- Don’t plant more than you can easily tend in your allotted gardening time.
- Begin by growing vegetables you buy regularly at the grocery.
BEHOLD THE AWESOMENESS OF SOIL
- IT”S ALIVE! There is a universe of microorganisms in the soil that make plant growth possible. These microorganisms can be harmed if the soil is exposed to pesticides or is deficient in organic matter.
- IT HAS STRUCTURE – the air and water spaces in soil can be harmed if the soil is worked when wet or tilled too often.
- IT HAS TEXTURE (sandy, silty, clay) which affects the way the soil holds water and nutrients. Sandy soil requires more frequent watering while clay soil can be heavy and wet. Addition of organic matter helps improve both types of soils.
- SOIL pH is a measure of a soil’s acidity. Vegetables have a pH preference that must be met for optimal growth. Low pH can be raised by adding lime to the soil; high pH can be lowered by adding soil sulfur.
- In general, 2-3 inches of ORGANIC MATTER should be added to soil each growing season. Organic matter includes compost, composted manures, chopped up fall leaves or cover crops.
INTERACT WITH YOUR GARDEN DAILY
- Frequent visits to the garden allow you to scout for bugs, diseases and weeds.
- Pests are easier to deal with if you catch them early.
- While you’re out there, stick your finger in the soil and see if it needs water.
KNOW WHAT YOUR PLANT NEEDS
Most vegetables need full sun. Light shade suits peas, spinach and lettuce especially in warm weather.
- PLANTING TIME
The average last frost date for this area is May 16.
Cool weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peas, radish can be planted before the last average frost date.
Warm weather crops like tomatoes,peppers, cucumbers and squashes can not tolerate frost and need warm soils to prosper.
They cannot be planted until after the frost date.
Crowded plants compete with each other for resources.
Weeds also compete with garden plants and should be removed when young.
See the back of the seed packet or the tag that comes with transplants for spacing requirements.
Thin seedlings as instructed on seed packet.
The amount of watering you do depends on the type plant you’re growing and the type of soil in your garden.
Slow deep watering is better than frequent light watering.
Shallow watering encourages surface roots and decreases the plants’ resistance to drought.
In general, provide one inch of water per week (including rain).
Wilting can be a sign of underwatering or overwatering.
Avoid wetting leaves while watering, it favors disease development.
Mulch around plants with organic matter to keep soil evenly moist, decrease weeds, stop the spread of some soilborne diseases, and keep vegetables clean.
Organic matter includes compost, straw, chopped leaves, grass clippings from untreated lawns. Do not use hay, it has too many weeds.
Most fertilizers contain nitrogen for green growth, phosphorus for root growth and potassium to help the plant resist stress.
There are many approaches to fertilization – fertilizing at planting time then again in mid-July or fertilizing at planting time and using liquid fertilizer during the growing season as needed are just two examples.
Overuse of nitrogen can produce beautiful leaves (good for lettuce) but few vegetables (bad for tomatoes).
The sure-fire way to find out exactly what your soil needs is to get your soil tested by the UNH lab. There is a charge and you must follow soil collection instructions. The cooperative extension office will guide you.
KNOW YOUR ENEMIES
- Check your garden daily for insects, diseases, weeds and animal pests. Make sure to check the undersides of leaves, a favorite hiding place for insects.
- Never apply pesticides without identifying the cause of plant damage. Diseases can look like insect damage and vice versa.
- Knowing the lifecycle of the pest can help you develop control strategies.
- Not all insects are bad – beneficial insects help keep bad bugs under control.
- Always use the least toxic alternatives to deal with pests. Nonchemical controls include planting disease resistant varieties, trap crops, handpicking ,physical barriers that exclude pests and many others.
MIX IT UP
- Crop rotation means not growing plants in the same family in the same place from year to year. This helps control insects and diseases.
- Combine vegetables and flowers in the same garden. Sunflowers, marigolds, cosmos and zinnia all grow easily from seed and will attract pollinators to your plants.
- Explore different methods of gardening:
Vertical gardening– growing plants up on a trellis, pole etc
Companion planting– some types of plants benefit from being grown together
Succession planting– seeds are planted in intervals to extend the harvest period or one crop filling the gap opened by harvesting a previous crop
THE JOB’S NOT OVER UNTIL CLEAN-UP IS DONE
- Till in mulch at the end of the season to increase soil organic matter.
- Remove all old plants– insects and diseases love to overwinter in plant debris.
- Check pH and adjust if needed.
- Sow a cover crop like winter rye in the fall to be turned into soil in the spring, giving the garden a big boost of organic matter.
- There is a wealth of information on the back of a seed packet
- The Info Line at UNH cooperative extension is staffed by volunteer Master gardeners to answer gardening questions M-F 9am-2pm at 1-877-398-4769. The website is extension.unh.edu
- My favorite gardening book is Crockett’s Victory Garden by James Underwood Crockett. The book was published in 1977, and although the pesticides he recommends are outdated, it has a wealth of insight on how to grow vegetables
- When using the internet to find information about plants, add .edu to your search terms. You will be directed to cooperative extension sites where science based information is available. Cornell’s website is excellent.
- Finally, you can call me at Dodge’s Agway at 382-8201. I will be happy to assist you. We do free pH testing, carry a wide variety of seeds, fertilizers and soil amendments. We also carry locally grown flower and vegetable seedling, as well as herbs. Come on down and check us out!