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Vegetable Garden. Rich Marini Department of Horticulture Penn State University. Unit 1: Garden Planning (Let’s Plan). Preparing for a Vegetable Garden Making the most of the Garden Space. Preparing for a Garden. Develop plans in February

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vegetable garden

Vegetable Garden

Rich Marini

Department of Horticulture

Penn State University

unit 1 garden planning let s plan
Unit 1: Garden Planning (Let’s Plan)
  • Preparing for a Vegetable Garden
  • Making the most of the Garden Space
preparing for a garden
Preparing for a Garden
  • Develop plans in February
  • Select a site – avoid shade, poor soil, wet and low areas, and walnut trees
  • List the vegetable species & varieties – consider season
  • Decide how much to grow – how will produce be used
  • Make a planting map
planting map 24 x 50
Planting Map (24’ x 50’)



spinach (3/20) lettuce(3/20) radishes (3/20)

Onions (4/1)

gr. beans (4/15) gr. beans(5/8)

carrots (4/15) peppers (5/15)






corn (4/15) corn (5/1) corn (5/15)


corn (4/15) corn (5/1) corn (5/15)

corn (4/15) corn (5/1) corn (5/15)



planning suggestions
Planning suggestions
  • Put vine crops on the edge
  • Plant 3 rows of corn for pollination
  • Put tall plants on north side
  • Plant small amounts several times to extent the harvest season
  • 1,000 sq. ft. takes about 1 hr per week of care
other considerations
Other considerations
  • Rather than rows, can plant broadcast (no rows), but rows are easier to care for
  • Consider equipment size for row spacing
  • Double crop to use space efficiently – Harvest radishes, peas, lettuce early then plant late-season crops in same space (peppers, beans, summer squash)
develop a garden calendar
Develop a Garden Calendar
  • January – look at seed catalogues
  • February – Order seeds
  • March – Plant peppers indoors, test soil
  • April – plant early season crops
  • May – Sept. – grow garden
  • Oct. – clean up garden
unit 2 planting a garden
Unit 2. Planting a Garden
  • Understanding soils – soils provide support, water, and mineral nutrients
  • Soil is composed of sand, silt, clay and organic matter
  • Soil has living organisms – worms, insects, fungi, bacteria: some are pests, some are beneficial
  • If too much clay, add organic matter
soil chemistry
Soil Chemistry
  • Soil pH should be slightly acid (6.0 – 6.8)
    • Too low: macronutrients are deficient
    • Too high: micronutrients become toxic
  • Macros: N, P, K, Ca, Mg
  • Micros: Fe, Cu, Mn, B, S, Zn
  • Most soils have enough of everything except N,P,K – complete fertilizer
soil physical characteristics
Soil Physical Characteristics
  • Sand – large particles, good for water drainage
  • Clay – very small particles, holds lots of nutrients, hard to dig, poor water movement
  • Silt – intermediate size, water moves slowly
  • Organic matter – holds water and provides nutrients and supports micro-organisms
buying plants seeds
Buying plants & seeds
  • Buy current season’s seeds
  • May have to order unusual varieties
  • Look for disease resistant varieties
  • Buy good-quality plants – look for new shipments – avoid yellow or wilted plants
artificial soil mixes
Artificial Soil Mixes
  • Fewer disease problems than real soil
  • Usually contain fertilizer
  • Some brands better than others
  • I like “Mirical-Gro”, but others may be good
  • Usually contain peat, vermiculite & perlite and fertilizer
starting plants indoors
Starting Plants Indoors
  • Need warm sunny place
  • Don’t start too early, plants will be pot-bound and “leggy”
  • Transplant to pots when about 1.5” tall
  • Put outdoors as soon as possible
planting in the garden
Planting in the garden
  • Cultivate the soil and incorporate fertilizer and lime
  • Use string to make straight rows
  • Small seeds are barely covered, plant large seeds 2 times their diameter in depth
  • Thin plants to appropriate distance – follow directions on the packet
  • “Harden” plants by growing outdoors for about a week
  • Plant at about the same depth as in pot
  • Remove peat-pot bottom and side
  • Water
  • Avoid hot sunny, windy days
3 while you wait plant science
3. While You wait – Plant Science
  • Seeds – a seed is an embryo, a tiny plant with root parts, a stem, and about 6 leaves. A seed coat protects the embryo
  • Have a food supply until there is adequate foliage to produce enough carbohydrate
  • Endosperm and cotyledons (specialized leaves) – starch (corn & wheat) or oil (beans). Coconut “milk” is liquid endosperm.
two kinds of plants
Two kinds of plants
  • Monocots: one cotyledons – grasses
  • Dicots: two cotyledons – beans, apple, maple, tomato
dicot seedling
Dicot Seedling

True leaf


conditions for seed germination
Conditions for seed germination
  • Seeds are living organs
  • Need Oxygen for respiration to generate energy from food supplies
  • Need Water (imbibition) for cell expansion and for photosynthesis and biochemical reactions
  • Proper temperature – 45 degrees for lettuce, 70 degrees for pepper
Water and air enter through the seed coat and carbon dioxide exit through the coat.
  • Some seeds (lettuce) require light (red light) to stimulation of hormones
  • If planted too deep, leaves don’t reach light before food reserves are used up.
  • Some seeds have hard thick seed coats and must be scarified (stratch the seed coat) to allow water in.
germination requirements
Germination requirements
  • Seed coats also contain “inhibitors” and some need to soak to leach out inhibitors.
  • Some seeds require a chilling period (vernalization) to break dormancy (apple seeds need 1,000 hrs below 45 degrees F)
  • Hormones (gibberellins) may overcome dormancy
common reasons for lack of germination
Common reasons for lack of germination
  • Improper soil temperature
  • Soil too dry
  • Seeds planted too deep
  • Seeds washed away
  • Damping-off disease (fungus)
basic plant needs
Basic Plant Needs
  • Light
  • Water
  • Mineral nutrients
  • Air (oxygen & carbon dioxide)
  • Proper temperature
  • A biochemical reaction in the cells of green tissues.
  • Chlorophyll is the green pigment in organelles called chloroplasts
  • Requires the green pigment (chlorophyll) in the chloroplast within the cell.
  • The light cycle requires light for energy . Water is split into hydrogen and oxygen.
  • The dark cycle occurs in the dark or light where hydrogen combines with carbon dioxide to form glucose. Oxygen is passed through the stomates.
  • Glucose or sucrose transported through the phloem throughout the plant.
light for photosynthesis
Light for photosynthesis
  • Chlorophyll absorbs light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars. Oxygen is also produced. Gases (oxygen, carbon dioxide & water) pass in and out of leaves through small holes called stomates.
  • Within specialized organelles (mitochondria) in the cells, sugars are converted to energy which is used for plant growth. Oxygen is used and carbon dioxide is produced.
plant parts roots
Plant parts - Roots
  • May store sugars (sugar beet, carrot) or starch (woody roots, sweet potato)
  • 2 types of roots
    • Primary tap root: long strong roots (some trees, carrots, dandelion)
    • Fibrous roots: short thin roots arising from larger roots (beans & tomato)
    • Root hairs are extensions of cells on the root surface (epidermal cells). These very small structures absorb most of the water and nutrients.
root motion
Root Motion
  • Roots normally grow down. They are sensitive to gravity (geotropism).
  • Connect leaves and roots, and supports leaves for light exposure. Similar to a pipe. Water and mineral nutrients move up in the xylem. Sugar solution moves down in the phloem.
  • Some stems store food – starch in potato, starch in tree trunks in winter, sugar in sugar cane.
simplified stem cross section
Simplified stem cross-section

Epidermis -



stem function
Stem function
  • Epidermis – one layer of waxy cells
  • Phloem – live cells
  • Xylem – long dead cells lined up end-to-end to produce a “pipe”
  • Vascular Cambium – a cylinder several cells thick between the phloem and xylem. Responsible for diameter increase: produces xylem cells to the inside and phloem cells to the outside
  • A plants grow in response to gravity
  • Positive geotropism – roots bend toward gravity
  • Negative geotropism – stems bend away from gravity
  • Curvature is caused by unequal growth on the 2 sides of the axis
auxin a plant hormone
Auxin – a plant hormone
  • Produced in young leaves, shoot tips (meristems) and seeds.
  • Auxin moves with gravity, causes bud dormancy and causes cell elongation



motion of stems
Motion of stems
  • Phototropism - Stems bend toward light. Auxin is destroyed by light, so cells on the dark side elongate and cause bending toward light.
  • Auxin produced in the shoot tip moves down the stem and accumulates on the lower side of the stem, so stems bend up.
  • Root growth in inhibited by auxin. Auxin accumulates on lower side, so roots grow down
apical dominance
Apical dominance
  • Buds actually are short stems with about 6 leaves.
  • Auxin moves from the apex down and inhibits buds. Removing the apex (pinching) allows the buds below the apex to grow. This causes branching.
carbohydrate transport
Carbohydrate transport
  • Sugars can be used for energy or converted to structural molecules such as cellulose (cell walls), fats and proteins.
  • Sugars move from areas of high concentration (leaves) to areas of low concentration in the phloem.
flowers modified stems
Flowers – modified stems
  • At some point buds switch from vegetative to reproductive – environmental cues.
  • Flowers are reproductive structures and attractive insects.
  • Pollen produced on anthers is transferred to the stigma, then germinates and grows down the style to the ovary where the sperm fertilizes egg to produce a seed.
types of flowers
Types of flowers
  • Perfect flowers have both pistils and stamens (peas, bean, tomato, apple)
  • Imperfect flowers are either male or female (cucumbers, melons, squash).
  • Some species have male and female plants (ginko trees).
  • As ovules develop into seeds within the ovary, the ovary swells and becomes fleshy or hardens to protect the seeds. Fruit helps seeds disseminate.
  • Fleshy fruit (squash, tomato, grape) have fleshy ovaries surrounding the seeds.
  • Dry fruits have ovaries with thin, dry walls. Corn, wheat, oats and each fruit is a single seed. Beans are dry fruits with a nonfleshy pod containing several seeds.
how do we make new plants plant propagation
How do we make new plants? Plant Propagation
  • Sexual – from seeds: Allows a species to survive by perpetuating genetic variation
  • Asexual or vegetative – produce new plants from parts of a plant to maintain genetic identify. Produces clones.
vegetative propagation
Vegetative propagation
  • Stems – potato, bulbs
  • Cuttings – roots can be produced by leaves or stems
  • Grafting – join a scion variety onto a rootstock


Match up



plant life cycle
Plant Life Cycle

Seeds geminate

Plant grows, matures, and flowers

Produces fruit and seeds

Plant dies

Annuals live 1 year (lettuce, beans)

Biennials flower second year, then die (carrot, onion)

Perennials live many years (asparagus)

plant improvement
Plant improvement
  • Natural selection: In the wild, individuals within a species differ. Those with characteristics enabling them to survive to reproductive age pass on their genes to the next generation.
  • Man has domesticated plants and animals by selecting individuals with the characteristics we want.
plant breeding
Plant breeding
  • Plant breeding: During the last century we have controlled pollination to develop hybrids or new varieties with outstanding characteristics
  • Examples include high yield, large fruit, different flower colors, disease resistance.
  • There is some concern that we have reduced genetic variation too much, new strains of disease may devastate a crop
  • A set of techniques used to study and modify genes.
  • Examples
    • FLAVR SAVR tomato – doesn’t produce the ripening hormone ethylene, so it can be stored a long time before exposing it to ethylene to cause ripening
    • Some corn varieties contain the BT gene for resistance to worms
genetic engineering
Genetic Engineering
  • Transferring specific genetic material from one organism to another.
  • Examples: Put the gene from a firefly into a tobacco plant and the plant glows in the dark.
  • Put an antibacterial gene from a moth into an apple tree to make it resistant to bacteria.
preserving genetic diversity
Preserving genetic diversity

We want to save genetic variation to use in breeding programs. USDA maintains repositories for major crops; both seeds and plants.

USDA funds plant collecting expeditions to “centers of origin” for major crop species

interdependence ecology
Interdependence (Ecology)
  • All organisms are connected. Some plants rely on animals to transfer pollen and disseminate seed. Some plants rely on fungi to improve root function.
  • Animals rely on plants to convert solar energy (sun light) to chemical energy (sugars)
human impact on ecology
Human impact on ecology
  • Acid rain is killing the eastern forest
  • Ozone, from car emissions, injures some plant species
  • Pesticides and other chemicals may injure non-target organisms
  • Global warming may alter the distribution of organisms and agricultural productivity
  • We can provide support and nutrients for plants without soil
  • Commercial greenhouse tomatoes are often grown hydroponically in shallow trays of flowing water containing fertilizer.
  • Most greenhouse crops are grown in soiless mixes of sand, perlite, vermiculite, and peat
unit 4 garden care
Unit 4. Garden Care
  • Soil fertility – At least 2 months before planting contact local Extension office for soil testing kit. Fertilize & lime according to recommendations.
  • Apply lime to raise soil pH and reduce acidity (about 6.2 to 6.8)
  • Apply complete fertilizer to provide nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium
organic matter
Organic Matter

Organic matter provides nutrients and improves soil structure and water holding capacity. Also encourages many soil organisms – worms, insects, fungi, bacteria

Sources – compost, manure, bone meal

garden equipment
Garden Equipment
  • Hoe, rake, trowel, watering can, hose, short stakes and string to mark rows, long stakes for supporting plants, hot caps, sprayer, tiller
  • Pesticides – read the label
    • Store locked up
    • Leave in original container
    • Avoid freezing or hot environments
  • Site selection – avoid low areas because cold air is heavier than warm air and flows down hill just like water.
  • Tender plants, such as tomato, peppers, squash are killed at about 30° F
  • Cool season crops, such as cabbage, broccoli tolerate a light frost (27° F), and carrots, beets, lettuce tolerate 22° F
frost protection
Frost protection
  • Cover plants with hot caps, newspaper tents, or mulch with straw
  • Overhead irrigation
  • Late season frost – harvest as much as possible before the frost
how does irrigation work
How does irrigation work?
  • As water freezes it releases heat. Ice provides little insulation, so irrigation must continue to freeze until the temperature increases above 32° F and all ice has melted
  • Don’t irrigate when due point is low and there is wind because evaporation requires heat and heat will be removed from plants
how do hot caps work greenhouse effect
How do hot caps work? Greenhouse effect

During the day short-wave solar radiation is absorbed by soil and exits the soil at night as long-wave radiation. Hot caps provide a barrier to long-wave lengths which are redirected toward the soil. Frosts are rare on cloudy nights because clouds allow short waves, but not long waves, to pass through.

managing weeds
Managing weeds
  • Weeds are plants growing where they are not wanted
  • Weeds compete for light, water & nutrients
  • Best to eliminate weeds when small
  • Mechanical control – pull by hand, hoe, cultivation. This must be done every 10 to 14 days depending on rain. Weed seeds can remain dormant in soil for many years.
mulch to control weeds
Mulch to control weeds
  • Can use straw, shredded paper, thin layer of grass clippings or plastic
  • Also helps conserve water, reduces soil erosion and keeps plants clean
  • Apply mulch early, before weeds come up
  • Chemicals that control weeds
  • May control grasses, broadleafs or both
  • Pre-emergent herbicides prevent seeds germination
  • Post-emergent herbicides kill plants on contact
  • Not recommended for home garden
plant diseases
Plant diseases
  • Infection requires
    • Susceptible host plant
    • Presence of the pathogen
    • Proper environment for disease development
  • Powdery mildew requires hot dry conditions, and early blight on tomato requires wet conditions
  • Viruses spread by insect vectors
managing plant diseases
Managing plant diseases
  • Caused by fungi, bacteria, nematodes or virus
  • Select resistant varieties when possible
  • Encourage quick drying – avoid shade, control weeds, leave space between plants
controlling diseases
Controlling diseases
  • Cultural control – good drying conditions, resistant varieties, remove diseased plants
  • Fungicides and antibiotics – these are preventative and must be applied before infection occurs. Apply every 10 to 14 days to protect new growth and replace residue washed off by rain.
diseases of squash
Diseases of squash

Powdery mildew

Septoria leaf spot


non pathogenic problems
Non-pathogenic problems
  • Sunscald heat injury to fruit
  • Cold growing conditions can cause plants to turn purple due to poor phosphorous uptake
  • Too much fertilizer can burn roots and cause wilting
  • Too much pesticide can damage leaves
insect pests
Insect pests
  • Many types of insects can feed on plants.
  • Grubs (immature beetles) feed on roots
  • Worms (immature moths) feed on leaves, fruit, or tunnel into stems (borers)
  • Maggots (immature flies) feed on fruit & roots
  • Beetles, aphids, and true bugs feed on leaves
controlling insects
Controlling insects
  • No resistant varieties, except for genetically modified varieties of corn and soybeans (BT genes)
  • Use insecticides to kill insects
    • Monitor plants every week
    • Don’t apply until you see pests
    • Use “soft’ materials that protect nontarget organisms
corn ear worm life cycle
Corn Ear Worm Life Cycle




natural vs man made pesticides
Natural vs. man-made pesticides
  • All are poisonous and should be treated with care
  • Natural materials usually are broad-spectrum and kill nontarget species, and they must be applied more frequently because they are less residual
  • Insecticidal soaps are effective
  • Many insects are beneficial and we want to protect them
5 harvest storage
5. Harvest & storage
  • Important to harvest vegetables at proper stage. If many leafy vegetables are left too long, they will produce flowers
  • Peppers are ready when they are full size, can wait and harvest them red
  • Tomato can be harvested when just beginning to turn red
  • Cantaloupes are harvested when stem slips off the melon
other vegetables
Other vegetables
  • Zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers are harvested when fairly small (before seeds enlarge) and need to be harvested every day or two.
  • Potatoes are harvested when leaves start to die in late summer
  • Onions are mature when leaves fall over
  • Harvested plant parts are living tissues and continue to respire. We want to slow down respiration so the cells remain alive
  • High humidity for leafy vegetables – put in perforated poly bags
  • Temperature is most important
    • Most vegetables store well in the refrigerator (about 40ºF)
    • Peppers store at about 50ºF
unit 6 careers
Unit 6: Careers
  • Without a college degree
    • Farm, greenhouse, florist worker
    • Assistant manager, retail market
    • Landscape worker
  • 2-yr Associate degree in plant science
    • Assistant superintendent for golf course
    • Farm & retail store manger
    • Arborist, flower shop manager
4 yr degree programs
4-yr degree programs
  • Crop protection – entomology, plant pathology, weed science
  • Environmental sciences
  • Ag economics - farm management, rural development
  • Horticulture, landscape architecture & landscape contracting
  • Plant genetics & plant breeding
careers with b s degree
Careers with B.S. degree
  • Teach agriculture and science
  • Ag. Chemical sales, exterminator
  • Government agencies (USDA, DEP, EPA)
  • Manager of farms, retail centers, nurseries, flower shop
  • Landscape architect, Landscape contractor, golf course superintendent
  • Plant breeder
careers with m s degree
Careers with M.S. degree
  • Research technician with chemical company, university, USDA, private lab
  • Plant breeder
  • Produce wholesale & marketing
  • International agriculture
  • Government agencies
  • Ag sales and marketing
  • Extension agent
  • Teach at community college
  • Public gardens & arboreta
careers with ph d
Careers with Ph.D.
  • Academia (teach, research, extension)
  • Ag. Chemical company R&D
  • International agriculture
  • Plant breeder
  • Industrial research – Ag. Chemicals, plastics, greenhouses
  • Marketing
  • Government agencies (USDA, EPA, DOE, DEP, PDA)
other considerations92
Other considerations
  • Rather than rows, can plant broadcast (no rows), but rows are easier to care for
  • Consider equipment size for row spacing
  • Double crop to use space efficiently – Harvest radishes, peas, lettuce early then plant late-season crops in same space (peppers, beans, summer squash)