Vegetable Gardening Basics

Posted: April 1, 2013

There is renewed interest in vegetable gardening here are some tips to get you off to a good start.
  • Keep the garden a manageable size. You will get more produce from a small well maintained garden than a large.
  • Get a soil test. They cost $9 and can be purchased from your county’s Penn State Extension office. Apply the nutrients recommended so your plants will thrive. Applying more soil nutrients than is recommended is detrimental to your plants and can delay harvest.
  • Apply the correct type of lime. Most soil test recommendations call for high calcium lime, not lime containing more than 3% magnesium.
  • Apply organic matter to build your soil. Manure, compost, leaves all work well. If you use manure it is recommended to work it into the soil at least 4 months before harvest for food safety reasons. Be sure to account for the nutrients supplied by the manure by reducing or eliminating purchased fertilizer.
  • Select the best varieties available. Look for varieties that have both good disease resistance and good flavor. Avoid late maturing varieties. Visit local greenhouses that offer varieties that do well in our area.
  • Plant at the optimum time. Cool season crops like cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce do well when planted in April to early May. Warm season crops like tomatoes, beans, peppers, and eggplant do well when planted in late May.
  • Control the weeds early. Frequent, shallow cultivation is much better than pulling weeds after they have competed with the vegetables.
  • Keep the garden soil moist but not wet. If possible, apply water to the soil without wetting plant foliage.
  • Avoid contamination while harvesting and storing vegetables. Wash your hands before harvesting fruits and vegetables. Put your harvest in clean containers. Store your produce in a cool protected area.
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Here are a few reminders for tree fruit growers. Your apple and pear tree pruning should be done. Start your peach tree pruning around April 15th. It is time to get your dormant oil spray on.

For more detailed information check out Penn State’s Vegetable Gardening - Recommendations for Home Gardeners in Pennsylvania.

Contact Information

John Esslinger
  • Horticulture Extension
Phone: 570-316-6516