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The environmental requirements for growing vegetables are quite simple. The best vegetable gardens are grown in sunny locations where the soil is moist and nutritious.


In order to maximize the productivity of your garden plot you should first consider which vegetables your family enjoys most. It is senseless to waste valuable garden space on vegetables that no one is going to eat. Plan the planting order of your vegetable garden.


Start with a sketch showing approximately where you want to locate each vegetable crop. Increase your gardens' production potential by planting cool-crop vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage early in the spring. Use these early vegetables when they are mature and then re-plant the same spot with warm-weather, short-season crops such as lettuce and radish. Leave only enough space for development between low-growing vegetables such as radish, lettuce, and onion. Space can also be conserved by growing trailing vegetables such as cucumbers on trellises or other supports. Plant newly developed, dwarf vegetable varieties that require less space to grow than their larger, traditional counterparts. If ground space for a garden plot is not available vegetables can be grown in containers. Vegetables can also be effectively grown in combination with annuals. Be sure to organize the garden so that tall growing vegetables do not shade low growing vegetables.



Planting vegetables


Soil preparation

Spade or rototill the garden soil deeply to break the soil into small clods. Add 454g. (1 lb) of granular all purpose fertilizer per 30sq. m. (37.5 sq. yd.) and turn the soil again. Rake the soil smooth and your garden is ready for planting. Improve the texture of heavy, clay-loam soils with additions of peat moss, compost, vermiculite, perlite, or sand. Do not work garden soil when it is wet.



Pre-planting care

Due to the short length of our growing season many vegetables are available as bedding-out plants. Vegetable bedding-out plants that can not be planted the same day they are purchased should be watered and stored in a shady location to prevent excessive wilting.



Planting vegetables from seed or bedding-out plants


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Sow vegetable seeds in moist soil, just dry enough to be workable. Vegetable seeds are generally sown three times as deep as their diameter. Cover the seeds with fine soil, compost, vermiculite, or sand. Gently remove vegetable bedding-out plants from their packs or flats. Plant them in moist soil deep enough to bury the root ball and a portion of the lower stem. Plant vegetables started in peat pots or expandable peat pellets in the same way. In these cases also bury the peat pot or pellet. When planting vegetable bedding-out plants be sure to leave adequate room for development.




After sowing your vegetable seeds keep the garden soil consistently moist until the vegetable seedlings are established. Water freshly planted vegetable bedding-out plants thoroughly to give them a good start; use a starter fertilizer to establish a healthy root system. Thereafter, water your garden whenever the top 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) of soil dries out. It is best to water early in the day. Keep plant foliage as dry as possible by watering at the soil level. Water droplets that remain on plant foliage overnight encourage the development of plant diseases. Do not rely on rain to water your vegetable garden sufficiently. It is important to observe the condition of your garden often to ensure continued growth and productivity.

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Post-planting care

Keep your garden healthy by removing weeds as soon as they appear. Weeding is easier when garden soil is moistened before you weed. This makes the soil looser and more workable. Remove the weeds between the rows by scraping a flat-bladed hoe over the top few centimeters of soil. Pull weeds from within the rows out by hand. This reduces the chance of disturbing vegetable roots and prevents weeds from competing with them.

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Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables; it can last up to twenty years with minimal care. It should be planted in an out of the way spot, since it is semi-permanent, takes up a lot of space, and grows up to 6 ft. (2 m) tall. A spot near a fence with plenty of space for further growth, facing the sun, is ideal.

Asparagus is sold as roots. The first season is spent developing their root systems. Asparagus is ready to harvest the second season after planting. Plant asparagus in trenches, approximately 1 ft. (30 cm) wide and 10 in. (25 cm) deep, with the crowns 6 in. (15 cm) below the surface and spaced 1 ft. (30 cm) apart within the trench. The root should be covered with a thin layer of soil at the bottom of the trench. As plants grow, fill in the trench, making sure not to cover the stem tips. Asparagus is a heavy feeder. Be sure to water and fertilize adequately.

Harvest mature stems when they are about 1 in.
(2 cm) in thickness. The plants' first harvest should last four to six weeks. Stop harvesting when thin stalks appear, indicating plant exhaustion. Harvest length will increase as the plants mature. In the fall plants should be cut back to the ground and mulched for winter protection. Mulch should be removed in the spring when weather allows.


Although some varieties are frost tolerant, most beans are not, and should be planted outdoors when the soil is warm and the days are consistently above 13 C. There are two general types of beans, bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans mature more quickly than pole beans, about 50 days. Bush beans grow to a specific size, depending on variety, stop growing and then begin producing. Pole beans take 60-70 days to reach maturity, and require support. A trellis or stout pole is traditionally used to support these bean vines. Harvest beans when they are firm and brightly coloured. Frequent harvest will promote further production.


Due to its length of time to maturity, broccoli is best started indoors from seed or bought as seedlings. Start March 15-30 indoors; transplant seedlings outside when the danger of frost has passed. Broccoli is a heavy feeder and will require ample water and nutrition throughout the growing season. Plants will be ready for harvest after about 75 days outdoors. Harvest the central stalk before flowering occurs, during a cool evening or morning. This will cause the plants' side shoots to produce heads. Frequent harvest will enable production until frost.


Due to its great length of time to maturity, 100 days from seeding, celery is started indoors around April 1-15 or bought as seedlings. Celery is not easily grown and needs steady watering and nutrition.

Seedlings should be hardened off and planted outdoors when all danger of frost has passed. The traditional way to plant celery is trenching. Dig a trench 12-15 in. (30-40 cm) wide and 10 in. (25 cm) deep, and plant the seedlings at the bottom. Soil is then heaped around the stems as they grow. Trenching serves to retain moisture and will help to blanche the celery stems. Blanching is protecting the young stems from the sun, thus keeping them white and tender.

Self-blanching and tender green varieties are now available; this reduces the need for trenching. These varieties may be planted as normal seedlings in rows. They may however, also be trenched. Although not necessary for these varieties, trenching will offer beneficial water retention, frost protection, and will eliminate much of the weeding. Regardless of the method you choose, celery requires a steady amount of water and nutrients through out the growing season.


There are basically two main types of peppers, hot peppers and sweet bell peppers, which taste mild when green and sweet when red. Peppers should be started indoors, March 15-30, or bought as seedlings. Peppers are heat-loving plants with the same requirements as tomatoes. They should be planted outdoors in a sunny, sheltered area when the danger of frost has passed. Allow the soil to dry a little between deep, regular watering, but remember that they are as susceptible to blossom end rot as tomatoes are. Peppers will be ready for harvest after 60-90 days, when the peppers are full and firm.


Potatoes need a lot of space to grow. There are three classes of potato, early, late and mid-season. Early potatoes are grown for summer harvest and use. Late potatoes are grown for fall harvest and storage. Mid-season varieties combine the two with a late summer harvest and good storage qualities. Plant seed potatoes, not those sold for eating. They are treated so they won't sprout. Potatoes can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. Plant potatoes in rows or hills. Hills should be about 1 ft. (30 cm) in diameter. Potatoes should be watered deeply and allowed to dry out to a depth of 2 in. (5 cm) before watering again. Be sure that potatoes are well covered with soil, to prevent poisonous greening of the tubers.

Early potatoes should be harvested when their tops begin to flower. Late and mid-season potatoes should be harvested when their tops begin to die back and stored in a cool dry place. Growing vegetables upright not only saves space, but makes harvesting easier. You do not have to bend over to cut fruit from the vines. This could be quite advantageous for older gardeners or some with back problems.

Upright vegetables can also add architectural interest. The vegetable garden ceases to be utilitarian, and becomes decorative. Vegetables can also be grown on fences to hide chain link, or to screen undesirable views.

Pole beans such as Kentucky Wonder will climb up just about anything, even other plants. Native Indians used these in their traditional "three sisters" plantings of beans, corn, and pumpkins. The corn stalks provided support for the beans, and the pumpkins (try a squash such as the Sunburst hybrid) provided a ground cover or living mulch below. Just make sure if using this method to give the corn (try the Canadian Early Supersweet) a head start, or the fast-growing beans wont have anything to climb!

Pole beans can also be grown on obelisks, trellises, or over an arbor. The Scarlet Runner pole bean has attractive red flowers. Pole beans don't just add a vertical accent, but they keep producing longer than bush beans. They continue to grow, flower, and fruit as long as you keep picking the pods.

Gourds and winter squash are from the same family and can grow very long vines. Both can take all season to mature, so it is better to give these plants a head start indoors in peat pots that can then be planted out. The heavy fruit of winter squash, such as Butternut or Spaghetti, should be individually supported by nets (strips of used panty hose can work too). Tie them to the trellis or fence on which the vines are trained. Avoid using string as it can cut into stems. Use a soft rope or cord such as cotton clothesline.

Cucumbers (English Long Telegraph or Straight) prefer to be grown up a trellis or obelisk. Make sure the structure is quite strong, to support the weight of the vines. Cucumbers have shallow roots and dislike root disturbance so place the structures and then plant.

Peas of course are a favorite, upright crop suitable for the vertical garden. Choose the edible-pod or snow peas because they produce longer vines. The Tall Telegraph Pea or Laxton's Progress are two other varieties that do well in our area and climb about six feet.

Plants not often associated with climbing are Tomatoes. Suitable varieties are the ones that have stems that keep on growing. They are known as in-determinate varieties (check the description for this feature - see page 59-60), they perform better grown upright than falling over on the ground. You will need a sturdy stake for them, and tie them to it at intervals with soft twine. There are also many types of sturdy wire or metal supports you can buy to support tomatoes.


Squash can be divided into two categories, summer squash, which is eaten when immature, when the skin is soft, and winter squash, which has a hard shell and a long storage life. Squash takes up a considerable amount of space in the garden and takes from 60 to 100 days to mature. Squash requires warm soil to germinate and should be started indoors, April 15-30, or bought as seedlings. Seedlings can be planted outdoors when the daytime temperature is consistently above 15 Celsius, usually around June 1. Plant seedlings in rows or 6-8 in. (15-20 cm) hills, 4-6 ft. (1.5-2 m) apart for summer, or bush squash and 8-10 ft. (2.5-3.5 m) apart for winter, or vine squash.

Squash requires a lot of moisture, so regular deep watering and mulching, which will help to retain water and protect the tender vines, is advisable. Harvest summer squash when they are young and tender. Regular harvest of summer squash will increase yields. Winter squash should be harvested after their vines die back or the first frost. After harvest, winter squash should be cured outdoors in the sun or in a warm place indoors for about a week and then stored in a cool dry place.


Watermelon is a vine that enjoys warm soil and occupies a lot of space. Seeds should be started indoors, April 1-10 and seedlings should be planted outdoors when daytime temperatures stay above 15 Celsius, usually around June 1. Watermelon can be planted in rows or mounds 8 in. (20 cm) in diameter and 4-6 ft. (1.5-2 m) apart. It requires regular deep watering and should be mulched for water retention and fed throughout the season.

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