Vegetable gardening for flower growers 0
So, you are a flower grower rather than a vegetable grower. Well, vegetables are often easier to grow than fussy hybrids and taste really good. How to go about it:
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Vegetable gardening is not only about selecting the vegetables that you enjoy eating fresh from the garden - it is also about planning. Good planning will ensure that your crops produce as expected and will reduce the workload during the season itself. Like many other gardens, consideration must be given to the site, the soil and the requirements of each vegetable.
If this is your first foray into vegetable gardening, select a small site in full sun. Choose a site with good drainage and purchase a triple mix for the bed. For my first vegetable garden I have chosen to use a raised bed in the square foot intensive garden style. This served two purposes: first to allow maximum production in a minimum amount of space, and second to allow the soil to warm much faster than a non-raised bed. It is also easier on the back! My bed is four-by-six feet and 12 inches deep.
Choose the vegetables based on not only your likes and dislikes, but the number of people in the family and whether or not you wish to freeze or can. Generally I am looking at summer eating for two adults and weekend guests rather than storage, canning or freezing.
The first vegetable chosen is a family favourite - the tomato.
Tomatoes require full sun and medium-rich, moist, well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. Varieties selected were based on fruiting time. I like a couple of early cultivars and a couple of later ones so tomatoes are not ripening all at once. Plant once the soil temperatures have warmed and all danger of frost is gone. A transplant fertilizer can be used at the time of planting as tomatoes are heavy feeders. It is important to ensure that the soil has enough calcium to meet the fruiting needs.
Therefore a side-dressing with fertilizer specific to tomatoes will help prevent this. Another application of a more balanced fertilizer of 5-10-5 should be applied after the first tomato is ripe and repeated in approximately one month’s time. Each plant needs to be staked and should sit at the north-west end of the bed to prevent shading of other plants. One square foot will hold a single plant to allow room to grow. Consistent watering is necessary during flowering to prevent blossom-end rot, especially in a hot Ontario summer. Fruit is harvested as it ripens and in my household is consumed quickly. If you prefer not to use chemical fertilizer, then using good compost and composted sheep manure will provide the necessary nutrients for good growth.
Next to the tomatoes will be peppers. Like tomatoes, peppers require one square foot of space per plant. Tomatoes and peppers are companion plants to each other. The tomatoes will help shelter the peppers from direct sunlight and can increase the humidity, which is to the benefit of the pepper plant. Peppers are a medium-heavy feeder and high nitrogen consumer. Consider a side-dressing of fertilizer at blossom time and three weeks later for good fruit production. Peppers prefer a sunny location in well drained soil. PH preference is 5.5 to 6.5. Peppers require a long growing season and therefore transplants should be used rather than seeds. Plant after the soil has warmed - usually the last week in May or the first week of June. If you prefer your own plants then both peppers and tomatoes can be started indoors about eight weeks prior to moving outside.
Bush Beans - Green Snap variety
Green snap beans are another family favourite. Seeds should be sown directly into the ground after all danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed. Consider purchasing disease resistant seeds. Beans prefer full sun in light, well drained sandy loam with a pH of 5.8 to 7.0. Up to nine plants can occupy one square foot of garden space leaving approximately 4 inches (10 centimetres) of space between plants. One square of beans should be planted every two weeks until all chosen squares are full. This will ensure a steady crop of beans over the season. Beans are moderate feeders and fertilizer is not necessary if using a good compost in your garden. Because beans fix nitrogen, if fertilizing use a side dressing of 10-10-10 after blossoms have finished and pods have set. Harvest early in the morning after the leaves have dried.
Cucumbers and beans are companion plants and can be planted next to each other in the bed. Like most other vegetables chosen, cucumbers prefer full sun in rich well-drained soil. Compost should be added as cucumbers enjoy soils rich in organic matter with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Cucumbers can get quite large so therefore one plant per square foot is good. I like to trellis the plants rather than have them on the ground. Plant after all danger of frost has passed. Cucumbers are heavy feeders and will need to be side-dressed one week after blossoming begins using a 33-0-0 fertilizer and again in approximately three weeks. When picking maintain a few centimetres of stem to prevent water loss.
Carrot seeds should be sown directly into the bed with 30 seeds per square foot. Carrots can germinate at the cooler spring temperatures when the soil temperature is a minimum 10 degrees. This often happens in early May. Like most vegetables, carrots prefer full sun in deep, sandy loam with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Carrots are companions to beans, peppers and tomatoes. Fertilizing with a low nitrogen fertilizer only after germination and again when 15 centimetres of top growth is needed as carrots are light feeders. Too much top growth can be indicative of an excessive amount of nitrogen. The best eating carrots are when they are no greater than 3.5 to 4 centimetres in diameter.
The radishes can be planted in the same square foot section of the bed as the carrots. Their fast-growing habit means that the radishes will be mature much sooner than the carrots, leaving the carrots to grow without any competition. Radishes will also act as a nurse crop to the carrots. Radishes are cool season crops and will be sown with the carrots when the soil temperature has reached approximately 10 degrees.
Beets are companions of bush beans. Enjoying moist, rich well drained sandy loam soil with a pH of 5.8 to 7.0, beets will fit well with the rest of the garden. Seeds are again sown directly into the ground when the soil reaches temperatures of 10 degrees. Like most heavy feeders, compost is needed before planting. A side dressing of fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen every two weeks to ensure good root development. Beets should be pulled when they are 2.5 to five centimetres across. A late summer planting for fall harvest will provide a nice meal in October. Beets planted in the warmer weather require a watering program to ensure good root development.
For more information on vegetable gardening please visit www.haliburtonmastergardener.ca.
- submitted by Janice Hardy