettuce, beets, carrots, bushbeans, and peas.
  7. To save space, plant quick-growing vegetables between slow-growing vegetables, for example, radishes between rows of corn. The radishes are harvested long before the corn shades them and needs the space for its roots.
  8. In a small garden, growing vine crops up a trellis or fence saves valuable ground space.
  9. Most of a vegetable crop matures at about the same time. If you can't use fifty radishes all at once, plant some now, some in the next two weeks and then again two weeks later, to lengthen the harvest time. This is called succession planting, and it works well with many vegetables. Varieties of lettuce that mature at different times can be planted at the same time for a continuous harvest.
  10. Timing is important when starting seeds indoors. If started too early, seedlings will be overgrown and won't easily adjust to outdoor conditions when transplanted. If started too late, the harvest will be delayed.

Opposite left: Cucuzzi, a fast-growing and rather exotic Chinese vegetable.

Opposite right: Grow different varieties of tomatoes to add to your garden pleasures. Pictured here., clockwise from the purple ruffled basil: 'Burpee's BIG BOY« Hybrid', 'Sweet 100 Hybrid' (cherry tomatoes), 'Yellow Pear', 'Umon Boy VFN Hybrid, <uul'Roma VF' (plum tomatoes).

Good Vegetable Garden Layout

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