Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gardening Series: Post 3


After tilling up the soil really well, we plant our vegetables on raised beds with furrows for walking between the beds. It's important to not walk on the beds because it compacts the soil, making it hard for the plants to grow.

We plant them on different sizes of beds depending on the type of vegetable. Usually a 2-3 foot bed is sufficient for the vegetables in category #1 in Gardening Series: post 1. All of these vegetables can be planted on either side of the raised bed (2 rows/bed but Broccoli/Cauliflower you will want to stagger down the row). We've even done three row for carrots and been successful as long as you pick the middle row when they are young and tender and let the two outer rows grow for a later harvest. Peppers can also be planted on either side of a 2-3 foot bed - we usually alternate where they are on the bed so that no pepper is directly across from another, rather they are staggered like a zig-zag. Beans can also be planted on either side of a 2-3 foot bed. Zucchini and yellow squash like a lot of room to grow so we usually try to plant them on a 4-5 foot bed at least. Even then they sprawl all over the place making it hard to walk in the furrows, so we like to put them in a corner of our garden so it's easier to pick the fruit. For tomatoes it really depends on how you grow them. An ideal way would be to give the indeterminate types a lot of room (like 5 feet) and let them just sprawl all over the black plastic (not staking them or using cages or anything). We tried that one year, however, and because we have a deer problem it just ended up being a treat for them and we didn't get many tomatoes off our plants that year. So now we plant them on a 3-4 foot bed inside a cage. When they are really small we put chicken wire all around the cage so the deer can't eat them and then take it off when the plants get stronger. Winter squash like a lot of room to grow so we plant them in the center of a 4-5 foot bed. Smaller melons like cantaloupe we plant in the center of a 3-4 foot bed. Larger melons like watermelon need more space. We plant corn on either side of a 3 foot bed. Those are just a few of the main crops that we plant. If you have any more that you are wondering about the size of bed, just ask.

It's important to plant good seed. After spending all the effort to till and plant and weed and water a garden, the last thing you want is your vegetables to be less than desirable because the seed you planted was not very good. We usually buy our seed from a reputable seed company. They generally have better varieties than garden stores or nurseries and a bigger selection. Here is a list of the crops we planted in our garden last year. We follow the planting instructions on the back of the packets for the most part, but there are a few changes that I'll talk about in a future post.


We use a drip system to water most of our vegetables. We got drip tubing (the pre-marked kind is good) and bought some pressure regulated emitters that regulate water at 2 gal/hour. we put the emitters on the drip tubing spaced every foot down the tubing. You can also use soaker hoses, but we've found that they do not last as long and are not as easy to regulate how deep your water is going with the drip system.

The cool season crops or leaf and root crops (the vegetables in category #1 in Gardening Series: post 1) generally have shallow root systems that extend about 3 feet below the soil's surface. The warm season crops or seed and fruit crops (the vegetables and fruits in category #3 in Gardening Series: post 1) generally have much deeper root systems often extending below the soil's surface 8 feet or more. Because of this difference, these different crops need to be watered differently. In order for the plants not to wither between waterings, you need to water deeper for the deep-rooted crops than the shallow-rooted crops. With the drip system we have in place we water the crops in category #1 in Gardening Series: post 1 about 30-45 minutes twice a week. We water the crops in category #2 in Gardening Series: post 1 about 1-2 hours once a week. And we water the crops in category #3 in Gardening Series: post 1 about 3-4 hours every 2 weeks (or 10 days in the very hottest months).

In addition to that, we put black plastic on the ground for some of the crops to keep out the weeds and to keep the water in the soil better. We do the black plastic for tomatoes, melons (cantelope, watermelon, etc) and have done it for peppers too. Be careful with when they are small because you don't want to kill the plants if the plastic covers them. We usually put rocks all around the plastic so the wind doesn't blow it up over the plants. We re-use the plastic for a couple of years. You don't want to use it for winter squash because the plant spreads and re-roots itself in the ground, making the plant stronger.

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