29 April 2010

Vegetable Gardening

Now that you have a great new area to plant in after the last “double digging” article, what are you going to plant?  Last year, we saw a huge increase in vegetable transplant sales thanks to all the national food scares (more about that another time) and the cost of fuel rising so high that it affected just about everything.

Vegetable gardening is very rewarding and is a wonderful activity to do with your kids too, instilling a sense of pride and self-worth after a realized accomplishment of a job well done and freshly picked vegetables to eat. It may even get your kids to eat more veggies since they helped to grow them. If you’d like to start early, try planting lettuces, spinach, peas, beets, carrots, rappini, radishes, onions, leeks, radicchio, braising greens, romanesco, kale, cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli. Those items can take lower temperatures and actually grow better in the cooler weather. Keep an eye on the lettuces and spinach, harvesting them while young so that they don’t bolt (become tall, leggy and go to seed). Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, melons, pumpkins and squash should be put out a bit later, after the chance of frost is past.

Fertilizer is important here as well as watering properly. Sometimes during the summer months, I am asked why someone’s plants didn’t produce any fruit or maybe they have some other problem. The answers can usually be related to fertilizer, watering, or some weather issue. You'll find the answers to some of those questions under the appropriate labels in this blog.  Please feel free to ask more questions....that is the very reason we started this blog!

As for fertilizer, there are three main elements that you will see concentrations for on the fertilizer bag. Those are N-P-K, or Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, respectively and the numbers (i.e. 15-15-15) tell what percentages those macronutrients are in. Nitrogen is mainly responsible for vegetative plant growth and strong roots, phosphorous for root expansion and flowering, and potassium for metabolism, leaf expansion and the quality and size of the fruit or vegetative parts of the plants that are harvested. Potassium is also responsible for the intensity and development of pigments and color in flowers.

Watering will encourage root growth as the roots will follow the water into the soil. The stronger the root system, the stronger the plant will be. Water accordingly with the weather; less frequently when cool and more when hot. Be careful not to overwater or keep the soil wet and soggy. Too much water will deprive the roots of oxygen. It’s O.K. to dig down with your hands to check water content of the soil if you are not sure. If you prepared your garden plot well you should have adequate drainage and aeration for the roots.

Happy Gardening…

Running Creek Farm Greenhouses, LLC
Valatie/ Hudson

15 April 2010

Garden Preparation

Now that the soil is warming up, it’s time to start prepping your gardens for the new planting season. If you have established perennial gardens, then not too much will be needed other than cleaning out the debris between the established plants. Now is also a good time to either pull or cultivate out the weeds that are beginning to grow. You may also choose to feed the perennials as you water with a liquid fertilizer, or spread a granular fertilizer on top of the soil between the plants at the recommended rate on the label and then water in well.

If you are developing a new area for your garden, you should evaluate the type of soil you have and determine if it needs additional drainage. Creating a new planting bed will require some effort on your part, but you will be rewarded handsomely by the fruits of your labor. (Pun intended)

A good weekend project, you will need a wheelbarrow, spading fork, square-edged shovel and some good muscle rub cream or access to a hot tub for afterwards. 

Start off by marking the area you wish to work in. Choose a spot that is neither too dry nor too wet. You will be double digging, which is a term /process originated by the French in the 19th century and not only will it give you a well-drained bed, but will also provide great aeration for your soil. Double digging, while a bit labor intensive, will create a bed that will last at least three to five years.

Beginning with the first row of your bed, dig down one shovel length (about 12 inches deep) and two lengths wide, placing the turf or soil in the wheelbarrow. Then using the spading fork, loosen the bottom layer of the soil about 12 inches or so deep. After loosening the soil, you should add compost and peat to the bottom of the bed about an inch or so deep. Complete the first row in this manner.

Move on to the second row, backfilling the first row with the soil dug up from the second row. Again, loosen the bottom layer of soil about 12” deep. Add compost and peat to the second row just as you did for the first row. Keep repeating the same procedure for each row. You will be backfilling your last row with the soil in the wheelbarrow from the first row you dug. The overall depth of your new garden will be about 24 inches.

The process of loosening the soil with the spade fork will allow the roots of your plants to thrive due to increased aeration and drainage. It will also allow them to move easily through the soil. The compost and peat will increase the fertility of your soil. You now have a wonderful space for your new garden and will be the envy of all on your block as your garden flourishes!