Why Grow Your Own Vegetables?

Vegetable Gardening Why Grow Your Own Vegetables? –More Economical –Quality of Produce –Greater Variety of Seeds –Control Over Food Source –Control...
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Vegetable Gardening

Why Grow Your Own Vegetables? –More Economical –Quality of Produce

–Greater Variety of Seeds –Control Over Food Source –Control Over Use of Chemicals on Food

–Bragging Rights!

So what do I need to know to get started?

Planning a New Vegetable Garden • Determine what crops to grow. • Consider types of crops (Biodiversity). • Sketch garden layout on paper before committing to anything. • Estimate amount of space needed. • Ideally, plan next year’s garden this year.

• Consider amount of labor required to plant, maintain, and harvest.

How to Determine How Much to Plant • VCE Pub. 426-331, “Vegetable Planting Guide and Recommended Planting Dates” recommends amounts to plant per person. • If canning or preserving, plant sufficient quantities to feed family • Don’t plant more than you can use or take care of.

Environmental Considerations For Establishing a New Garden • • • • • • •

Know Your Planting Zone – 7A Choose site convenient to house Orientation to the sun Air circulation Water Source Drainage – Use raised beds if soil does not drain well. Soil pH – 6.2 to 6.8

June 21,21, 2014 June 2014

How to Prepare Site for New Garden • • • • • •

Start with a soil test Lay out area Remove grass Loosen soil so that it is friable, aerated, and drains well Add amendments/nutrients as needed for pH of 6.2 to 6.8 Install paths

Types of Garden Layouts • • • • • • • •

Traditional (long straight rows) Wide Rows (Blocks) Raised Beds Square Foot Potager Containerized Hydroponic Vertical

Traditional Garden Layout • Characterized by long straight rows with spacing between rows • Pros – Easy to navigate between rows – Easy to spot pests and diseases – Plenty of sunlight per plant – Plenty of air circulation

• Cons – Not an efficient use of soil and water. – Walking between rows compacts the soil.

Wide Row Garden Layout • Characterized by closer spacing of plants in blocks versus single rows • Pros – Efficient use of space – More efficient use of water – Close spacing helps keep weeds at bay

• Cons – Closer plantings may invite opportunistic spread of pests and diseases – Unless restricted to 3 or 4 feet wide, this layout may be harder to garden in.

Raised Beds • Soil mounded into berms or contained within physical structures • Pros – – – –

Soil warms up faster in spring Easy to plant Easy to weed, water, and fertilize Better drainage

• Cons – Difficult to till

How to Build a Raised Bed • Build frame out of lumber, cinder blocks, stone, or even bales of hay. • Reinforce corners of lumber • Use screws rather than nails • Install hardware cloth at bottom if burrowing animals are a problem • Ideal Height: 8 to 10 inches • Ideal width: 3 to 4 feet • Length: Varies, depending on space available. • Soil required: Area (width X length) times depth = cubic feet.

Square Foot • Characterized by use of raised beds • Pros – Very productive use of limited space – Easy to maintain – Easy to harvest

• Cons – Tight plantings may inhibit good air circulation – Not the most efficient set up for large plants

Potager • Characterized by a combination of edible and ornamental plant materials as well as hardscape features • Pros – Combines the ideals of form and function – Mixed plantings attracts pollinators

• Cons – Not designed for high production – Requires great deal more up-front design. – Can be expensive to install

Container Gardening • Pros – Ideal for limited space – Good solution where sunlight is limited – Good way to extend growing season

• Cons – Containers may be too heavy to move – Soil dries out fast, requiring lots of water – Containers may blow over in high wind – Not suitable for large, vining plants

Hydroponic Gardening • Generally only used by commercial growers in greenhouses but can be easily done by the home gardener. • Plants are grown in an inert medium, such as vermiculite, rockwool, perlite, gravel or other substance that provides no nutrients. • All nutrients are delivered directly to the roots through an oxygenated nutrient solution (water and regulated, pHadjusted amounts of nutrients).

Vertical Gardening • • • •

Used where no traditional garden space is available Takes advantage of walls or other vertical structures. Useful for growing herbs, lettuces and other small crops. Can be used both in-doors as well as outside.

Understanding Vegetable Garden Soil Preparation • • • • • • •

Soil Amendments -- When and Why Fertilizers -- What Kind and Why Water – How much and when Drainage – How to ensure Mulch – Why and how much Weeds Don’t forget the tools!

Soil Amendments – When to Apply • • • •

Compost – Apply 1 to 2 inches to garden in fall Chopped Leaves – Apply to garden in fall Manure – Apply thin layer of cow or chicken manure in fall “Green” Manure – Sow cover crop, such as rye or buckwheat, in fall to be turned under in spring.

Fertilizers • Start with soil test. Re-test every 3 years. • Fertilizers – three macronutrients: – Nitrogen (N) – needed for vegetative growth and protein synthesis – Phosphorus (P) – Needed for flower and fruit production – Potassium (K) – Needed for roots

• Balanced fertilizer (all 3 numbers are the same) generally meets needs of most plants • Follow package directions for how much fertilizer to apply • Synthetic – Pros and Cons in Vegetable Garden • Organic – Pros and Cons in Vegetable Garden

Fertilizing – When and How Broadcasting – spread over garden and worked into the soil before planting garden in spring. Follow directions for amount to apply. Banding – Narrow band of fertilizer applied several inches from seeds or transplants. Makes phosphorus more readily available than broadcasting. Be careful not to place too closely to the plant. Starter solutions – Liquid fertilizer high in phosphorus used when setting out transplants. Side-dressing – Dry fertilizer applied 6 to 8 inches away from plants that are up and growing. Rake into soil and water thoroughly. Foliar Feeding – Applied to plants as a supplement to soil nutrition but not a substitute.

Watering Guidelines • Vegetable crops need about 1 to 2 inches of water per week. • When to water: In the early morning. Less water lost due to evaporation. • Where: soil (root) level. Avoid wetting foliage. • How much: Enough to soak soil to a depth of 5 or 6 inches • How often: When soil feels dry a couple of inches down. Irregular deep watering is more beneficial than frequent light waterings.

Drainage • While vegetables need water, too much moisture is worse than not having enough. • When siting the garden, observe how long it takes for soil to dry out after a rain. • Incorporate organic matter to improve drainage. • If that’s not enough, use raised beds.

Mulch • Organic Versus Inorganic – Use depends on season and purpose • Organic – chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, sawdust, etc. – – – – –

Conserves moisture in soil and suppresses weeds Decreases soil crusting Cools root zone Helps prevent pathogens from splashing up on plant foliage Layer it 2 – 4 inches deep after soil has warmed

• Inorganic – Black plastic, clear plastic, newspaper, red plastic – Increases soil temperature very early in growing season when soil is cool – Plastic does not decompose. Must be removed.

Inorganic Mulch • Clear plastic – Warms the soil – Stimulates germination of weeds and crop plants – Remove plastic as soon as seedlings emerge through soil

• Black plastic – Increases soil temperature early – Decreases weed populations by excluding light – Recommended for crops that produce fruit on the ground – Diseases are reduced when foliage doesn’t touch ground

Weeds • • • • •

Clear all weeds from site before planting garden Weed throughout entire growing season. Stay on top of them! Weeds compete with vegetables for water, nutrients and light Weeds can harbor pests and diseases Compost weeds UNLESS they have seeds or appear diseased.

Gardening Tools • Spade/shovel – Use to create new beds and to move soil around • Garden fork – Use to loosen soil • Garden Rake – Use to smooth soil and for cleanup • Hoe – Use for weeding and to loosen soil around plantings • Hand Trowel – Use for planting • Hand pruners – Use for trimming plants and harvesting crops • Rototiller – Use to break up soil in larger gardens

Care of Garden Tools • Wipe off all dirt and grime • Sharpen spades, hoes, and other digging or cutting tools with rasp • Lubricate metal surfaces with WD-40 • Store metal tools in a bucket of sand to keep rust off.

OK, Now We’re Ready to Plant, Right?

Seeds Versus Transplants • See VCE Planting Calendar for Vegetable Seeds and Transplants • Seeds: – If no directions, plant at 3 to 4 times the diameter of seed – Thin at 1 to 2 pairs of true leaves

• Transplants – Plant after seedlings develop 1 or 2 sets of true leaves. – Best time to transplant – cloudy day or early evening – Plant at same depth as plants were growing in containers – Tomatoes and peppers may be planted deeper

Planting Strategies • • • • •

Row Planting Hill Planting Vertical (Trellis) Planting Interplanting/Companion Planting Succession Planting

Row Planting • Linear layout • Furrow for seeds • Keep in mind the mature size of the plant.

Hill Planting • Mounded soil: – Warms faster in spring, which helps germination of certain crops – Provides more room for roots to spread – Drains quicker – good in wet weather. Not so good during drought.

• Typically used for large vining crops, such as squash and melons

Vertical Planting • • • • • •

Use vertical supports for crops that sprawl or climb. Allows better air circulation Allows better access to sunlight Keeps plants off the ground Stakes or cages – tomatoes and peppers Trellises – poles, fences, netting, bamboo tee pees for vining crops

Vegetables have Families? Seriously?

Brassicaceae • The Cabbage and Mustard Family – Arugula, bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, garden cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress • Flowers have four petals in a cross shape • Insect-pollinated • Moderate Feeders • Cool season crops • Start indoors and transplant in spring or fall

Solanaceae • The Nightshade Family – Eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos. Family also includes some poisonous plants. • Flowers have five united or partially united petals and five stamens • Self-pollinating (each flower has both male and female parts) • Heavy feeders (exception: potatoes are light feeders) • Warm season crops • Plant after danger of frost has passed and soil is at least 55 degrees

Leguminosae • The Bean and Pea Family – Beans (green, lima, fava, etc.), cowpeas, garden peas, edible podded pea, garbanzo, lentil, soybean, peanut • Flowers are usually butterfly shaped. • Self-pollinating • Important sources of protein in human diet • Soil builders -- Form symbiotic relationships in their roots with bacterial species that “fix” nitrogen in the soil.

Cucurbitaceae • The cucumber, squash and melon family – Tendril-bearing vines and alternating leaves – Cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash, zucchini, pumpkins, gourds, muskmelon, cantaloupe, watermelon. • Plants contain separate male and female flowers and need to be cross pollinated • Insect-pollinated • Heavy feeders • Warm weather crops • Plant after all danger of frost is passed.

Chenopodiaceae • The Beetroot family – Beets, Swiss chard, spinach, quinoa, orach • Wind pollinated. • Prefers cool weather • Light Feeders

Umbelliferae • The carrot family (includes some members that are poisonous) – Carrots, celery, fennel, parship, parsley, dill, chervil, coriander • Flowers are umbrella shaped (umbels) • Insect pollinated • Light Feeders • Members grown for foliage • Members grown for roots – biennial (produce seeds their 2nd year)

Asteraceae (or Compositae) • The lettuce family – lettuces, endive, chicory, escarole, radicchio, artichoke, cardoon, salsify • The daisy family (rayed blossoms) • Self-pollinating but some require insects for pollination • Moderate Feeders

Amaryllidaceae (or Alliaceae) • The onion family – Chives, garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots • Self-pollinated • Light feeders – Too much nitrogen can result in lots of leaves but small bulbs

Other Miscellaneous Vegetable Families • • • • • • • • •

Amaranthaceae – Amaranth Basellaceae – Malabar Spinach Convolvulaceae – Sweet Potato Gramineae – Corn Labiatae – Basil Liliaceae – Asparagus Malvaceae – Okra Polygonaceae – Rhubarb, Sorrel Tetragoniaceae – New Zealand Spinach

Perennial Vegetables • Asparagus, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish • Many herbs, such as chives, oregano, thyme, mint, and hardier varieties of rosemary.

Why is it Important to know about Vegetable Families??? • An effective “recipe for success” in growing vegetables in each family is based on a knowledge of their: – Cultural (growing) requirements – Their impact on the soil -- both pro and con – Their common diseases. – Their mutual pests.

• An understanding of these key factor will lead to effective crop rotation plans


Tomatoes (Nightshade Family) • • • • • • • •

Types and characteristics: Determinate Vs. Indeterminate Planting Guidelines – Seed vs. transplants. How to plant. Cultural requirements Fertilizer Requirements Maintenance Pests Diseases Harvesting

Potatoes (Nightshade Family) • • • • • • •

Planting Guidelines Cultural Requirements Fertilizer Requirements Maintenance Pests Diseases Harvesting

Lettuce (Aster Family) • • • • • •

Types – leaf, romaine (cos), butterhead, crisphead Planting guidelines Cool Weather Crop Pests Diseases Harvesting

Kale (Brassica Family) • • • • • • •

Types and characteristics Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases Harvesting

Carrot (Umbel Family) • • • • • • •

Types and characteristics Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases Harvesting

Beets (Beetroot Family) • • • • • •

Types and characteristics Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases

Garlic (Allium Family) • • • • • • •

Types and characteristics Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases Harvesting

Green Beans (Legume Family) • • • • • • •

Types and characteristics Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases Harvesting

Summer Squash (Cucurbit Family) • • • • • • •

Types and characteristics Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases Harvesting

Asparagus (Miscellaneous) • • • • • • •

Types Planting guidelines Cultural requirements Fertilizer requirements Pests Diseases Harvesting

Recommended Vegetables for this Area • See VCE Pub. 426-480, “Vegetables Recommended for Virginia” • When selecting vegetables, keep in mind: – Disease-resistant varieties. For example, check tomato seed packets for information on resistance to Early Blight (code AB) or Late Bright (code LB). – Heat-tolerant varieties.

Other Important Gardening Concepts

Gardening Concepts • • • • • • •

Companion Planting Interplanting Succession Planting Cover Crops/Green Manure Crop Rotation Pest Management Strategies Vegetable Diseases

Companion Planting • Plant together vegetables that: – Have same or similar requirements for water, sunlight, etc. – Benefit one another; e.g., the three sisters – corn, beans, squash. – Attract the same pollinators or repel pests

• Do Not plant crops together that: – May deplete the same nutrients from the soil – Attract the same pests and diseases (for example, do not plant tomatoes and potatoes near one another).

Utilize companion planting/ intercropping to attract beneficial insects & take advantage of symbiotic biochemical and cultural benefits

Interplanting • Plant slow-maturing crops with fast-maturing crops. • Plant herbs or flowers near crops to promote beneficial insects or repel pests • Plant short crops among taller ones • Plant shade-tolerant crops among taller crops

Succession Planting • Plant crops on a staggered basis to: – Extend harvest – Extend season

• Plant a new crop as soon as previous crop is finished • Relay plant (example: radishes and carrots) • Keep first frost date in mind when sowing final planting of the season

Cover Crops/Green Manure • Cover Crops are temporary plantings of fast-growing crops, usually sown in the fall and tilled under in the spring. – – – –

Add organic matter to the soil Protect soil from wind and water erosion Help retain water in soil Help prevent weeds

• Green Manure crops (e.g., annual rye grass and buckwheat) are tilled under while still green to further enrich the soil while they decompose. Usually left in place 6 months to 1 year. • Turn under 2 to 3 weeks in spring before planting new garden.

Crop Rotation • Why? – To maintain proper nutrient levels in soil – To prevent or control plant diseases – To prevent or control soil-dwelling insect pests

• When? Rotate crops on a four-year cycle • How? – Keep records and develop a crop rotation plan – Know your vegetable families and their impact on soil nutrients

Rotate crops to avoid the build up of pathogens and pests in the garden Vegetables (see left)





1st Year





4 year rotation

2nd Year





1. Potatoes

3rd Year





4th Year





1st Year repeat





2. Peas, beans, leeks, lettuce.

3. Cabbage, winter greens. 4. Carrots, beetroot, turnips, parsnips.

Pest Management Strategies • • • • • • • •

ID the pest (example: imported cabbage moth vs. cabbage looper) Prevent pests in the first place by exclusion (row covers). Plant strong-scented herbs or flowers to confuse pests. Timing – Learn life cycle of pests and time plantings accordingly. Delayed plantings, for example, may attract fewer pests in the spring. Hand pick – Monitor plantings daily. Hand pick egg cases and larvae. Predation – Attract beneficial predators Sanitation – Remove garden debris in fall Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) -- Organic pesticide

Go Team Insect!

152 major crops

The Big kahuna … Insects fighting among themselves

Vegetable Diseases • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. • Healthy soil, strong healthy plants, and sound cultural practices help control disease. – – – –

Soil-borne pathogens -- Rotate Crops, use mulch. Keep plants hydrated to avoid stressing them Plant disease-resistant varieties Apply compost, which nourishes the soil and inhibits many plant diseases.

• Practice good sanitation habits in garden to keep pathogens at bay.


-destruction of natural enemies -development of resistance -higher quality standards

What is disease? What role does stress play?

Tips for Vegetable Gardening All Year Round

The Spring Garden • • • •

Wait until soil dries before tilling Don’t walk on wet soil Soil temperature for planting spring seeds What to plant and when

The Summer Garden • • • •

Planting schedule for the summer garden Vining Crops Trellises/Cages, etc. Maintenance chores

The Fall Garden • • • • • •

Planting schedule for the fall garden Final Frost Date Frost Covers – degrees of protection Maintenance/Clean Up Cover Crops – When to Sow Compost – when and how much

The Winter Garden • Cold Resistant Varieties • Protection: – Cold Frames – Frost Covers – Low Tunnels – High Tunnels

• Greenhouses

Cold frames and hot beds • Cold Frames - harden seedlings, start cold season crops for transplant into garden, spring/summer for propagation • Cold frames depend on sun for heat • Hot beds use additional heat source – Steam carrying pipes, cables or manure

• Inexpensive • Simple • Suitable for cool weather crops

Cold Frame

Uzbek example – decaying material was cotton waste

Cloches and row covers • Cloches - Cover for individual plants or small tunnels (low tunnels) • Floating row covers – no structure, pushed up as plants grow • Trap solar radiation, wind protection, insect control and keep moisture from evaporating • Removed when flowers develop

Where to Locate

Just when you thought we were done….

Last But Not Least Some additional concepts that you’re likely to encounter: –Biointensive Agriculture –Permaculture

Biointensive Agriculture An organic agricultural system designed to obtain maximum yields from a minimal area of land. Key elements include: – – – – –

Double-dug, raised beds Composting Intensive planting Companion planting Balanced planting ratio of 60% carbon-rich crops (for compost production), 30% calorie-rich crops (for food) and optional 10% income-producing crops. – Use of open-pollinated seeds – A whole-system farming method

Permaculture • A gardening system that combines the ideals of natural landscaping and edible landscaping with the goal of sustaining the site as well as the gardener. • Characterized by: – Use of diverse native plants or those well adapted to the local area. – Plants that serve a useful purpose (as opposed to a purely ornamental purpose) and benefit the landscape. – Plants that are disease-resistant and don’t need lots of water or pampering. – Groupings of plants that work well together. – Appropriate use of micro-climates on the site.