Successful Vegetable Gardening
Posted: July 10, 2012
Ed Flory, Penn State Assistant Horticulturist states that a good garden contributes to the well-being of the family by providing foods that might not otherwise be provided. Fresh vegetables are superior in quality to those generally sold in markets. My aunt always believed that a fresh vegetable was one that was picked from the garden minutes before it was cooked.
A 2010 National Gardening Association survey states that over 43 million households grew their own fruits, vegetables and herbs and 21 percent of the food gardening households were new to gardening.
To start a garden select a site that has good soil and over six to eight hours of full sun. Have your soil tested for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Most vegetables do well in a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Penn State Extension has soil test kits for home gardeners on sale. Nitrogen produces top growth, phosphorus promotes root growth and fruit production and potassium helps with disease resistance.
Do not start your garden too early in the Spring, in the Stroudsburg area the frost-free date is generally around May 15. This date means that there is a fifty percent chance that a frost may occur. If a frost occurs after planting cover the plants at night with burlap, sheets or newspaper, do not use plastic.
Hardy crops that thrive during cool weather can be planted in late April, these include cabbage, cauliflower, beet, carrot, turnip, lettuce, endive, onion, pea, radish and spinach. If you plant bedding plants straight from the greenhouse make sure that they are hardened off before planting. To harden off bedding plants set them out during the day in a semi-shaded area and bring them indoors at nighttime.
Tender crops which can be quickly damaged by frost should be planted after May 15, these include snap beans, sweet corn, cucumber, squash and tomato.
Very tender crops like lima bean, eggplant, canta-loupe, pepper and basil should be planted after May 30.
Make sure to plant tall vegetables like corn where they do not shade the other crops. To make the most use of your garden use intercropping, which is the planting of two crops in the same row, such as onions between cabbage. The onions will be harvested before the cabbage needs the room. Also use succession cropping which is the planting of one crop after the other crop is harvested. Leaf lettuce which can be harvested in 45 days is a good crop for succession planting.
Make sure to mulch the areas between plants and rows to control weed growth and to maintain ground moisture. Water the garden early in the day so that water is not lost in the heat of the day, this also allows the plants to dry of before night thus helping to prevent blights. Vegetable gardens need an average of one inch of moisture per week. Walk through the garden daily to check for insects and diseases on the plants.
Gardening is an adventure, learn from the challenges each year brings, and enjoy your harvest of fresh, home-grown vegetables.