Starting a successful vegetable garden
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Starting a Successful Vegetable Garden. Subtitle Jon Traunfeld- [email protected] Why do people grow vegetables?. Flavor, freshness, pesticide-free Save money; learn new skills Health benefits exercise, nutrition, phytochemicals Connection to nature and family traditions

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Why do people grow vegetables l.jpg
Why do people grow vegetables?

  • Flavor, freshness, pesticide-free

  • Save money; learn new skills

  • Health benefits

    exercise, nutrition, phytochemicals

  • Connection to nature and family traditions

  • Introduce youth to gardening


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Join the Grow it Eat it Network!

  • A new campaign brought to you by Maryland Master Gardeners and the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC)

  • Goals:

    • teach people how to grow food

    • increase the number of Maryland food gardeners

    • create a network of food gardeners who will keep learning and sharing through classes, workshops, events, web site, blog

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We teach a common-sense, ecological approach

  • Rely on locally available materials and resources- (rocks, leaves, animal manure).

  • Feed the soil (with organic matter) to increase garden productivity.

  • Maximize biological and genetic diversity to strengthen your garden eco-system.

    • Example: Plant an assortment of annual flowers and herbs to attract and feed beneficial insects.

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Ingredients for first year success

Good, deep soil; add organic matter.

Give your plants the nutrients, water, and sunlight they need.

Prevent weeds from growing.

Make a plan; give it a little time each day

Observe and take notes


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What type of vegetable garden?

  • In-ground- convert turfgrass to vegetables

  • Containers- on back step, deck, or balcony or along driveway

  • Edible landscape- pepper, cabbage, Swiss chard, etc. mixed into ornamental beds

  • Combination of the first three

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Vegetable crops

  • 5-10 plant families may be represented in the average garden (almost all of our vegetable crops are non-native- not even from North America!)

  • Most are annuals with a life cycle somewhere between 25 days (radish, baby greens) to 110 days (big pumpkins.)

  • Require good growing conditions to produce high yields.

  • Can be incorporated into ornamental landscape.

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Making a plan

  • Good planning will save you time, work, and $

  • Garden size; how big?- consider time, space, mouths to feed, motivation

    • Always best to start small

  • What should I grow

    • Easy crops

    • What your family will eat

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7 good crops for starters…

  • Tomato- productive and popular

  • Pepper- slow-growing but worth the wait

  • Cucumber- make them climb to save space

  • Summer squash- feed the neighborhood!

  • Bush bean- plant them twice

  • Lettuce- grow best March-June and Sept.-Nov.

  • Leafy greens- mustard, kale, collards, Asian greens, and Swiss chard (grows during hot weather)

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Sample 8 ft. X 8 ft. garden

  • Two raised beds- 8 ft. X 3 ft. with a 2 ft. path in the middle

  • Time: late May

  • Both beds could have been planted in salad greens from April 1 through mid-May

row of bush beans

1 squash plant

3 tomato plants

3 pepper plants

Swiss chard and kale

leaf lettuce

8 ft.

2 cuke plants

3 ft.

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Can I really save $?

  • Yes, but have you heard the one about the $100 tomato?

  • Only buy what you really need; be resourceful

  • An 8 ft. X 8 ft. garden with 48 sq. ft. of growing space should produce $175-300 of fresh produce

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Picking a site

  • Level ground; close to water source.

  • Southern exposure; tallest plants on North side.

  • Protection from critters.

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Soil prep

Kill sod and control weeds-

  • Cover area with newspaper or cardboard, and cover with leaves, and compost OR

  • Dig up the area by hand or with a tiller

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Soil prep

Slicing off sod

Loosening subsoil

Turning soil

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You need “good soil”

  • Well-drained

  • Friable- deep, crumbly; allows for maximum root growth.

  • Regular additions of organic matter will improve soil structure and create a reservoir of slow-release nutrients.

  • Test your soil; 6.0-6.8 is preferred range for soil pH.

  • Urban/suburban soils are often low quality soils

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Ways to add organic matter

  • Farmyard manure

  • Compost

  • Shredded leaves and grass clippings

  • Organic mulches

  • Plant roots

  • Cover crops

  • Large amounts of organic matter may be needed for several years.

  • Thereafter, 1 in. of compost will help maintain high yields.

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Cover crops improve and protect soils

  • Increase soil organic matter.

  • Mine the soil for nutrients.

  • Protect soil from erosion.

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Raised beds

some advantages…

  • Warm up quickly in spring.

  • Drain well; less compaction and erosion.

  • Increase available rooting area.

  • Can produce greater food production per square foot.

    and some disadvantages…

  • Up-front labor and expense.

  • Dry out quickly if weather is hot and dry.

  • Don’t work on slopes, unless terraced.

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2-4 ft. wide; usually 6”-8”

above grade; can be bordered

with wood, stone, brick

Raised bed basics

“Instant” raised bed filled with a purchased soil/compost mix

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Intensive gardening: getting the most per square foot

  • Close planting

  • Vertical growth

  • Inter-planting

  • Succession/relay planting

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How close is too close??

Correct spacing for big onions

Okra plants are too tight

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Keep the harvest coming with succession planting

  • Requires planning

  • Transplants fill the space quickly

  • Special attention to water and nutrient needs

  • Floating row cover for protection from pests and excessive heat

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Get the most from every square foot: succession planting examples

  • Garlic (11/1)-cucumbers (7/1)-oats/clover (9/20)

  • Peas/favas (3/1)-squash (6/1)-kale (9/1)

  • Lettuce (3/20)-green beans (5/15)-broccoli (8/1)

  • Radish (3/1)-Asian greens (4/15)-eggplant (6/1)-rye (9/15)

  • Cucumber (4/15)- green bean (7/1)-spinach (9/20)

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Most commonly available commercial organic fertilizers examples

  • Fish emulsion: 6-2-2

  • Seaweed extract: 1-.5-2

  • Bloodmeal: 15-1-0

  • Cottonseed meal: 6-2.5-1.5

  • Guano: 8 to 13-8-2

  • Bone meal: 4-21-0

  • Rock phosphate: 0-22-0

  • Alfalfa meal: 3-1-2

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Fertilizing tips examples

  • Nitrogen is nutrient most often in short supply. Use one of the “meals” (kelp, fish, cottonseed, alfalfa) to supplement N from organic matter.

  • Follow label directions.

  • Organic fertilizers can be over-applied and burn plants or stimulate excessive leaf growth at the expense of fruit.

  • Add 1 inch of compost each year to contribute to long-term nutrient reservoir.

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Weed management examples

  • Weeds are plants that thrive in disturbed soil.

  • Best control methods:

    • crop cover

    • hand-pull

    • sharp hoe

    • mulch

  • Other methods: vinegar, flame weeder, commercial herbicidal soap.

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Organic mulches examples

  • Prevent weed growth.

  • Moderate soil temperatures.

  • Conserve soil moisture.

  • Add to soil organic matter.

  • Should be spread after soil warms up.

  • Can provide habitat for pests along with beneficial critters.

    Examples: grass clippings, newspaper covered with straw, shredded leaves, compost

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Synthetic mulches examples

  • Black plastic mulch warms the soil for earlier, higher yields of warm-season crops.

  • Red plastic mulch may produce higher yields of tomato than black plastic.

  • Landscape fabric warms soil and allows water and air into soil. Can be re-used.

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Drip irrigation: examplessaves time and water

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Growing up: using vertical space examples

  • Increase yields per sq. ft.

  • Fewer fruit problems; easier to pick, water, and spray.

  • Adds complex texture to garden; enhances ecosystem (shading, micro-climates.)

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Container vegetables examples

8 cu. ft. of growing media

Whiskey barrel- 1-2 plant capacity

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Univ. of MD Salad Box height March-November

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Thank You! height March-November

Please take a few minutes to complete a short survey for today’s class.

Power point presentation created by:

Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist, UME

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Resources height March-November

  • Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC)

    • 800-342-2507


  • Grow-It-Eat-It website


  • Master Gardener state website


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This program was brought to you by height March-November

Maryland Master Gardener Program

Howard County

University of Maryland Extension