Planting a garden involves more than putting seeds in the ground. Preparing the seedbed, selecting seeds, and deciding when to plant come first. Will you sow seeds—and then thin them—or will you try transplants? This decision, among others, is up to the individual gardener.
Preparing the seedbed
Before planting any vegetables, prepare the soil. This includes cultivating properly, adding organic matter, and maintaining soil fertility. (See post about preparing the soil in this web page!)
Buy seeds early in the year so you will be sure to find the varieties or cultivars you want. Select them based on intended use, time of maturity, and disease tolerance. Many seeds can be purchased from garden centers, mail order catalogs, or on the Internet. For best germination purchase new seed every year. Depending on the vegetable crop, leftover seed can be difficult to store and often germinates poorly. Saving seed from previous harvests can be risky, too. One problem with saving seed from last year’s crop is the possibility of getting plants that are not true to type. Off-type plants are produced because many vegetables are hybrids or easily cross-pollinate in the garden. While these off-type plants may be interesting, sometimes they produce poor quality crops. In addition, diseases can be transmitted through the seed. Seed companies harvest seeds from only healthy, disease-free plants. Many seed producers also treat their seeds before offering them for sale. This chemical treatment kills disease organisms in or on the seed. It also prevents seed rot and “damping off,” a disease that causes rotting in young seedlings. Seed that has been treated will be labeled as such and often is brilliantly colored. Be sure to wash your hands after handling treated seeds.
A vegetable garden cannot be planted in one day. Some vegetables grow best in cool weather, while others require warm soil and air temperatures. Factors, such as a late or wet spring, may require you to modify your planting schedule.
Sowing the seed
Whether in the garden or in flats, sow seed generously to allow for seeds that fail to sprout and for seedlings that die. When sowing, you can scatter the seeds or plant them in furrows or hills. As a general rule, plant a seed to a depth of not more than three or four times its thickness. If planted too deeply, the seeds may germinate but die before reaching the surface. If planted too shallowly, wind or rain may blow or wash the seeds away before they sprout. In sandy or lighter soils, plant a little deeper. Sow seed deeper when you put in a fall garden. You will be planting in the summer heat, when soil dries out quickly, so a slightly deeper planting is necessary. A light mulch over the newly planted row will help conserve moisture.For a large garden, you may want to consider using a “hand push” seeder that spaces the seed at the correct distance.
Transplants —buy or grow them yourself
Many crops, such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and cabbage, can be started indoors and later transplanted into the garden. Some people choose to grow their own transplants. This allows the gardener to select specific cultivars and control seedling growth. In addition, many gardeners get personal satisfaction from germinating and growing their own transplants. Other gardeners find it easier to purchase plants from garden centers and greenhouses. Be selective when buying your transplants. Dark green, stocky plants are superior to yellow, spindly ones. Try to transplant late in the afternoon or during a cloudy day. Protect newly set plants with a light shade (like boards set at an angle over the plants) during bright, sunny weather for the first 3 to 5 days. Early plantings may need protection, such as plastic covers or cloches, to avoid damage from frost. When coverings are used, be sure to provide some ventilation so young plants are not cooked by the heat.
Fertilizing transplants—For best growth, give each plant 1 or 2 cups of a liquid starter fertilizer immediately after setting it in the ground. A starter fertilizer solution can be prepared by following directions on a water-soluble fertilizer or by dissolving 2 tablespoons of an all-purpose garden fertilizer (such as 12-12-12) in one gallon of water. This is one time when “more” is not better. Fertilizer burn damage can result if too much fertilizer is used.
For more information about your vegetable garden look at some literature.
Look at the other posts and pages on the blog, you might be interested.
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