12 Simple Steps for Starting a Vegetable GardenDonna Koczaja &Nicolas Tardif
College ofAgriculture and Natural Resources
Why do people grow their own vegetables?Flavor, freshness, pesticide-freeSave money; learn new skillsHealth benefitsExercise, nutritionConnection to nature and family traditionsIntroduce youth to gardening
Planning is the key to success!Ask yourself
What do I want to grow?Tomato - productive and popularPepper - slow-growing but worth the waitCucumber - make them climb to save spaceSummer squash (zucchini) - feed the neighborhood! Bush bean - plant them twice for rolling harvestLettuce- grow best March-June and Sept.-Nov.Leafy greens - mustard, kale, collards, Asian greens, and Swiss chardThese crops do well in MarylandHG#70: Recommended Vegetable Cultivars for Md Home Garden
Where do I want to grow it?In-groundContainers Edible landscapeCombination of all three??
Herb Garden at the UMd PG County Extension Office
How much time do I want to spend on it?Every garden takes work, but you can get great results with just a little effort
One container: few minutes/day
Or, the other extreme
all Sunday afternoon to cook, process, dry, and freeze the harvest from the week! 15x25 main garden + 15x3 edible landscape plus10 containers + fruit bushes and trees = 30 minutes/day maintenance plus
In shortConsider available space, time, mouths to feed, and motivationAlways best to start small
Good planning will save you time, work, and $
Here we go!!!
12 Simple Steps - Follow the 4 PsPlan1. Type of garden2. Size and costs3. LocationPrepare4. Soil testing5. Soil prep6. Soil improvingPlant7. Seeds vs. Transplants8. How to plant seeds9. Using transplantsProduce10. Feed and water11. Weeds & Disease12. Harvest!
1. What type of vegetable garden?In-ground - convert turfgrass to vegetablesContainers - on back step, deck, balcony or along driveway, etcEdible landscape - pepper, cabbage, Swiss chard, etc. mixed into ornamental bedsCombination of all three??
Another option: rent a plot in a community garden
2. Size and costOnly buy what you really need; be resourcefulMany opportunities for giving recyclable materials a new lifeAn 8 ft. X 8 ft. raised bed garden with 48 sq. ft. of growing space can produce $175-300 of fresh produce and cost about $120 to build (without tools).
3. LocationLevel ground; close to water source.Southern exposure; tallest plants on North side. At least 6-8 hrs. of direct sun.Protection from critters.Critter protection
4. Testing the soilWell-drainedFriable - deep, crumbly; allows for maximum root growth.Test your soil; 6.0-6.8 is preferred range for soil pH.Send sample to a regional soil testing laboratory (HG#110,#18)Amend soil as necessary (HG#42)pH too low: add liming materials (e.g., calcium)pH too high: add sulfur
Urban/suburban soils are often low quality soils
5. Preparing the soil Kill sod and control weeds- Dig up the area by hand or with a tiller ORCover area with newspaper or cardboard, and cover with leaves, and compost
Digging & LooseningSlicing off sodTurning soilLoosening subsoil
Sheet compost your way to a vegetable garden Start in fall for spring planting
If start later, layer with newspaper instead of cardboard for faster breakdown of materials
some advantages Warm up quickly in spring.Drain well; less compaction and erosion.Increase available rooting area. Can produce greater yields per square foot.
and some disadvantagesUp-front labor and expenseUse top soil for best resultsDry out quickly if weather is hot and dry.
Container Gardening (HG#600)Use just about anything that can hold soilDo NOT fill with soil from the groundToo heavy and compact not enough drainageUse: commercial potting soils, soil-less mixesPlant crop in appropriate size container, e.g:Tomatoes, broccoli require 4-5 gallonPeppers, cucumbers, onions require 1-3 gallonPlace in sunny locationWater frequentlyFertilize if potting soil isnt self-feedingHG#601: Grow Your Own Greens with Salad Tables & Boxes
6. Improving the soil with organic matterRegular additions of organic matter will improve soil structure and create a reservoir of slow-release nutrients.Sources: manure, compost, shredded leaves, grass clippings, organic mulches, plant roots, cover crops, buried kitchen scraps, store-bought garden soilLarge amounts of organic matter may be needed for several years.Thereafter, 1 in. of compost will help maintain high yields
HG#35 Backyard Composting
7. Seeds vs. Transplants?SeedsPros: cost-effective, more variety1 pack of seeds for $1 may last 2-3 yearsCons: more work, take longer to produce, greater risk of failureIf starting seeds indoors, 2 weeks (lettuce) to 8 weeks (eggplant) from seeding to transplant outsideTransplantsPros: less work, ready to plant when you areCons: more expensive, origin may be unknown, limited variety to buySome mail-order companies will mail transplants
8. How to plant seedsRake the soil smooth.Make a shallow furrow to plant a single row. Or sprinkle seeds over a wide row or bed (broadcasting).Dont plant too deep! Barely cover seeds with to in. of soil.Plant seeds at the recommended spacing, thin as needed Mounds: with a hoe create a small hill ~18 diameter, plant 4-5 seeds on top and thin to 2-3 plants when establishedZucchini, cucumbers, melons do well this wayTamp down on the soil for good seed to soil contactWater, and keep soil moist (but not soggy)
9. Using transplantsHarden off before planting outdoorsTransplants fill the space quickly; no need to thin.Dont plant too close!Fertilize after planting; water every day. When to use transplants: tomato, pepper, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, herbs.You can also grow or buy melon, squash, kale, lettuce, and other veggie transplants, but these are all relatively easy to start from seed
Spacing issuesCorrect spacing for big onionsOkra plants are too tightDont crowd! More plants will not necessarily improve yield (may reduce quality).
Stake/supportGrow vining crops up to save space (easier to pick, too!)Peppers & tomatoes need support for heavy fruiting
10. Feed and waterUse garden fertilizers according to label directions.Organic and chemical fertilizers that are over-applied can burn plant leaves and roots, reduce fruiting, invite insect pests, and pollute waterways.Water the roots, not the leaves. Keep the root zone of your garden moist.Preferable to water in early morningUse drip irrigation or a soaker hose to save time and water.Most vegetables need 1 water/weekHG#42: Soil Amendments & Fertilizers
11. Weed & Disease ManagementWeeds are plants that thrive in disturbed soil.Best control methods:Manual: hand-pull, sharp hoeMulch: grass clippings, newspaper covered with straw, shredded leaves, compostCrop cover: dense planting of crops shades out weedsOther methods: vinegar, flame weeder, commercial herbicidal soapDisease/pest controlNot all pests are bad; use non-chemical control methodsFor specific problems:Visit and search HGIC and Grow It Eat It websitesCall Home & Garden Information Center Hotline
12. Harvest!Besides enjoying your vegetables fresh (and sharing them with your neighbors and local soup kitchens), there are myriad ways to preserve your harvest to enjoy year round.CanningFreezingOr all three!Drying
Schedule (when to do what!*)January/February: get seed catalogs, plan your gardenMarch/early April: prepare soil cultivate, mix in organic matter, start seedlings indoorsLate March/April: plant cool-weather crops outdoors, mulchMay (Mothers Day rule): plant warm-weather crops (seeds and transplants) outdoors, mulchJune/July/August: nurture, water, fertilize, harvest!August: plant cool-weather crops for fall harvest, preserve your vegetables for winter enjoymentFall: start sheet composting over turf for new garden next year, clean up existing beds, mulch for the winter
*In Marylands climate
Planting Schedule**in central Maryland, last spring frost typically mid April, first fall frost typically late October GE 007- Spring Planting Guide for Vegetables: A Dynamic Chart for Maryland GardenersGE 008- Vegetable Planting Calendar for Central Maryland
Sweet Bell Pepper
seen in ground:
Transplant in ground
Keep the harvest coming with succession plantingRequires planningTransplants fill the space quicklySpecial attention to water and nutrient needsFloating row cover for protection from pests and excessive heat
Succession planting examplesGarlic (11/1)-cucumbers (7/1)-oats/clover (9/20)Peas/favas (3/1)-squash (6/1)-kale (9/1)Lettuce (3/20)-green beans (5/15)-broccoli (8/1)Radish (3/1)-Asian greens (4/15)-eggplant (6/1)-rye (9/15)Cucumber (4/15)- green bean (7/1)-spinach (9/20)
Fertilizing tipsNitrogen is nutrient most often in short supply. Use one of the meals (kelp, fish, cottonseed, alfalfa) to supplement N from organic matter.Follow label directions.Organic fertilizers can be over-applied and burn plants or stimulate excessive leaf growth at the expense of fruit.Add 1 inch of compost each year to contribute to long-term nutrient reservoir.
Most commonly available commercial organic fertilizersFish emulsion: 6-2-2Seaweed extract: 1-.5-2Bloodmeal: 15-1-0Cottonseed meal: 6-2.5-1.5Guano: 8 to 13-8-2Bone meal: 4-21-0Rock phosphate: 0-22-0Alfalfa meal: 3-1-2
Synthetic mulchesBlack plastic mulch warms the soil for earlier, higher yields of warm-season crops.Red plastic mulch may produce higher yields of tomato than black plastic.Landscape fabric warms soil and allows water and air into soil. Can be re-used.
Join the Grow it Eat it Network!A program brought to you by UME Master Gardeners and the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC)
Goals:teach people how to grow foodincrease the number of Maryland food gardenerscreate a network of food gardeners who will keep learning and sharing through classes, workshops, events, web site, blog
Grow It! Eat It!http://www.extension.umd.edu/growitWe have all types of practical food gardening tips and information. Check out our popular blog!Home and Garden Information Centerhttp://www.extension.umd.edu/hgicHere you will find factsheets, photos, and videos. You can also subscribe to the free monthly e-newsletter.We answer gardening questions 24/7just click Ask Marylands Garden Experts Maryland Master Gardener Programhttp://www.extension.umd.edu/mgConsider becoming a trained MG volunteer!
This program was brought to you by the Maryland Master Gardener Program______ CountyUniversity of Maryland Extension
WelcomeIntroduce yourself and the MG program to the audience. We are part of Maryland Cooperative Extension- an outreach education arm of the University of Maryland. Our topic is starting a successful vegetable garden.*These are some of the main reasons people start and maintain gardens. There is a deep human need to connect to the soil, plant seeds, and then nourish your body with the harvest. The recession has lots of us trying to reduce expenses and become more self-reliant. Some seed companies had record sales last year and expect heavy demand in 2009. In 2008 we received a huge number of requests for information about starting vegetable gardens.
From Eat This Not That: Supermarket Survival Guide (David Zinczenko w/ Matt Goulding)Our fruits and vegetables arent as healthy as they once were: Researchers in a study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition tested 43 different garden crops for nutritional content and discovered that 6 out of 13 nutrients showed major declines between 1950 and 1999: protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). Researchers say the declines are probably due to farmers efforts to achieve higher yields and plants that grow faster and can be picked earlier. As a result, the plants arent able to make or take in nutrients at the same rate.*Picture: tomato plant.There is a way for everyone to grow something to eat.
There is one type of garden you wont find in Maryland: a no-work vegetable garden. It takes time- especially the first year when you are breaking new ground and getting established. Timing is everything. If you have a good plan and give your garden a little time and attention each day you can produce a lot of food.
*Do you want to ensure a steady supply of salad greens? Are you psyched about the idea of having enough cucumbers for pickling? Are you most interested in tomatoes and basil for great Italian dishes? Does your family go bonkers for fresh green beans (youll want to plant some every 2-3 weeks from mid-May through July?)
Common-sense: dont spend money on products or tools you really dont need. Saving seeds saves you money.Cost of tools: 4-tine digging fork- $25-35; garden spade- $25-30; metal rake- $15-20; hoe- $15-20; mattock/pick axe- $30; seeds- $2/packet on average; 1.5 cu. Ft. bag of Leafgro - $4; essentials: garden gloves ($5), hand shovel ($2)
$100 tomato joke- $5 for the biggest plant at the garden center; $10 for special tomato fertilizer; $20 for special Japanese tomato trellis; $30 for unnecessary pesticides to kill whatever is causing those brown spots on the bottom of the fruits (blossom-end rot!); $10 for a Wall o Water to protect it; $5 for a second plant because the first plant was killed one cold April night when a mouse chewed on the Wall o Water letting the water out; $10 to buy 2 lbs. of tomatoes on June 20 at the farmers market and $10 to ship them to your brother in Trenton who bet you $1 he could produce the first home-grown tomato in the family. At least you won the bet!!
We could tell you to only plant high value crops- expensive to buy in the store. But what if you love the flavor and texture of new potatoes? You should grow them. Also, potatoes used to be fairly inexpensive in the supermarket. No longer**Aspect- compass direction that the garden faces; distance and direction from trees, hills, and buildings; cant change easilySoil type- texture, structure, fertility, drainage; can always be improvedSlope- can be very difficult for planting annual crops; loss of soil, water, and nutrients; terracing recommended
Notice that this garden is fenced with polywire hooked up to a solar-powered fence charger. It is also terraced to create level planting surface. Also, tallest crops (tomatoes) are to the North of the pepper plants.One set of definitions regarding micro-climates:
The cages over the strawberry boxes in the smaller picture keep the birds out.*Deep, rich soil that allows for un-impeded growth is critical. (Soils with well-formed crumbs have high number of large and small pore spaces to allow for good movement of roots, water, air, and soil critters.)
Note that adding lots of manure can drive up soil pH, so check it every 3 years. All gardeners should have their soil tested for lead levels prior to garden establishment. U. of Mass has $9 complete soil test, including lead test. All info on HGIC website and in Soil Testing Lab fact sheet.Soil testing will give you a pH reading (how sweet- pH above 7.0 or sour- pH below 7.0). A soil in the 6.0-6.8 range will give you the greatest nutrient availability. A basic soil test also tells you nutrient levels for N, P, K, Ca, Mg, and S.
New: can buy pH meters, soil test kits at the garden stores will give you a general idea of the condition of your soil.
*Image on left is just a cross-section of a pretty decent soil that is in sod, prior to making a vegetable garden. Notice the earthworm and small channels made by roots and small invertebrates moving through the soil. Image on right taken after the gardener used a mattock and spade to turn the sod. Notice that soil slices are laying sideways. Organic matter was then added and chopped into the soil. Good result. The thing to avoid is inverting the soil slices so that the subsoil is on top.There is no need to use glyphosate (e.g., Roundup) or other total vegetation killers.
Roto-tiller can be very good tool for large garden if used properly. Benefits of a roto-tiller: great for turning under cover crops, residues, and manure; makes soil loose and weed-free for planting; can disrupt pest populations in the soil.Potential problems: damaged soil structure if you till wet soil, soil compaction if machine is over-used; fresh tilled soil is more erodable; burns up organic matter if over-used (this means that excessive tilling is bringing a lot of air into the soil which accelerates the degradation of organic matter and release of carbon dioxide). One should not need to rototill more than a few times each growing season.Mantis tillers- Fast spinning sharp tines make a fast clean seed bed. I think they do damage soil structure by pulverizing the crumbs or individual soil aggregates. But they are popular and people seem to use them successfully.Tilling/turning test: you know the soil is dry enough to work if you pick up a handful and squeeze it and then bounce it up and down in your hand. If it does not fall apart do not till.
No-till gardening. The idea is to maintain biomass on soil surface at all times. This means planting cover crops, planting vegetable crops through cover crops, and using organic mulches. It is the best way to manage soils but takes some thought and experimentation.Slicing off sod- some gardeners feel it is easier to push a spade at a very slight angle through the top 1 inch of soil so as to just remove the sod layer. (This sod should be returned to the garden later after the sod has decomposed.) Organic matter is then applied to the ground and worked in with fork or spade.Turning the soil- sod and top 6-8 inches of soil are lifted, turned sideways, and dropped. Organic matter is applied and incorporated with fork or spade.Loosening subsoil- the top 6-8 inches of soil has been cut through and removed. A garden fork is jammed into the subsoil and rocked back and forth. This loosens and aerates the subsoil. Organic matter is then added and mixed in and the top soil is replaced. The whole process is known as double-digging.Sheet composting (a.k.a. lasagna bed gardening) is getting popular. This involves laying down thick layers of cardboard (unwaxed)/newspaper/leaves/compost and other organic materials. If you start the process in Sept.- Nov. the pile of materials will be broken down by spring. Some gardeners dont till the compost in. They plant directly into the new bed.
If you start the sod-killing process in spring its best to use newspaper (the cardboard may not have time to break down completely prior to planting. The breakdown of all materials is dependent on soil and air temperature, moisture, etc.
*Idea is not to walk on the beds. This prevents unnecessary compaction. With greater rooting volume of soil one should have increased plant growth and the capacity to move plants a little more closely together. Instead of watering and fertilizing foot paths and un-used portions of the garden, we focus all inputs on the growing areas.**Food scraps can be buried in trenches in your garden and allowed to decompose. Nutrients are then available in the root zone. Plant roots are very important for improving soil structure. Cut plants off at ground level with pruners or loppers. Compost the tops and leave the root system to decompose in situ.University of Conn. Research shows that continuous applications of compost builds up a reservoir of slowly available N that is sufficient to produce veg. crops w/out supplemental fertilizers.
Animal manure: Should be thoroughly composted or well-decomposed (> 6 months); till manures under in fall when possible; wash all produce thoroughly after harvest; never use pet manures in the vegetable garden.
*Example of seed package. The instructions for the specific variety are on the back.*Top picture: seeds started indoors - pepper plants few weeks old.
Bottom picture: pepper plant from a big-box store two months old. The instructions are on the label.The onion bulbs grew large because they were well-tended and had plenty of room between plants. The okra will never make much fruit because the plants are way too close. Okra plants should be 12-18 inches apart.*Use simple algebra to convert chemical recommendation to organic recommendation:20# of 10-10-10 per 1,000 sq. ft.cottonseed meal is 6% N.10/6 X 20 = 33.3# of cottonseed meal
We dont recommend the other methods but they are available. They do not kill perennial weeds and are less effective than the best methods.ORGANIC MULCES:Prevent weed growth.Moderate soil temperatures.Conserve soil moisture.Add to soil organic matter.Should be spread after soil warms up.Can provide habitat for pests along with beneficial critters.
Examples: grass clippings, newspaper covered with straw, shredded leaves, compost*This is where a lot of people give up. Its hot, they are worn out and several crops were just harvested for the last time and ripped out. What now? If you have a plan and the will, you can make use of every sq. ft. from March-Nov. If not, at least plant a cover crop to build and protect the soil .*Each bullet represents one space- one bit of ground that can have three crops per year.Spring: Sow seed as soon as the ground can be worked; set out transplants of vegetables that are cold hardy.Summer: Plant warm season crops as soon as the danger of frost has passed (melon, eggplant, pepper planted last); succession plant squash, bean, cucumber.Fall: Starting in late July (sowing broccoli seed); the same crops grown in early spring (add in an extra 10-14 days due to decreasing light and temp.)Winter: Cover crops or over-wintered spinach, arugula, mach, etc.
*Use simple algebra to convert chemical recommendation to organic recommendation:20# of 10-10-10 per 1,000 sq. ft.cottonseed meal is 6% N.10/6 X 20 = 33.3# of cottonseed meal
*The numbers are percentages. So, if you had a 100 lb. bag of cottonseed meal it would contain 6 lbs. of nitrogen. Nutrient Release rate:Medium to rapid- bloodmeal, bird and bat guano, fish emulsionMedium- cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, FYMSlow- compost
This is a new initiative. Master Gardeners across the state are teaching classes like this one. The HGIC is our partner in this. They add new information every day on the GE web site and answer questions by phone and e-mail. All of our contact information is on the next to last slide Ill show you and on the hand-outs you received.
**Remember to put in the correct county!
Created by Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist, UME; 2014; revised 2/15*