Veggie Gardening for Dummies ... Like Me


#1

I planted a lot of veggies last year, and the results were disappointing. Of the four most significant reasons, all four were my fault:

1.) I mostly planted seed directly, except for tomatoes, late broccoli and late bell peppers. The indoor starts did reasonably well. Except for green onions, the seed did somewhere between total failure (beets) and almost OK (sugar snap peas and green beans).

2.) I didn’t fertilize, other a little at planting.

3.) I planted too much in areas with too little sun (even zucchini, which did come up and start to grow squash, did poorly and few squash grew large enough for eating).

4.) I believed AlGore about Global Warming, and it was a wet and cool spring and a cool summer. OK, I didn’t believe AlGore, but it was a cool spring and summer.

I can’t do anything about the weather, but I am going to try to learn from the other stuff I messed up on.

I just started (indoors) sugar snap peas, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and spinach; and I planted green onion seed outside. Yes, I have a very nice growing season and climate here in Silicon Valley. I mixed some Miracle Gro 15-30-15 with the water I’ll be using to water the starts, and will use it when I transplant. Progress made on Lessons 1 and 2. I’m also going to make better use of areas that get good sun, so progress on Lesson 3.

Beyond that, a couple of things I figured out last year and this.

  • I planted last years sugar snap peas along an existing “cyclone”-style fence, using that to support the vines. I use my inclination to laziness creatively, :biggrin: .

  • I don’t throw away (or put in the recycling) the little plastic containers used for plant starts bought at the hardware store and garden store. I used those last year and again this year to do my own starts.

  • Hardware/garden store bought starts are convenient but expensive. One start costs about the same as 2 or 3 packets of seed. Doing your own costs little time and just a little more patience and planning.

  • I always plant 2, 3 or 4 seeds in a start container, to allow for duds, and better use the container. The quantity of seeds depends on the size of the container and the expected size of the plants when it’s time to transplant. At transplant, I gently separate the plants and plant with appropriate spacing.

So, any good, basic, tips for some one like me, just a year from near veggie gardening ignorance? I’m especially frustrated by my total lack of success - directly planted outside or as indoor starts - with beets. Also, I’d like to mildly irritate my neighbors with gifted veggie goodies, so any yield and quality tips?


#2

Mulch.


#3

where did you plant this stuff? In an existing previously used plot? did you get the soil tested? Don’t fertilize plants at planting, it burns them up. Some plants should not be planted next to other plants. don’t plant tomatoes near broccoli (stunts growth) or potatoes (draws blight) or corn (attracts earworms). helpful book. Grow Your Own Food Made Easy by C. Forrest McDowell, although at times you’ll need an actual experienced gardener to interpret it for you. My girlfriend and her husband are the growers and provided me with lots of information.


#4

[QUOTE=PeteS in CA;423030]

I planted a lot of veggies last year, and the results were disappointing. Of the four most significant reasons, all four were my fault:

1.) I mostly planted seed directly, except for tomatoes, late broccoli and late bell peppers. The indoor starts did reasonably well. Except for green onions, the seed did somewhere between total failure (beets) and almost OK (sugar snap peas and green beans).
I am in zone7,and have three crops/year. Early spring, I plant sugar snaps, broccoli, greens, beets, lettuce, onions cabbage and Pak Choi, and carrots. This I plant about the end of February. Most is done and harvested,by late April. Then, I plant green beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and peppers. In the Fall, I repeat much of the Spring crop. Some crops,like legumes and squash,don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so I direct seed them. Everything else is started indoors. “Hardening off” is extremely important when transplanting to the garden. Start,by taking them out for 30minutes, in the shade. Gradually,increase time and exposure, until they can stay out all day,then transplant. Takes about 8-9 days total.

2.) I didn’t fertilize, other a little at planting.
Did you add compost? Real Important. Add 1 yard of compost per 100 square feet. I use fish emulsion liquid to fertilize every couple of weeks. Compost and manure teas are also beneficial.
The local extension office is an invaluable resource. Contact them, and take a sample of your soil for analysis. Costs 15 bucks, here. They’ll tell you how to amend your soil. They also know what varieties are common and grow best, in your area.

3.) I planted too much in areas with too little sun (even zucchini, which did come up and start to grow squash, did poorly and few squash grew large enough for eating).

Full sun only needs about 6 hours direct sunlight. Any less than that will be good for lettuce and such.

4[QUOTE].) I believed AlGore about Global Warming, and it was a wet and cool spring and a cool summer. OK, I didn’t believe AlGore, but it was a cool spring and summer.
Mulch will help stabilize the soil, by keeping it warmer, and moist. Also limits the need for excessive weeding. If you anticipate cool and wet weather, plant a bit later.

I can’t do anything about the weather, but I am going to try to learn from the other stuff I messed up on.
GardenWeb.com is a site with a forum,and is a phenomenal resource. Many learned gardeners willing and anxious to discuss their hobby.

I just started (indoors) sugar snap peas, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and spinach; and I planted green onion seed outside. Yes, I have a very nice growing season and climate here in Silicon Valley. I mixed some Miracle Gro 15-30-15 with the water I’ll be using to water the starts, and will use it when I transplant. Progress made on Lessons 1 and 2. I’m also going to make better use of areas that get good sun, so progress on Lesson 3.
Onions are the first thing I put out. I use sets, from a local nursery. Then the snaps, lettuce, brassicas, etc. MG 15-30-15 is OK, but a seed starter like MG Quick Start, has a rooting hormone and vitamins to help transplant shock.

Beyond that, a couple of things I figured out last year and this.

  • I planted last years sugar snap peas along an existing “cyclone”-style fence, using that to support the vines. I use my inclination to laziness creatively, :biggrin: .

I use fencing for all my vine fruits. Works good with cucumbers. Melons are excluded.

  • I don’t throw away (or put in the recycling) the little plastic containers used for plant starts bought at the hardware store and garden store. I used those last year and again this year to do my own starts.

I make mine out of old newspaper, so I can just bury them without disturbing the roots. Peat pots work well,too.

  • Hardware/garden store bought starts are convenient but expensive. One start costs about the same as 2 or 3 packets of seed. Doing your own costs little time and just a little more patience and planning.

Certain things are cost effective, like onion sets. Look for the sales, and smaller starts. Bonnie packages some things in “six packs” for about 3 bucks.

  • I always plant 2, 3 or 4 seeds in a start container, to allow for duds, and better use the container. The quantity of seeds depends on the size of the container and the expected size of the plants when it’s time to transplant. At transplant, I gently separate the plants and plant with appropriate spacing.

If you have the seeds, by all means. I start 1 or two, but plant more than I need. If I need a dozen, I start 18, then choose the best. Then if I have extra, my friends usually take them.

So, any good, basic, tips for some one like me, just a year from near veggie gardening ignorance? I’m especially frustrated by my total lack of success - directly planted outside or as indoor starts - with beets. Also, I’d like to mildly irritate my neighbors with gifted veggie goodies, so any yield and quality tips?
Can I get a bit of info? How big is your space? What is your soil like?


#5

I thoroughly appreciate your responses and apologize for seeming to ignore y’all.

where did you plant this stuff? In an existing previously used plot? did you get the soil tested?

No, I haven’t tested the soil. The areas where I planted had essentially been unused for >>5 years - almost no fertilization, almost no added compost or organic material. The place I planted zucchini was probably the worst, shaded most of the AM by a fence, shaded most of the PM by a nearby building, with a tree overhead filtering sunlight. Brilliant, but I thought maybe zucchini could grow anywhere, :biggrin: . One are where I tried tomatoes, with some success also had limited sun, and I think I can recognize which areas were less or more shaded by a building in the PM by the degrees of success of individual plants.

… don’t plant tomatoes near broccoli …

I appreciate this and will keep them separate (which I accidentally did last year).

Early spring, I plant sugar snaps, broccoli, greens, beets, lettuce, onions cabbage and Pak Choi, and carrots. This I plant about the end of February.

I’m either in Zone 15 or 16, a bit milder than zone 7, so it sounds like my patterns could be similar to yours. My plantings last weekend plus the beets I started during the week sound similar to your early spring pattern. I was planning to plant some carrots - not sure whether indoor starts or outdoor direct-plant, but the weather this AM is making the latter unlikely for today. I’m starting 3 or 4 weeks earlier than last year, hoping to start harvesting stuff in late spring (like I hoped for last year, with my younger daughter home form her 3 months in China and Finland, but which didn’t happen).

In the Fall, I repeat much of the Spring crop.

Oddly, the tomatoes and green beans I planted last February and March started bearing in late summer, into the fall. And some broccoli I planted for the heck of it last fall is still bearing.

“Hardening off” is extremely important when transplanting to the garden.

Thank you! I guess plants can be “lazy” like people, and need toughening up.

Did you add compost? Real Important. Add 1 yard of compost per 100 square feet. I use fish emulsion liquid to fertilize every couple of weeks. Compost and manure teas are also beneficial.

$$ is really tight this year, so I have to be careful. But I’ve been using my used coffee grounds to add organic material to planting areas over the past year. I’ll look around at what else I have on hand - the MG was on hand from past years, so I may find other useful stuff squirreled away and forgotten.

Full sun only needs about 6 hours direct sunlight. Any less than that will be good for lettuce and such.

I might try some arugula, escarole and bibb lettuce in that shady area I described above. Wasn’t planning on it, but I have the seeds already, so why not try it?

GardenWeb.com is a site with a forum,and is a phenomenal resource. Many learned gardeners willing and anxious to discuss their hobby.

Thanks! I will explore the site (in my copious spare time, :rofl: ).

… a seed starter like MG Quick Start, has a rooting hormone and vitamins to help transplant shock.

Got some on hand and will be careful to use it come transplanting time.

How big is your space? What is your soil like?

My space is a bit limited and kind of here and there in my back yard. The shaded area I described above is probably 12’x12’. I have two 4’ wide areas along a boundary fence, 40’-50’ of it with moderate sun (probably OK) and another 30’-40’ of it with OK sun. I have a ~12’x~25’ area that grades from good sun to marginal sun. And I have an area I haven’t tried before, ~6’-8’ square, that I think has good sun. The soil tends toward clay and probably doesn’t have much organic matter in it.

All in all, I think the area I have has the potential to do good things for our table and budget from spring into the late fall or early winter. And that is what I want to do. But I need to get good yields and use what I have efficiently and effectively. Our tastes also vary. I can go for a lot of different veggies and greens, but I would have trouble persuading Mrs. S to use crook-neck squash instead of zucchini and iceberg defines lettuce for her. The best choices for our combined tastes are green beans, corn, zucchini, carrots and broccoli. I’ve had poor luck in the distant past with carrots and corn - probably my fault, mostly - so trying carrots is a bit of a venture for me right now. I may try corn in another year, but I need to figure out the necessary plant-to-plant spacing to allow good pollination (I don’t think 2 or 3 plants will suffice) and how that fits in my available space.


#6

I’ve got blackberries coming in the spring. Can’t wait. Already deciding where they’re going. They need sun, makes them sweeter. Also need a strong support.


#7

Corn needs lots of water and sun.


#8

Corn needs lots of water and sun.

My Dad was a farmer … guess what one of his main crops was. The background for my comment about the need for enough plants, arranged properly, for pollination is that the pollen is produced in the tassels, while the part that needs the pollen so actual corn can be produced is what is commonly called the silk, 2 or more feet below the source of the pollen. If, as I think is correct, pollination is done by breezes, then just one or two plants or widely separated plants will result in no corn to eat.

The younger Miss S, who lives in Salem, OR, has blackberries growing semi-wild just 15 or 20 feet from her front door, so she enjoys blackberries in late spring or early summer. Blackberry or raspberry vines will go nuts if not trimmed back annually.


#9

I have rhubarb & horseradish coming this spring. I had a start of horseradish once, but it never thrived. A couple of other places I have lived, I had rhubarb. I used to make a rhubarb cobbler, just by dumping the rhubarb in a 9X13 pan, adding lots of sugar, and covering it with biscuit dough and baking it in the oven. It will probably take a few years before either product is up to being harvested.


#10

I had a strawberry bed, asparagus and rhubard. Fruit trees and a garden. I loved the smell of freshly tilled soil in the spring. It was wonderful. We moved afterwards and i’ve never gotten back into it. I may this year.

we’ve had wild blackberries. This spring i’m planting cuttings. Should they be in full sun? I know i’ve got to cut them back.


#11

OK ladies, if you keep talking about it one of you is going to have to make me a rhubarb pie! Your making me hungry!


#12

A note about the asparagus, the root system goes reeeally deep - 6 feet (2 meters) - and takes several years to develop. Unless the instructions from the source say otherwise, you probably should leave it alone, uncut except for cutting the fern in the fall, for 2 or 3 years. This lets the root system develop. After that it will last another 10 or 20 years, if you care for it properly, and in season you’ll be harvesting every 2-4 days. Asparagus does best in a somewhat sandy soil (like if you live next to a creek). Cut the shoots when they’re 6"-12" high and make the cut about an inch or so beneath the soil surface. Can you guess what one of my Dad’s other main crops was? We had lots of asparagus on our dinner table from March or April into June, but my problem was that I don’t like asparagus.


#13

[QUOTE=PeteS in CA;424288]I thoroughly appreciate your responses and apologize for seeming to ignore y’all.

No, I haven’t tested the soil. The areas where I planted had essentially been unused for >>5 years - almost no fertilization, almost no added compost or organic material. The place I planted zucchini was probably the worst, shaded most of the AM by a fence, shaded most of the PM by a nearby building, with a tree overhead filtering sunlight. Brilliant, but I thought maybe zucchini could grow anywhere, :biggrin: . One are where I tried tomatoes, with some success also had limited sun, and I think I can recognize which areas were less or more shaded by a building in the PM by the degrees of success of individual plants.
Zucchini will grow where stuff won’t, but needs sun. Lettuces and certain herbs do well in shaded areas.
Are you trying to stay “organic”? If not, a 10-10-10 fertilizer would help.

I’m either in Zone 15 or 16, a bit milder than zone 7, so it sounds like my patterns could be similar to yours. My plantings last weekend plus the beets I started during the week sound similar to your early spring pattern. I was planning to plant some carrots - not sure whether indoor starts or outdoor direct-plant, but the weather this AM is making the latter unlikely for today. I’m starting 3 or 4 weeks earlier than last year, hoping to start harvesting stuff in late spring (like I hoped for last year, with my younger daughter home form her 3 months in China and Finland, but which didn’t happen).

All edible roots hate having their roots disturbed. Direct plant all root crops.
Planting carrots can be tedious and difficult. Here is how I do it
Cut a piece of Cotton string about a foot shorter than your planting row. Soak in water for a little while. Empty seeds in a bowl. Press string into seeds and stretch out in the furrow, about 1/2 - 1 inch deep. Cover with soil and press gently. Water well, and keep moist until sprouts appear. Thin accordingly, usually 3-4 inches apart. This keeps the rows generally straight and uniform. Works well with lettuce, beets, or anything with small seeds.

Oddly, the tomatoes and green beans I planted last February and March started bearing in late summer, into the fall. And some broccoli I planted for the heck of it last fall is still bearing.
Your climate could have some crops producing way longer. Tomatoes and beans should be planted a bit later in the season. I plant mine in late April.

$$ is really tight this year, so I have to be careful. But I’ve been using my used coffee grounds to add organic material to planting areas over the past year. I’ll look around at what else I have on hand - the MG was on hand from past years, so I may find other useful stuff squirreled away and forgotten.
All the veggie scraps from the kitchen are good. No protein, whatsoever. Used tea bags, coffee grounds and eggshells are all really good.
If money is tight, assume you need amendments and proceed. Soil tests are helpful, but not mandatory.
I buy my compost in bulk. I pay 20 bucks/yard.
If you cannot afford to amend with compost, till in some old leaves, and make compost tea. The tea will add the micro nutrients you need.
Compost tea:
In a 5 gallon bucket, mix 1/2 bucket of bagged compost with enough water to fill the bucket. add 2 cups of molasses and stir vigorously. Strain into sprayer, and spray plants and soil.
Manure tea is also beneficial. Just substitute manure for compost.

I might try some arugula, escarole and bibb lettuce in that shady area I described above. Wasn’t planning on it, but I have the seeds already, so why not try it?

I grow Buttercrunch lettuce. It is a Bibb type,but resists heat better than most. Harvest before it bolts(produces seed)

My space is a bit limited and kind of here and there in my back yard. The shaded area I described above is probably 12’x12’. I have two 4’ wide areas along a boundary fence, 40’-50’ of it with moderate sun (probably OK) and another 30’-40’ of it with OK sun. I have a ~12’x~25’ area that grades from good sun to marginal sun. And I have an area I haven’t tried before, ~6’-8’ square, that I think has good sun. The soil tends toward clay and probably doesn’t have much organic matter in it.
Lighten your soil with Peat Moss or composted leaves. Will help hold water, and break up the clay.
You would benefit by utilizing “Square Foot Gardening”. You section your space in a grid of 1 foot squares and “interplant” many plants together. Maximum yield for minimum space. You get the added benefits of companion planting.

All in all, I think the area I have has the potential to do good things for our table and budget from spring into the late fall or early winter. And that is what I want to do. But I need to get good yields and use what I have efficiently and effectively. Our tastes also vary. I can go for a lot of different veggies and greens, but I would have trouble persuading Mrs. S to use crook-neck squash instead of zucchini and iceberg defines lettuce for her. The best choices for our combined tastes are green beans, corn, zucchini, carrots and broccoli. I’ve had poor luck in the distant past with carrots and corn - probably my fault, mostly - so trying carrots is a bit of a venture for me right now. I may try corn in another year, but I need to figure out the necessary plant-to-plant spacing to allow good pollination (I don’t think 2 or 3 plants will suffice) and how that fits in my available space.
You must try Patty Pan squash. It is a summer variety, that grows well with zucchini, but is infinitely better, to me. It is white or green in color, and is known as “scalloped” squash, in some areas.
If she likes Iceberg, she’ll accept Buttercrunch, aka Butterhead. It is a crisp Bibb type.
Corn is easy. Choose a variety. Don’t try to grow multiple varieties, as they don’t pollinate well. You need to grow 4 rows, but the length of the row is not critical. In Square foot gardening, you plant 4 per square foot. The trick is the proper pollination, and I do this by hand. when the tassles appear to open, and the morning is calm of wind, shake the stalk, and the pollen falls. The silks are the point of pollination, so I also cut some of the tassles and touch them to the silks on each plant. The smellof the pollenis so sweet and makes this a pleasure.
Also, put a couple of drops of mineral oil on the silks to minimize damage from ear worms. Keep watch on the ears, and hand pick any that still manage to invade the ears. I am here if I can help. Good Luck.


#14

Tiny, I followed your advice and direct-planted some carrots yesterday. I figure I’ll plant more every 3 or 4 weeks to space them out. And I am keeping track of what got planted when on a calendar. I also started some of that lettuce, which is buttercrunch.


#15

Buttercrunch is my favorite lettuce to grow, although I haven’t had much of a garden since I moved back to PA in '91.


#16

Glad to be able to help. You will love the buttercrunch.


#17

Tiny asked me in the Random Thoughts thread how things were going. Well:

  • I’ve got two zucchini plants, a green bean plant and a sugar snap plant that I’ve been putting outside to acclimate prior to transplanting.

  • I just saw that the green onions I planted a couple of months ago are starting to come up.

  • I have another green bean and a couple more sugar snap pea plants that are growing but not ready to start acclimating.

  • Almost all my cherry tomato and quite a few beefsteak tomato plants are coming up.

  • Several bell pepper, spinach and at least one broccoli plants are coming up.

  • I’ve got nothing happening with the beets or lettuce starts.

So, I need to prep spots for transplant and plant a couple more rows of green onions really soon. We had pretty chilly weather a week or two ago for a couple of weeks, so as the weather warms up I hope to see more starts starting to come up.


#18

[quote=“Susanna, post:9, topic:28940”]
I have rhubarb & horseradish coming this spring. I had a start of horseradish once, but it never thrived. A couple of other places I have lived, I had rhubarb. I used to make a rhubarb cobbler, just by dumping the rhubarb in a 9X13 pan, adding lots of sugar, and covering it with biscuit dough and baking it in the oven. It will probably take a few years before either product is up to being harvested.
[/quote]I love strawberry/rhubarb cobbler. The way I do it, is I make a slightly thickened and sweetened batter, with eggs, milk flour, sugar, baking powder, pinch baking soda and a little melted butter, in a large pot,and pour in the fruit. do not stir,or shake. Bake at 350 until golden on top.


#19

Sounds like you got it on the run, now.
If you are trying to be organic, keep all non meat scraps from your kitchen. Coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, veggie scraps, bread, etc. Make a pile and mix with leaves, straw, grass clippings, brush, shredded newspaper, cardboard, etc. If you know anyone who has rabbits, chickens, live stock, or other animals, ask them to contribute some fertilizer, and then you can repay them with a bag of goodies. Spent kitty litter, aquarium water, or land mines from the neighbors dog, work well too. Any time you have flowers in water, empty the water into your compost.
Turn the pile with a shovel or pitch fork, once a week. If outside and mother nature calls, simply step to the pile. wood ashes are good source of potassium. Careful, though cause too much will cause alkalinity issues. About 60-90days,once it loses the putrid smell, use it.
Keep a bucket with a lid, full of water, and put any “land mines” in the water,and put on the lid. Once a month, mix the liquid with black strap molasses, and water your plants.
If not worried about organics, Lowes sells Ironite 12-10-10 for 6-7 bucks. Enough to fertilize 300-350 ft. I hope this helps. If I can offer any assistance,let me know.


#20

And another thing. If you like white asparagus, just cover the crowns with soil, where a shoot is full size, before it breaks out of the ground, or use a floating row cover of black plastic. Light deprivation make a tender,white and fiberless spear. Milder flavor.