Eggplant Planting, (Solanum melongena)Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Sandy
Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral Hardiness Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Eggplants are short-lived perennial vegetables, but are usually cultivated as annuals. Also known as aubergines, eggplants differ mainly in size, shape and color of the fruits. Eggplants are tropical and subtropical, requiring relatively high temperatures. Related crop include tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.
Start plants indoors 2 months before the soil warms up or buy nursery transplants just before planting.
Place 3 to 4 inch tall seedlings 24 to 30 inches apart in well-prepared beds.
Pinch out the terminal growing points for a bushier plant.
Harvest 16 to 24 weeks after sowing when the skin of the fruit is shiny and unwrinkled.
Cut the fruit close to the stem, but leaving about an inch of it attached.
Eggplants can be stored for up to two weeks in humid conditions no lower than 50 degrees F.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Sandy
Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral Hardiness Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Is a cool-season crop that, like spinach, can be grown in the spring or fall. In fact, you may be able to get a continual harvest throughout both seasons if you time planting correctly. A member of the cabbage family, broccoli is rich in vitamins.
It’s low in calories, high in fiber and vitamins C, K, and folate, plus it contains significant amounts of several other vitamins and minerals.
Broccoli can germinate in soil with temperatures as low as 40ºF.
Broccoli requires full sun and moist, fertile soil that’s slightly acidic. Work in 2 to 4 inches of rich compost or a thin layer of manure before planting.
For spring plantings, seed or set transplants 2 to 3 weeks before last spring frost date. If you transplant, assume 10 less days for growth or the “days to maturity” on the seed packet.
For fall plantings, seed 85 to 100 days before your average first fall frost. If you live in a warm climate, a fall planting is best, as broccoli thrives in cool weather. Plant seeds in mid- to late-summer in most places. Check your frost dates.
Plant seeds ½ inch deep, or set transplants slightly deeper than they were grown originally.
Within a row, space your plants 12 to 24 inches apart with 36 inches between each row.
Space plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the side heads you want to harvest.
If you overseed, you will need to thin seedlings to 12 inches apart to give room for the broccoli to grow.
Fertilize three weeks after transplanting.
Provide consistent soil moisture with regular watering, especially in drought conditions. Some varieties of broccoli are heat tolerant, but all need moisture.
Do not get developing heads wet when watering.
Roots are very shallow, do not cultivate. Suffocate weeds with mulch.
Mulch will also help to keep soil temperatures down.
Aphids: Curling leaves may mean that the plant’s sap is being sucked by insects. Apply soapy water to all sides of leaves whenever you see aphids.
Downy mildew: Yellow patches on leaves are usually caused by moist weather. Keep leaves as dry as possible with good air circulation. Buy resistant varieties.
Cabbage loopers: Small holes on the leaves between the veins mean small green caterpillars are present. Look at the undersides of the leaves. Hand pick if the problem is small or control with Bacillus thuringiensis. Use a floating row cover just after planting through harvest to prevent caterpillars.
Cabbageworms and other worm pests: Treat same as loopers.
Cabbage root maggots
Nitrogen deficiency: If the bottom leaves turn yellow and the problem continues toward the top of the plant, the plants need a high nitrogen (but low phosphorus) fertilizer or bloodmeal. Blood meal is a quick Nitrogen fix for yellowing leaves.
Clubroot: Quickly wilting plants may be due to this fungus in the soil. The entire plant, including all roots and root tendrils, must be gently dug up and removed. If the roots are gnarled and misshapen, then clubroot is the problem. Act quickly to remove the plants so that the fungus doesn’t continue to live in the soil. Do not compost the plants. Raise the pH of your soil to above 7.2. You may need to sterilize your soil, too.
In terms of timing: Harvest broccoli when the buds of the head are firm and tight before the heads flower. If you do see yellow petals, harvest immediately.
For best taste, harvest in the morning before the soil heats up.
Cut heads from the plant. taking at least 6 inches of stem.
Cut the stalk of the main head at a slant, about 5 to 8 inches below the head.
Most varieties have side-shoots that will continue to develop after the main head is harvested. You can harvest from one plant for many weeks, in some cases, from spring to fall, if you’re summer isn’t too hot.
Store broccoli in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you wash before storing, make sure to dry it thoroughly.
Broccoli can be blanched and frozen for up to one year.
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Loamy Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral
Flower Color: White Bloom Time: Spring Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. -Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Cauliflower is a cool-season crop and a descendant of the common cabbage. It is more difficult to than its relatives because it does not tolerate the heat or cold as well. For this reason, cauliflower is usually grown commercially.
If you plant to attempt growing cauliflower in the home garden, it requires consistently cool temperatures with temperatures in the 60s. Otherwise, it prematurely “button”—form small button-size heads—rather than forming one, nice white head.
Select a site with at lesat 6 hours of full sun. Soil needs be very rich in organic matter; add composted mature to the soil before planting. Fertile soil holds in moiture to prevent heads from “buttoning.” Test your soil! (Get a soil test through your cooperative extension office.) The soil pH should be between 6.5 and 6.8. It is best to start cauliflower from transplants rather than seeds. Transplant 2 to 4 weeks before the average frost date in the spring, no sooner and not much later. Space the transplants 18 to 24 inches apart with 30 inches between rows. Use starter fertilizer when transplanting. Plant fall cauliflower about the same time as fall cabbage. This is usually 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost and also need to be after the temperature is below 75 degrees F. If you really want to try starting cauliflower from seeds, start the seeds 4 to 5 weeks before the plants are needed. Plant the seeds in rows 3 to 6 inches apart and ¼ to ½ of an inch deep. Do not forget to water the seeds during their germination and growth. Once they become seedlings, transplant them to their permanent place in the garden. In early spring, be ready to cover your plants with old milk jugs or protection if needed. For fall crops, shade them if they need protection from the heat. Add mulch to conserve moisture.
Make sure that the plants have uninterrupted growth. Any interruption can cause the plants to develop a head prematurely or ruin the edible part completely.
Cauliflower requires consistent soil moisture. They need 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week; with normal rainfall, this usually requires supplement watering.
For best growth, side-dress the plants with a nitrogen fertilizer.
Note that the cauliflower will start out as a loose head and it takes time for the head to form. Many varieties take at least 75 to 85 days from transplant. Be patient.
When the curd (the white head) is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, tie the outer leaves together over the head with a rubber band, tape, or twine. This is called blanching, and it protects the head from the sun and helps you get that pretty white color.
The plants are usually ready for harvest 7 to 12 days after blanching.
When the heads are compact, white, and firm, then it is time to harvest them. Ideally, the heads will grow 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
Cut the heads off the plant with a large knife. Be sure to leave some of the leaves around the head to keep it protected.
If the heads are too small but have started to open up, they will not improve and should be harvested.
If the cauliflower has a coarse appearance, it is too mature and should be tossed.
If you want to store cauliflower, you can put the head in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last for about a week.
For long-term storage, you can also freeze or pickle the heads.
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)
Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Loamy, Sandy
Soil pH: Neutral Hardiness Zone: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Cabbage is a hardy, leafy vegetable full of vitamins. It can be difficult to grow; it only likes cool temperatures, and it can be a magnet for some type of pests. By planning your growing season and providing diligent care, you may have two successful crops in one year, both spring and fall. Many varieties are available to suit both your growing conditions and taste preferences.
Start cabbage seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Harden off plants over the course of a week. To prepare soil, till in aged manure or compost.
Transplant outdoors 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost date. Choose a cloudy afternoon.
Plant 12 to 24 inches apart in rows, depending on size of head desired. The closer you plant, the smaller the heads.
Mulch thickly to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
Practice crop rotation with cabbage year to year to avoid a buildup of soil borne diseases.
Although cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are closely related, and require similar nutrients, it’s best not to plant them together. They are all heavy feeders, depleting the soil faster of required nutrients; plus, they will attract the same pests and diseases.
For cabbage, also avoid proximity to strawberries and tomatoes.
Cabbage can be grown near beans and cucumbers.
When transplants reach 5 inches tall, thin to make sure they are still the desired length apart.
Fertilize 3 weeks after transplanting.
Keep soil moist with mulch and water 2 inches per week.
Harvest when heads reach desired size and are firm. This will take around 70 days for most green cabbage varieties. Most early varieties will produce 1- to 3-pound heads.
Cut each cabbage head at its base with a sharp knife. After harvesting, bring inside or put in shade immediately.
To get two crops from early cabbage plants, cut the cabbage head out of the plant, leaving the outer leaves and root in the garden. The plant will send up new heads—pinch them off until only four or so smaller heads remain. When these grow to tennis-ball size, they’ll be perfect for salad.
After harvesting, remove the entire stem and root system from the soil to prevent disease buildup. Only compost healthy plants; destroy those with maggot infestation.
Cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator for no more than two weeks, wrapped lightly in plastic. Make sure it is dry before storing. In proper root cellar conditions, cabbage will keep for up to 3 months.
Kale Planting(Brassica oleracea acephala) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Soil Type: Loamy Soil pH: Neutral to Slightly Alkaline Bloom Time: Varies
Kale is a hardy, cool-season green that is part of the cabbage family. It grows best in the spring and fall and can tolerate all fall frosts. Kale can be used in salads or as a garnish and is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C.
You can plant kale anytime from early spring to early summer. If you plant kale late in the summer you can harvest it from fall until the ground freezes in winter.
Mix 1-½ cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 feet of row into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.
Plant the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep into well-drained, light soil.
After about 2 weeks, thin the seedlings so that they are spaced 8 to 12 inches apart.
Water the plants regularly but be sure not to overwater them.
Mulch the soil heavily after the first hard freeze; the plants may continue to produce leaves throughout the winter.
The chill of a moderate frost or light snow improves the flavor of kale.
Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand.
Pick about one fistful of leaves per harvest. Avoid picking the terminal bud (found at the top center of the plant) because this will help to keep the plant productive.
Kale will continue growing until it’s 20 degrees F. It tastes even sweeter with a touch of frost.
If you wish to extend your harvest, shield your kale from the cold with row covers. Or, create a makeshift cover with tarps and old blankets propped up by hay bales or something similar.
The small, tender leaves can be eaten uncooked and used in salads.
Cut and cook the larger leaves like spinach, but be sure to remove the ribs before cooking.
You can store kale as you would any other leafy green; put the kale in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It should last about 1 week.
Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Sandy Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral Hardiness Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
Is a perennial bulb and stem vegetable that greets us every spring. It may take 2 to 3 years to get started and produce, so patience is needed! But then the plant can be productive up to 20 years, so we think it’s worth the wait. Asparagus has male and female plants, with the female plants producing berries. Regions with cool winters are best for this cool-season crop.
-Asparagus is planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
-The plant is grown from “crowns” (1-year-old plants).
-Eliminate all weeds from the bed, digging it over and working in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost, manure or soil mix.
-Dig trenches of about 6 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep. Some experts believe shallow trenches of 6 inches are best.
-Asparagus does not like to have its feet “wet,” so be sure your bed has good drainage.
-For that reason, raised beds can be a good place to plant asparagus. Learn how to make a raised garden bed.
-Create a mound in the trench and plant the crowns 15 to 18 inches apart, spreading the roots over the ridge.
-Cover the roots and crowns with soil 2 inches deep and water thoroughly.
-As the stems grow, fill in the rest of the trench with soil, leaving 3 to 4 inches of the stem exposed.
When the trench is filled, add a 4 to 8 inch layer of mulch and water regularly.
Do not harvest the spears in the first year, but cut down dead foliage in late fall and side-dress with compost.
During the second year, keep the bed thickly mulched, side-dress in spring and early fall, and cut down dead foliage in late fall.
Asparagus is considered a deer-resistant plant, so plant it near more susceptible crops.
Asparagus can take three growing seasons to harvest; you may be able to lightly harvest during the second year.
In the first year, just let the asparagus go vegetative to give the crown a chance to get well established. Next spring, remove the old fern growth from the previous year, and keep an eye open for the new spears to begin emerging.
For the following years, maintain the bed and harvest only the spears thicker than a pencil.
The asparagus can be harvested for a period of about two to three weeks once the spears start to show. Keep a close eye on your asparagus so that you don’t miss the harvest!
After harvest, allow the ferns to grow; this replenishes the nutrients for next year’s spear production.
Harvest for 2 or 3 weeks. After you harvest, leave the ferns so it can gather nourishment for next year’s growth.
Cut spears that are about 6 inches in length at an angle.
Asparagus freezes well.
Onions Planting, (Allium cepa) Plant Type: Vegetable Soil Type: Any Loamy Soil pH: Neutral
Hardiness Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 Onions are a cold-season crop, easy to grow because of their hardiness.
We recommend using onion sets, which can be planted without worry of frost damage and have a higher success rate than direct seed or transplants. Onions grow well on raised beds or raised rows at least 4 inches high.
Select a location with full sun where your onions won’t be shaded by other plants. Soil needs to be well-drained, loose, and rich in nitrogen; compact soil affects bulb development. Till in aged manure or fertilizer the fall before planting. Onions are heavy feeders and need constant nourishment to produce big bulbs. At planting time, you can mix in some nitogen fertilizer, too, and side dress every few weeks until the bulbing process begins. Seeding? Onion seeds are short-lived. If planting seeds indoors, start with fresh seeds each year. Start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before transplanting. Plant onions as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, usually late March or April. Make sure temperature doesn’t go below 20 degrees F. For sets or transplants, plant the smaller sets 1 inch deep, with 4 to 5 inches between each plant and in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Think of onions as a leaf crop, not a root crop. When planting onion sets, don’t bury them more than one inch under the soil; if more than the bottom third of the bulb is underground, bulb growth can be restricted. Practice crop rotation with onions.
Fertilize every few weeks with nitrogen to get big bulbs. Cease fertilizing when the onions push the soil away and the bulbing process has started. Do not put the soil back around the onions; the bulb needs to emerge above the soil.
Generally, onions do not need consistent watering if mulch is used. About one inch of water per week (including rain water) is sufficient. If you want sweeter onions, water more. Onions will look healthy even if they are bone dry, be sure to water during drought conditions. Make sure soil is well-drained. Mulch will help retain moisture and stifle weeds. Cut or pull any onions that send up flower stalks; this means that the onions have “bolted” and are done.
When onions start to mature, the tops become yellow and begin to fall over. At that point, bend the tops down or even stomp on them to speed the final ripening process. Loosen the soil to encourage drying, and after a few days turn them up and let them cure on dry ground. Always handle them very carefully—the slightest bruise will encourage rot to set in. When tops are brown, pull the onions. Be sure to harvest in late summer, before cool weather. Mature onions may spoil in fall weather. Allow onions to dry for several weeks before you store them in a root cellar or any other storage area. Spread them out on an open screen off the ground to dry. Store at 40 to 50 degrees F (4 to 10 degrees C) in braids or with the stems broken off. Mature, dry-skinned bulbs like it cool and dry, so don’t store them with apples or potatoes.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Sandy
Soil pH: Acidic Hardiness Zone: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
How to Grow Potatoes
We’re here to help! This half hardy vegetable is a culinary staple, and yet is overlooked by many backyard gardeners. The taste and texture of home-grown potatoes are far superior to store bought, especially the early varieties. They need a cool climate, and also need to be watched to prevent sunburn. Potatoes can be grown as a winter crop in warmer climate zones.
Plant seed potatoes (pieces of whole potato or a small whole potato, with at least 2 eyes per piece) 0-2 weeks after last spring frost. If you are cutting up potato pieces for planting, do so a 1-2 days ahead of time. This will give them the chance to form a protective layer, both for moisture retention and rot resistance. You may start planting earlier, as soon as soil can be worked, but be aware that some crops will be ruined by a frost. Spread and mix in rotted manure or organic compost in the bottom of the trench before planting. Plant seed potatoes one foot apart in a 4-inch deep trench, eye side up. Practice yearly crop rotation.
How to Grow Potatoes
Potatoes thrive in well-drained, loose soil. Potatoes need consistent moisture, so water regularly when tubers start to form.
Hilling should be done before the potato plants bloom, when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the root as well as to support the plant. Bury them in loose soil. The idea is to keep the potato from getting sunburned, in which case they turn green and will taste bitter. You will need to hill potatoes every couple of weeks to protect your crop.
How to Harvest Potatoes
Dig potatoes on a dry day. Dig up gently, being careful not to puncture the tubers. The soil should not be compact, so digging should be easy. New potatoes will be ready for harvest after 10 weeks, usually in early July. You should harvest all of your potatoes once the vines die (usually by late August), or the potatoes may rot. Make sure you brush off any soil clinging to the potatoes, then store them in a cool, dry, dark place. The ideal temperature for storage is 35 to 40°F. Do not store potatoes with apples; their ethylene gas will cause potatoes to spoil. Whether you dig your own potatoes or buy them at a store, don’t wash them until right before you use them. Washing potatoes shortens their storage life.
Lettuce Planting, (Lactuca sativa) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Part Sun Soil Type: Loamy
Hardiness Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Lettuce is a cool-season crop that grows well in the spring and in the fall in most regions. Lettuce seedlings will even tolerate a light frost. Temperatures between 45 F and 65 F are ideal. Garden lettuce is far superior, in both taste and vitamin A content, to supermarket brands. Because lettuce grows quickly, the best approach is to plant a small amount at a time, staggering your plantings.Did you know: Lettuce is a member of the sunflower family. Lettuce wilted? Put the leaves in a bowl of cold water with ice cubes and soak for about 15 minutes. Eating lettuce for dinner can be calming and help to reduce stress.
Before you plant your lettuce seeds, make sure the soil is prepared. It should be loose and drain well so it’s moist without staying soggy. To keep the soil fertile, feed it with organic matter about one week before you seed or transplant. Since the seed is so small, a well-tilled seedbed is essential. Large clods will reduce germination.
Direct sowing is recommended as soon as the ground can be worked. Plant seeds ½ inch deep. Snow won’t hurt them, but a desiccating cold wind will. If you want an earlier crop, however, you may start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost date for an earlier crop. Harden off seedlings for about one week, and transplant outside between 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after last spring frost. Seed may be sown in single rows or broadcast for wide row planting. When broadcasting, you’ll need to “thin” for the proper spacing.
Leaf lettuce: Plant 4 inches apart. Cos and loose-headed types: Plant 8 inches apart. Firm-headed types: Plant 16 inches apart.
Your rows of plants should be 12 to 15 inches across. Cover the seeds with ¼ to ½ inch of soil. Water thoroughly at time of transplant. Consider planting rows of chives or garlic between your lettuce to control aphids. They act as “barrier plants” for the lettuce. It’s possible to plant lettuce in the fall or winter.
You should be able to sow additional seeds every two weeks for a continuous harvest throughout the growing season.
Fertilize 3 weeks after transplanting. Lettuce prefers soil that is high in humus, with plenty of compost and a steady supply of nitrogen to keep if growing fast. Use organic alfalfa meal or a slow-release fertilizer. To plant a fall crop, create cool soil in August by moistening the ground and covering it with a bale of straw. A week later, the soil under the bale will be about 10 degrees F (6 degrees C) cooler than the rest of the garden. Sow a three foot row of lettuce seeds every couple of weeks—just rotate the straw bale around the garden. Make sure soil remains moist but is well-drained. An organic mulch will help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and keep soil temperatures cool throughout the warmer months. Lettuce will tell you when it needs water. Just look at it. If the leaves are wilting, sprinkle them anytime—even in the heat of the day—to cool them off and slow down the transpiration rate. Weed by hand if necessary, but be careful of plant roots: They are shallow. Planning your garden so that lettuce will be in the shade of taller plants, such as tomatoes or sweet corn, in the heat of the summer, may reduce bolting.
Lettuce should be harvested when full size, but just before maturity. You want it young and tender. Before maturity, you can harvest leaf lettuce by simply removing outer leaves so that the center leaves can continue to grow. Butterhead or romaine types can be harvested by removing the outer leaves, digging up the whole plant or cutting the plant about an inch above the soil surface. A second harvest is often possible this way. Crisphead lettuce is picked when the center is firm. Mature lettuce gets bitter and woody and it will go bad quickly, so check your garden everyday. As time passes, you will want to cut the whole plant from the ground. It’s best to harvest in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun. Keep lettuce in the refrigerator for up to 10 days in a loose plastic bag.
Lettuce to grow indoors is easy.
Growing lettuce under lights is easy. All you need are flats or shallow pots filled with potting mix, slow-release fertilizer and a light source. A south-facing window with supplemental light works, but plants will be leggy. Grow lights are the best, but if you use a shop light fixture with two fluorescent bulbs, you’ll save big bucks. The fixture and two bulbs come in at under $20 versus $75 or more for grow lights. Shop light fixtures are 48 inches long. You can do this any place where the temperature stays between 50ºF and 70ºF, including basements. Lettuce grows best in cooler temperatures, so avoid areas near heat vents that blast hot air.
If you don’t want to use chains and hooks, stack books or bricks in two piles and use them as pillars on which to suspend the light fixture. Because plants grown indoors need about 16 hours of light daily, plug the fixture into a timer. Fill containers with potting mix, scratch fertilizer into the top two inches of the mix and then space seeds across the surface. Press so they make contact with the mix. Lettuce needs light to germinate, so don’t bury the seeds. Place containers under lights and adjust so lights are about two inches above containers. As seeds germinate and seedlings grow tall, adjust lights upward so that they are about two to three inches above plant tops. Keep containers watered; spray water on the container surface to keep seeds hydrated until they sprout. Add diluted water-soluble fertilizer to the water weekly.
You should be harvesting your first salad within 35 to 40 days. Pick outer leaves only so that plant crowns or centers will produce more leaves.
Cucumbers (Cucumis Sativus) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Loamy
Soil pH: Neutral Hardiness Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Cucumbers are a warm-season vegetable planted outside in the ground no earlier than 2 weeks after last spring frost date. Most varieties will grow in any amount of space, thanks to the plant’s ability to climb. The most common varieties of slicing cucumbers grow on vigorous vines shaded by large leaves. The growth of these plants is fast, and the crop yield is abundant if you care for them properly.
Cucumbers are seeded or transplanted outside in the ground no earlier than 2 weeks after last frost date. Cucumbers are extremely susceptible to frost damage; the soil must be at least 65ºF for germination. Do not plant outside too soon!
For an early crop, start cucumber seeds indoors about 3 weeks before you transplant them in the ground. They like bottom heat of about 70ºF (21ºC). If you don’t have a heat mat, put the seeds flat on top of the refrigerator or perch a few on top of the water heater.
Before you plant outside, select a site with full sun.
Ideally, soil should be neutral or slightly alkaline with a pH of 7.0. Improve clay soil by adding organic matter. Improve dense, heavy soil by adding peat, compost or rotted manure. (Get a soil test if you are unsure of your soil type; contact your local county cooperative extension.) Light, sandy soils are preferred for northern gardens, as they warm quickly in the spring.
Mix in compost and/or aged manure before planting to a depth of 2 inches and work into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep. Make sure that soil is moist and well-drained, not soggy.
Sow seeds in rows, 1 inch deep and 6 to 10 inches apart.
If you are transplanting seedlings, plant them 12 inches apart.
A trellis might be a good idea if you want the vine to climb, or if you have limited space. Trellising also protects the fruit from damage from lying on the moist ground.
When planting seeds in the ground, cover with netting or a berry basket to keep pests from digging out the seeds.
When seedlings emerge, begin to water frequently, and increase to a gallon per week after fruit forms.
When seedlings reach 4 inches tall, thin plants so that they are 1½ feet apart.
If you’ve worked in organic matter into the soil before planting, you may only need to side-dress your plants with compost or well-rotted manure. Or, if you wish, use a fertilizer from your garden store which is low nitrogen/high poatassium and phosphorus formula and apply at planting, 1 week after bloom, and every 3 weeks with liquid food, applying directly to the soil around the plants. Or, you can work a granular fertilizer into the soil. Do not overfertilize or the fruits will get stunted.
Water consistently; put your finger in the soil and when it is dry past the first joint of your finger, it is time to water. Inconsistent watering leads to bitter-tasting fruit. Water slowly in the morning or early afternoon, avoding the leaves.
Mulch to hold in soil moisture.
If you have limited space or would prefer vertical vines, set up trellises early to avoid damage to seedlings and vines.
Spray vines with sugar water to attract bees and set more fruit.
Cucumbers may not set fruit because the first flowers were all male. Both female and male flowers must be blooming at the same time. This may not happen early in the plant’s life, so be patient.
Lack of fruit may also be due to poor pollination by bees, especially if prevented by rain, cold temperatures, or insecticides. Remember, gynoecious hybrids require pollinator plants.
Harvest regular slicing cucumbers when they about 6 to 8 inches long (slicing varieties).
Harvest dills at 4 to 6 inches long and pickles at 2 inches long for pickles. The large burpless cucumbers can be up to 10 inches long and some types are even larger.
Cucumbers are best picked before they seeds become hard and are eaten when immature. Do not let them get yellow. A cucumber is of highest quality when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp.
Any cucumbers left on the vine too long will also get tough skins and lower plant productivity.
At peak harvesting time, you should be picking cucumbers every couple of days.
Keep them picked. If you don’t, as plants mature, they will stop producing.
Cucumbers are over 90 percent water. Store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to retain moisture.
They will keep for a week to 10 days when stored properly in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Soil Type: Loamy
Soil pH: Acidic Hardiness Zone: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Tomatoes are America’s favorite garden vegetable. (Yes, we technically eat the fruit of the tomato plant, but it’s used as a vegetable in eating and cooking and, thus, usually categorized in vegetables.) This vine plant is fairly easy to grow and will produce a bumper crop with proper care. Its uses are versatile, however, tomato plants are susceptible to a range of pests and diseases.
If you’re planting seeds (versus purchasing transplants), you’ll want to start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last spring frost date. Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. For northern regions, is VERY important that your site receives at least 6 hours of sun. Two weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors, till soil to about 1 foot and mix in aged manure, compost, or fertilizer. Harden off transplants for a week before moving outdoors. Transplant after last spring frost when the soil is warm. Establish tomato stakes or cages in the soil at the time of planting. Staking keeps developing tomato fruit off the ground, while caging let’s the plant hold itself upright. Some sort of support system is recommended, but sprawling can also produce fine crops if you have the space, and if the weather cooperates. Plant seedlings two feet apart. Pinch off a few of the lower branches on transplants, and plant the root ball deep enough so that the remaining lowest leaves are just above the surface of the soil. Water well to reduce shock to the roots.
Water generously for the first few days. Water well throughout the growing season, about 2 inches per week during the summer. Keep watering consistent! Mulch five weeks after transplanting to retain moisture. To help tomatoes through periods of drought, find some flat rocks and place one next to each plant. The rocks pull water up from under the ground and keep it from evaporating into the atmosphere. Fertilize two weeks prior to first picking and again two weeks after first picking.
If using stakes, prune plants by pinching off suckers so that only a couple stems are growing per stake. Learn how to build stakes and other tomato supports with this video. Practice crop rotation from year to year to prevent diseases that may have over wintered.
Pests/Diseases Tomatoes are susceptible to insect pests, especially tomato hornworms and whiteflies.
How to Identify and Control Blossom-End Rot
Prevent Blossom-End Rot
The key is soil preparation. Maintain a soil pH around 6.5. Lime the soil with calcium and increase the ratio of calcium ions to other competitive ions in the soil. Add crushed eggshells, gypsum, or bone meal to the transplant hole to fortify calcium intake.
Maintain a more uniform moisture supply. Use mulches and/or irrigation to avoid drought stress. If it’s rainy, ensure plants have good drainage and soil dries out (but do not cease to water). Overall, plants need about once inch of moisture per week.
Avoid cultivating, or hoeing, near the roots of tomato plants. For fertilizer, use nitrate nitrogen instead of ammoniacal nitrogen (as the latter increases blossom-end rot). Avoid over-fertilizing during early fruiting when blossom-end rot is more likely to occur.
Staking the plants when they’re young can also be helpful. Why are your tomatoes rotting on the bottom? Unfortunately, they probably have blossom-end rot. It is a common problem on tomatoes, eggplants, and squash caused by a low concentration of calcium in the fruit. (Calcium is needed for normal cell growth.) Blossom-end rot usually occurs when there are wide fluctuations of moisture, which reduces uptake and movement of calcium into the plant. When the demand for calcium exceeds the supply, the tissues break down. Calcium deficiency during fruit formation can also be caused by too much nitrogen fertilizer, high salt levels in the soil, or damage to plant roots during cultivation. Be aware of these causes when caring for tomatoes in order to prevent blossom-end rot.
Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as possible. If any fall off before they appear ripe, place them in a paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool, dark place. If temperatures start to drop and your tomatoes aren’t ripening, look at this video for tips. Never place tomatoes on a sunny windowsill to ripen; they may rot before they are ripe!
The perfect tomato for picking will be firm and very red in color, regardless of size, with perhaps some yellow remaining around the stem. A ripe tomato will be only slightly soft. If your tomato plant still has fruit when the first hard frost threatens, pull up the entire plant and hang it upside down in the basement or garage. Pick tomatoes as they redden. Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Doing so spoils the flavor and texture that make up that garden tomato taste. To freeze, core fresh unblemished tomatoes and place them whole in freezer bags or containers. Seal, label, and freeze. The skins will slip off when they defrost.
Chard (Beta vulgaris) Plant Type: Vegetable Sun Exposure: Full Sun Part Sun Soil Type: Loamy Bloom Time: Summer
Chard is a member of the beet family that does well in both cool and warm temperatures. It can be cooked or used raw in salads and is high in vitamins A and C.
Plant chard seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. Continue planting seeds at 10-day intervals for a month.
For a fall harvest, plant chard seeds again about 40 days before the first fall frost date.
Before planting, mix 1 cup of 5-10-10 fertilizer into the soil for every 20 feet of single row.
Plant the seeds ½ to ¾ of inch deep in well-drained, rich, light soil. Space the seeds about 18 inches apart in single rows or 10 to 18 inches apart in wide rows. Sow eight to ten seeds per foot of row.
When the plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin them out so that they are 4 to 6 inches apart or 9 to 12 inches apart if the plants are larger.
Water the plants evenly to help them grow better. Water often during dry spells in the summer. You can also mulch the plants to help conserve moisture.
For the best quality, cut the plants back when they are about 1 foot tall. If the chard plants become overgrown, they lose their flavor.
You can start harvesting when the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. Cut off the outer leaves 1-½ inches above the ground with a sharp knife.
If you harvest the leaves carefully, new leaves will grow and provide another harvest.
You can cut the ribs off the chard leaves and cook them like asparagus.
The rest of the leaves are eaten as greens. You can cook them like spinach or eat them raw.
You can store chard in the refrigerator in ventilated plastic bags.