Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Grow Radishes

Name: Radishes

**Radishes are cheap to buy as seed packets and have a very quick germination period.

**Their beautiful red color always looks appealing in salads and their crunch is always welcome in my salads as well.

**Spring crops prefer full sun, summer crops prefer partial shade.

**Prefers fertile, well-drained soil.

**Sow summer radishes from March to June every few weeks, and from September to October. Sow winter radishes in July/August.

**Thinly sow ½ inch deep, place one seed every ½ inch apart. For larger varieties, thin to 1 every 4 inches. Have 10 inches between the rows.

**Seeds can be stored for up to 5 years.

**Water regularly, especially in times of drought.

**The plants will become woody if it is too dry, but will split if it has irregular watering.

**For summer radishes, pull the whole plant up when the shoulders look ready. Do not leave them in too long or else they will get woody or run to seed.

**For winter radishes, pick when needed. They can stand cold weather, but not a hard frost.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to Grow Potatoes

Name: Potatoes

**Potatoes are a fun crop to grow because they are a lot like buried treasure.

**In northern climates, potatoes are a summer crop, but in warmer climates, they are planted in late winter for a spring harvest, or in late summer for a late fall harvest, so that they will not mature during hot weather.

**The crop takes 2-4 months to mature, depending on the variety and if you like new potatoes or mature ones.

**Choose a sunny spot where potatoes, tomatoes, and other related crops have not grown recently. You also want a spot that has not been limed heavily or recently.

**Since they are a root crop, good soil is very important. The soil should not be extremely rich but should be well drained and well aerated. Heavy clay soils are not good for potatoes. The best thing to do to prepare the soil is to add plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.

**Always buy “certified disease-free seed potatoes” from a reputable source.

**You can plant potatoes several weeks before the last average frost date in the spring but only if the soil has dried out sufficiently.

**If your seed is in the form of cut pieces, you need to cure them by letting them sit for a few days in a fairly cool, dry place so that their cut surfaces will harden.

**Plant the potatoes in a shallow trench that is filled partially with soil. Then as the plants grow, gradually mound up soil around them to give them more and more underground space in which the tubers can grow and keep away from the light (light turns the potatoes green and the green areas are poisonous).

**Plant the potatoes 1 foot apart. Add some compost to the bottom of the trench. Plant the potatoes with the root end down. Cover with 3-4 inches of soil.

**If you find it tiresome to constantly try to find soil around the plant to mound up, you can stop adding soil and start adding mulch, which also helps keep the soil cool and moist.

**After the potatoes are bedded down, there is little to do except watch for pests/rodents.

**Watering is only necessary in extremely dry weather.

**Be on the lookout for the Colorado potato beetle, which can quickly wipe out an entire crop. Almost every potato patch has potato beetles sooner or later, but they are not difficult to hand pick off the plants (and then destroyed). Be sure to rub off the reddish egg masses that you might find under the leaves.
Colorado Potato Beetle

**Aphids can be a problem, but can be simply hosed off the plants or handpicked.

**The worst disease for potatoes is late blight. If your potato foliage becomes blackened and then moldy, it has the blight. Remove it and burn it and then wait a few weeks to dig any potatoes that are under the soil. The best way to fight the blight is with clean seeds and crop rotation.

**Potatoes can be dug up and eaten as soon as they are formed and anytime after that.

**If you want good storage potatoes, however, you should leave them in the ground for at least a few weeks after the foliage withers and browns in order to thicken their skins. They should be dug up if there is a threat of a hard frost, but otherwise leave them in the ground as long as possible.

**Dig carefully with a digging fork or a potato hoe (if your soil is light and fluffy, you can even do this with your hands). Make sure you get all the potatoes down deep and out to the sides. Dig on a dry day when the soil is dry as well.

**Ideal storage conditions are dark and cold, but above freezing, lightly humid but not damp, and well ventilated. Do not wash the potatoes before storing and do not pile them more than a foot or so deep.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to Grow Peppers

Name: Peppers

**There are so many delicious types of peppers! I am a spicy lover, so I am eager to grow them all.

**Green bell peppers are simply the bell peppers that are picked early. If you leave them on the plant longer, they turn red, turn sweet, and become even more nutritious.

**Give peppers a very sunny spot that they can occupy all season long and where peppers have not grown recently.

**Growing them in raised beds, which has warmer soil, will hasten the ripening.

**Peppers like a sandy, fertile loam soil. However, do not give this plant too much nitrogen because then the plant produces more leaves and less fruit. Some extra phosphorus is beneficial, and the plant will suffer if the soil is too low in calcium or magnesium. It prefers a soil with the pH of 6.5.

**The most important thing is to have warm temperatures and a steady supply of water.

**Seeds should be started indoors at least 8 weeks before the last average frost date. The seedlings do not like to be transplanted, so soil blocks or peat pots are idea (the containers that you plant right into the soil).

**Try to keep the soil at about 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit while you are germinating the seeds, then keep the plants at 75 degrees. Do not plant them outside until your garden is averaging 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Even if the danger of frost is passed, wait until the soil has warmed up. Do NOT harden off the plants. Remove any flowers that appear until about a month after setting out, so that the plant will work on developing a good root system before giving you the fruits.

**Plant the plants about 15-18 inches apart (depending on the variety).

**If the leaf color is too pale or the growth seems slow, give the plants a dash of liquid fish emulsion.

**Keep the soil evenly moist. After the ground has warmed up, you can lay down mulch to help with the moisture control.

**Prevent diseases by rotating crops and watering at ground level to keep the flowers/leaves dry.

**Harvesting can be done at anytime. Once peppers mature, you should pick them or production will slow down. Cut carefully with a knife or clippers instead of yanking the pepper off of the plant because that damages the stems.

**Production starts to slow down in cold weather, even if there has not been a frost yet.

**You can dry peppers either in a dehydrator or simply by spreading them out in a warm spot on screens or cookie sheets. Cayenne and Paprika are excellent peppers for drying and grinding for your spice rack. To grind, simply dry the peppers and then spin them in a blender or a coffee grinder and store the powder in tight containers in a dark place.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Grow Peas

Name: Peas

**A pea crop is a lot of vines but not a high production of peas. However, they are also very easy to grow, they are good for your garden soil, they don’t take up much space, and they are an early and quick crop that means the little space they take will be available in time for your fall crops.

**The most important fact about peas is that they cannot stand hot weather. If temperatures are consistently over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants will die. However, the seeds tolerate frost very well, so they are the ideal early-spring crop. They are not good in the fall season, though, because even though the seeds tolerate frost, the mature pods do not, so do not grow in the fall unless your climate gives you a two month break between summer heat and frost.

**If you live in a warm climate, fall and even winter planting are doable.

**Peas will grow both in full sun and in a partly shaded location. Choose the best location based on the variety of pea. Some will need support due to being taller vine types, while others grow in a more bush-type shape.

**Pea crops should be rotated every year to avoid disease and to benefit other crops from the nutrients they leave behind.

**The ideal soil for peas is a light and sandy loam that warms up quickly. However, if you are trying to have a later crop, you might find a clay soil beneficial because it will help keep the roots cooler. Either way, your soil should have plenty of well-rotted manure or compost put into it because peas always need a good supply of moisture to germinate and grow well. The soil’s pH level should be around 6.5 and you should add  lime if the soil is more acidic than that.

**There are many different ways to plant peas, and you might find it beneficial to experiment.
**Keep in mind that a pea plant’s vines are very delicate, so choose the location for your seeds carefully, perhaps along the garden fence, so that you do not crush them.

**Prepare the garden soil for your peas the fall season before planting by adding organic matter to the soil. Then, poke the seeds into the soil as soon as the ground has thawed and dried sufficiently in the spring.

**If you want super-early peas, you can start them in soil blocks a couple weeks before planting time. You can also start them in a cold frame. A raised bed will also speed up planting by a week or so because of the good drainage and warmer soil.

**Plant the seeds 1 inch deep and 2-4 inches apart (depending on your variety). Keep the soil well moistened until the peas are sprouting.

**Planting a succession of pea crops, or planting varieties that mature at different times, will give you many weeks of early summer peas.

**For fall crops, sow about two months before the first expected frost.

**Once the peas are planted, there is not much you need to do with them.

**If you feel like your soil is not sufficient or you are trying to hurry up the crop before hot weather, you can feed them with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion when the plants are about 6 inches tall.

**You should also consider mulching your plants when they are 6 inches tall to help keep moisture levels stable and to prevent weeds.

**If you are growing the taller vine types with some type of support system, you might need to help guide the vines toward the support if they are leaning the wrong way.

**If your pea crops were healthy, you can turn under the pea crops after harvest back in the soil to enrich the soil even more, but only do this if your crops were completely healthy.

**Pick peas promptly. If you wait even a day too long, they lose their sweetness and flavor because the sucrose in them turns into starch. If you wait too many days, you also slow down the production of a plant that is already notorious for low production rates.

**Pea vines produce from the bottom up, so look for mature peas at the bottom first.

**Traditional green peas are picked when you can feel full-size round peas inside the pods but the peas do not feel hard. You can also open up a pod, look at the peas and taste them.

**The edible-pod peas are picked before the peas form, when the pods are full size but still flat. The exception is the sugar pod type, which are picked when the pods are full of round peas even though you also eat the pod.

**If you have waited too long and your peas are tough and tasteless, simply throw them in your compost pile so that they are still at least giving you the benefit of their nutrients for future crops (you ARE keeping your own compost pile, right??) J

**As soon as you pick garden peas, the sugar in them will start to turn to starch, so pick them just before dinner/eating. If you are not eating them right away, at least refrigerate them immediately or freeze them. They will stay sweet when frozen.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to Grow Parsnips

Name: Parsnips

**Closely related to the carrot except even healthier for you because it contains more fiber and potassium.

**Parsnips are easy to grow and very tasty if roasted.

**You should use fresh seeds every year.

**Sun or partial shade will work for your plant.

**It will grow on sandy, loamy soils best. Stony soils are not suitable because the roots will fork when they meet the stones.

**Spread a thin layer of well-rotted manure or compost over the ground for the plants in early spring.

**Sow outside in March.

**Germination rate is unreliable and often slow. Consider sowing a marker row of carrots or lettuce along the same row to remind you where they are while you wait.

**Sow ½ inch deep. Thin to 6 inches between plants when plantlings. Parsnips hate to be transplanted, so discard the thinning and do not try growing in trays/modules.

**Have 1 foot space between each row of parsnips.

**Weed carefully between the rows.

**Only give them water if there is a severe drought.

**One potential problem is called ‘Parsnip Canker’, which means it goes black and rotten around the crown. Discard the affected plants and next year, lime the soil in the winter and sow a more resistant variety.

**In late fall or winter after the first frost, when the foliage begins to die down, you can start harvesting.

**Lift the parsnips as required. Leave the rest in the ground until needed, or until the end of February before they start to regrow.

**You can freeze them for later use.

Companion Planting:
**Plant lettuces or spinach between parsnip rows to use the space since parsnips grow so slowly.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to Grow Lettuce

Name: Lettuce (includes Boston Lettuce, Iceberg Lettuce, and Romaine Lettuce)

*There are many lettuce varieties and they all grow differently. It is important to read the details on the packets of the specific type of lettuce you choose as well as know the general knowledge of the lettuce family.

*In order to grow lettuce in the summer, you need to either shade the plants or find heat-tolerant varieties. In hot climates, you may not be able to grow them in the summer, but only in the other 3 seasons. Heat makes the plant bolt, which makes their leaves taste bitter.

*Finding a spot for lettuce to grow is easy because you can harvest it soon after you plant. Thus, you can grow it in the spaces between slower-maturing crops such as cauliflower, peppers, and cabbage because you harvest the lettuce before the other crops get too big. In addition, it does not need full sun and actually appreciates shade, so that you can grow it by/between tomatoes, pole beans, corn, or cucumber plants and it won’t complain.

*The soil for lettuce should be rich, especially in nitrogen. You should till in well-rotted manure or compost to provide an airy, moisture-rich and nutrient-rich soil. Later on, give your plant either blood meal or fish emulsion to sustain the quick growth of lettuce plants. The ideal soil is a bit on the sandy side, but heavy soil is okay as well.

*Lettuce likes a soil that has been pulverized, in a similar manner as carrots, so you might follow an early lettuce crop with a carrot patch.

*The ideal pH is between 6.0-7.0.

*You can start lettuce indoors if you want a jumpstart on your harvest, especially if your lettuce variety cannot handle warm temperatures. To start indoors, sow as early as 10 weeks before the last frost date, and keep the flats cool (below 70 degrees) and moist. You should also harden them off for a few days outdoors. Then, set the young plants out in the garden as soon as the soil has thawed and dried out a bit. Space them about a foot apart.

*You can also sow the seeds directly into the garden. Try to space the seeds about ½ inch apart if possible. Thin the plants at 2 inches and then at approx. 6 inches. You can eat the plants you are thinning out. Make it so that after the second thinning, the remaining plants are about 1 foot apart. After sowing, cover the seeds with only a fine sprinkling of soil.

*A good idea is to plant new, small crops every 2 weeks in order to have a constant supply of lettuce.

*While the lettuce is growing, try to maintain a constant moisture. Again, a mulch will help with moisture as well as for keep down the weeds, keeping the lettuce clean, and warding off rotting diseases.

*If the plants seem limp (even after mulching), give the ground around the plants a good soaking. Lettuce that is well-watered also tastes less bitter.

*Lettuces are harvested in different ways, depending on the type. You can pick leaf lettuce from the outside, letting the inner leaves continue to grow, or you can crop the whole thing an inch about the soil and let it resprout. Heading types are usually cut whole, head by head as needed, but you can also pick these beginning with the outer leaves.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How to Grow Leeks

Name: Leeks

*Related to onions and look like overgrown scallions.

*A wonderful, flavorful, mild-tasting vegetable.

*A vegetable that is cold tolerant, easy to grow, and yet for some odd reason, expensive to buy. They are eaten cooked.

*Like other onions, they like plenty of water and a rich soil.

*You can grow two separate crops –summer leeks and winter leeks.

*Use a sunny spot, and be careful not to grow on a garden patch that recently had brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) because the onions will grow poorly.

*Lime the soil is the pH is below 6.0 and give it plenty of organic matter. The soil needs to be pulverized but not to a great depth because the plants are shallow rooted.

*You can start both summer and winter leeks in the greenhouse in early March. Later on in the spring, transplant them into rows in the garden, spaced at 6 inches apart. For both crops to work, you plant two different types of varieties, an early-maturing one for the summer and a later variety for the winter.

*Make a deep hole and drop each seedling in. Leeks are usually blanched and this is how the process begins. Do not compress the soil around the seedlings. From time to time, add additional soil around the plant to make a mound. This produces the long, white bulb that is wonderful for cooking.

*You can start harvesting whenever you need a few leeks, and finish off the summer variety by the beginning of fall.

*The winter ones can be dug up as long as the ground remains unfrozen. If you put a plastic A-frame tunnel over the row, you can dig up leeks all through the winter. Leeks that winter over in frozen soil can often be dug up and eaten in the spring before they go to seed.

*Leeks are harder to dig up than onions. Pry them loose with a digging fork and then gently pull them by grasping them at the base.

*They can be stored for several weeks in the root cellar or refrigerator.