Selecting Your Plants
If you’re not sure what to plant, you could think in terms of a theme! If you like fresh salsa, plan out a salsa garden! Or if fresh ingredients on your pizza is your wish, plant a pizza garden with tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs.
Vegetables are basically broken into two seasons. There are warm season vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, vine crops, beans, and sweet corn) which need warm temperatures to thrive. Cool season crops, such as peas, spinach, lettuce, cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, kale), and root crops (potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, radishes) thrive in cooler temperatures. Just be sure your soil is workable (dry and warm) and air temperatures are warm enough. Consult with your area’s cooperative extension to obtain the best times to get your plants into the garden.
Select the plants you want to grow and decide whether or not you want to start your own from seed or buy transplants. What you plant is up to you; pick what you like to eat and choose varieties which will fit into your garden design. Whether or not you choose seeds or transplants it is a personal choice. As a general rule, depending on where you live and the length of your growing season, crops such as spinach, root crops, peas, beans, corn and cole crops can work fine seeded directly into the ground. In cooler climates with a shorter growing season, you may want to consider transplants if growing peppers, onions, tomatoes, or eggplant.
Planting resistant varieties is an effective way of managing troublesome vegetable diseases. Consider buying resistant vegetable varieties when they are available. Seed catalogs will list the resistant traits of vegetable varieties. Here are some terms to look for:
Tomatoes:Fusarium wilt(F2, F3) and root-knot nematode(N)resistance. Some varieties may also have partial resistance to early blight (AB) and late blight (LB).
Squash/Cucumbers: Powdery mildew(PM), downy mildew (DM), anthracnose (A), scab (S) and virus (WMV, ZMV, CMV).
Beans: Bean mosaic virus (BMV), anthracnose (A).
|Vegetables and their plant Families|
Chives, Garlic, Leeks, Onions
|Brassicaceae||Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Mustard, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnip|
|Cucurbitacae||Cucumbers, Melons, Pumpkins, Squash|
Resistance is a relative term; resistant varieties can be either totally immune or only partially resistant depending on the disease and the variety. Less disease can be expected on partially resistant varieties which may be enough to manage the disease.
Keep in mind how long your average growing season is as compared to how long it will take a particular vegetable variety to mature and be ready for harvest. This information can help you decide whether or not you want to use seeds or buy plants. For a traditional garden, remember that your soil must be workable before you can plant. Warm season crops such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, vine crops, beans and corn need warm soil and air temperatures to thrive. However cool season vegetables such as peas, spinach, lettuce, cole crops, and root crops can grow in cooler temperatures. If you choose seeds, you can consider starting them indoors or directly sowing them into the garden or a container. Seed packets and plant labels have all the information you need to get ready to plant. Be sure to look them over and save the information for future reference.
Companion planting involves planting other plants in your vegetable garden that can be a good "companion" to your vegetables. For example, adding flowering plants such as marigolds, sweet alyssum, calendula, cosmos, or nasturtiums not only attract the pollinators to your vegetables, but may also repel damaging insects. Even herbs make good companion plants. Consider plants such as parsley, dill, or tansy as good companions to help deter pests from your other vegetables. Bad companions are plants from the same plant family; for example, cabbage and cauliflower are from the same plant family and should never be planted together, next to each other.
Starting Seeds Indoors
It's all about timing in starting your seeds indoors; the climate in your area along with environmental conditions will determine when best to start them. Be sure to use a sterile soil-less mix which can be found at your local nursery store. You can use recycled items to start your seeds, provided they are clean and have adequate drainage. Your local nursery center will also have complete soil starting kits. The proper light and sufficient warmth are most important. Window light is sometimes not enough; consider grow lights or florescent lighting. Your light source needs to be adjustable so that it can be moved as your seedlings mature. Indoor seedlings need about 12 to 16 hours of light. They also need a warm, draft free location. Consider placing your seeds on a heat mat which can be purchased at your local nursery supply store.
Plant at least two or more seeds per container or hole and then thin them out by removing the weaker ones (try not to disturb the other roots). This ensures there is enough room for the stronger seed plants to develop. Larger seeds (such as peas and beans) should be sown two per planting station, then, after the first 'true leaves' have formed, thin out the weaker seedlings.
Transplanting Young Seedlings
Before you plant your vegetables outside, you need to harden them off. Hardening off allows the plants to acclimate to the colder conditions outside. To harden seedlings off, move the container outside during the day and bring it in again each night. Do this for five days and then leave the plants outside during the night for two nights. They then should be fully adjusted to the cold conditions when you plant them in the soil.
Planting your seedlings outdoors should not be done too late or your young plants will become leggy due to the reduced amount of light on inside. However, this has to be balanced with the possibility of a late frost which could kill seedlings off after all the hard work.
Direct Sow Seeds Outdoors
You can sow seeds directly outside in the garden or in containers for many different vegetable varieties. As a general rule, cool season crops, leafy vegetables or those with shorter growing seasons are good candidates for direct sow. Also as a general rule, the larger the seed, the more likely they will do well directly sown. Just be sure the ground temperature is warm enough and the soil is workable and not too wet.
Organic gardening is gardening without synthetic (manmade) fertilizers and pesticides. It really is a way of gardening that supports the health of the whole ecosystem. In an organically managed garden, the emphasis is on maintaining an ecosystem that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes and beneficial insects rather than simply making plants grow.
When purchasing lawn and garden products, look for Bonide Products that are packaged with a tan band on the front label because they are made from all natural ingredients. In addition, look for the "For Organic Gardening" logo and statement on the front of the label. The logo and statement "For Organic Gardening" is your assurance that these products have obtained EPA approval to meet the criteria defined by USDA's National Organic Program (NOP). Our products carrying this approval are labeled for home garden use only and are not suitable for use in commercial/agricultural organic production.
Organic gardeners must have realistic expectations when it comes to insects and diseases. Do not try to eliminate all pests from your yard or garden. Instead seek to keep pests below damaging levels. There are some diseases and insects that cannot be adequately controlled organically, making some plants much more challenging to grow. While most herbs and landscape plants can easily be cared for organically, some fruits and vegetables are very challenging. Tomatoes, squash/zucchini and peaches are difficult crops to grow without synthetic man-made pesticides and fertilizers, while blueberries, watermelons, peppers, and eggplant are among the easiest to grow organically.