So like I have stated many times before Spring is here! It’s so exciting to be done with the snow and cold weather, but unfortunately we will be getting quite a few showers for a month or so. That is part of the reason why I thought we could discuss gardening a little. With it being early in the spring and rain coming it is almost the perfect time to start putting your vegetable seeds into the ground and watch them grow.
Now you may be wondering what vegetables there are to grow here in Ohio besides your usual herbs, tomatoes, and peppers, but let me tell you that there are quite a few that might get you excited. Carrots, Squash, Pole Beans, Cucumbers, Spinach, and Radish!
So now I am going to give you all some tips on planting these veggies in your garden and hopefully you won’t have to be spending too much time in the vegetable section of your local food market.
To produce the best crop possible, build up a raised bed. Loose, rock-free soil is the goal. If you have heavy soil, add plenty of mature compost.
Start sowing this cool-weather crop 3 weeks before the last expected frost; plant again every 2 to 3 weeks after that. Most cultivars take 70 to 80 days to mature, so sow your last planting 2 to 3 months before the first expected fall frost.
Carrots become tastier as they grow. You can start harvesting as soon as the carrots are big enough to eat, or leave them all to mature for a single harvest. Dig your winter storage crop before the first frost on a day when the soil is moist but the air is dry. Since spading forks tend to bruise roots, hand-pull them; loosen the soil with a trowel before you pull. Watering the bed before harvesting softens the soil and makes pulling easier
Squash, including varieties like yellow squash and zucchini, is fast-growing, taking only about 55 days to be ready for picking. Squash likes regular watering but does not enjoy constant moisture. Even light frosts can kill squash plants, so planting should not occur until the soil has warmed to 68 degrees F. Harvest fruit before it gets bigger than 2 inches in diameter and seeds and rinds toughen. Mulching plants can help retain moisture and protect the shallow roots.
- Soil preparation: Zucchini likes well-drained, fertile soil that’s been amended with lots of compost.
- Planting: Plant seed outdoors when the soil temperature has reached 60°F—about a week after the last frost.
- Spacing: You want to give your squash a lot of room to spread out and grow. Plant them about 3 to 4 feet apart in rows 8 to 12 feet apart.
- Watering: Zucchini like consistently moist soil. To prevent problems with disease, always water from below.
- Fertilizing: Spray plants with compost tea two weeks after seedlings come up. Spray again in three weeks or when the first flowers appear.
- Special hint: If space is limited, put up a trellis for vertical support.
Beans grow with little care, produce an abundance of pods, and can add nitrogen to the soil, making them ideal plants for organic vegetable gardens.
Dried or fresh, shelled or whole, beans are a favorite crop for home vegetable gardens. They are easy to grow, and the range of plant sizes means there is room for beans in just about any garden. Among the hundreds of varieties available, there are types that thrive in every section of the country.
Pole beans are even more sensitive to cold than bush beans. They also take longer to mature (10 to 11 weeks), but they produce about three times the yield of bush beans in the same garden space and keep on bearing until the first frost. In the North, plant pole beans at the beginning of the season—usually in May. If your area has longer seasons, you may be able to harvest two crops. To calculate if two crops are possible, note the number of days to maturity for a particular cultivar, and count back from fall frost date, adding a week or so to be on the safe side.
Plant pole beans in single rows 3 to 4 feet apart or double rows spaced 1 foot apart. Sow seeds 2 inches deep and 10 inches apart. Provide a trellis or other vertical support at planting or as soon as the first two leaves of the seedlings open. Planting pole beans around a tepee support is a fun project to try if you’re gardening with children, but it will be more difficult to harvest the beans than from a simple vertical trellis.
Pick green beans when they are pencil size, tender, and before the seeds inside form bumps on the pod. Harvest almost daily to encourage production; if you allow pods to ripen fully, the plants will stop producing and die. Pulling directly on the pods may uproot the plants. Instead, pinch off bush beans using your thumbnail and fingers; use scissors on pole and runner beans. Also cut off and discard any overly mature beans you missed in previous pickings. Serve, freeze, can, or pickle the beans the day you harvest them to preserve the fresh, delicious, homegrown flavor.
One of the joys of the summer garden is slicing up a cucumber just plucked off the vine and savoring that first crisp, cool bite. Well, it’s a joy when the cucumber tastes the way it should: with that sweet, refreshing flavor that alludes to a clear mountain spring. But sometimes, for no apparent reason, one will taste bitter.
How does that happen, and more important, what can you do about it? If you follow these tips to minimize a cucumber’s greatest enemy—stress—you’ll prevent bitterness, as well as most of the other problems that may have marred your cuke harvest in the past, such as pests and diseases. And I promise that this year you’ll enjoy the coolest, tastiest cucumbers that no money can buy.
1. Keep them hydrated. Provide plants with plenty of moisture, especially around the time the plant is flowering and fruiting. Any water stress during this period of rapid growth causes the levels of bitter-tasting compounds to rise. Cucumbers are vigorous growers and therefore need between 1 and 2 inches of water per week, depending on the weather and the characteristics of your soil. The key is to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Water deeply about once or twice a week- more often if you’re gardening in sandy soil.
2. Mulch. You can further reduce water stress by mulching plants with an organic mulch. Mulch helps to conserve and moderate moisture levels while blocking out weeds. Plastic mulches can be applied at planting time, but wait until summer or after the soil has warmed to above 70 degrees before applying organic mulches, such as straw.
3. Regulate the temperature. Cucumbers like warm conditions, but growing cool and tasty cukes in the heat can sometimes be a challenge. In fact, high temperatures not only affect fruit quality; they can also affect fruit set by causing the plant to produce a higher ratio of male flowers. “Cucumbers are really sensitive to high heat,” says horticulturist Emily Gatch, greenhouse and pathology coordinator with New Mexico-based Seeds of Change. “It can be really hard on plants if temperatures are consistently in the mid-90s.” If you’re growing cucumbers in a hot climate, Gatch recommends providing plants with filtered afternoon shade to help cool things down, either by strategically planting taller crops at the southern end or by adding a shade cloth to block 40 to 50 percent of the sunlight.
4. Give them sunlight and good soil. For the best-tasting fruit and optimum yields, grow plants in a sunny spot and in warm, fertile, and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Raised beds are ideal. Cucumbers require a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Wait to sow seeds or set out transplants until after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 60°F.
5. Fertilize. Cucumbers thrive in light, friable soil. Several inches of organic matter worked into the soil prior to planting helps achieve that goal. Plants are heavy feeders, so be sure to feed the soil with rich compost or aged manure. After the vines develop runners and the first flowers appear, follow up with a side dressing of compost, aged manure, or organic fertilizer. If the leaves are yellowish, the plants need more nitrogen.
6. Banish weeds. Keep your cucumber patch and the area around it free of weeds.
7. Cover up. Row covers, hotcaps (or plastic milk cartons with the caps removed), and plastic tunnels are great for getting plants off to an early start. And row covers not only help plants grow faster and flower sooner, they also protect plants from pest insects. Just be sure to remove any covering once plants start to flower.
Spinach does best when growing in moist, nitrogen rich soil. Spinach plants form a deep taproot; for best growth, loosen the soil at least 1 foot deep before planting.
Sow spinach seed as early as 6 weeks before the last frost or as soon as you can work the soil. Prepare the soil the previous autumn, and you can drop the seeds in barely thawed ground. In areas with a long, cool spring, make successive plantings every 10 days until mid-May.
In warm climates, plant spinach in the shade of tall crops such as corn or beans. The young plants will be spared the hottest sun and be ready for harvest in fall or winter. Using cold frames or heavyweight row covers, you can grow spinach all winter in many parts of the country. In colder regions, try planting in fall (October) and protecting the young plants through winter for a spring harvest. In regions where the soil doesn’t freeze, try planting spinach in February for a March harvest.
In 6 to 8 weeks you can start harvesting from any plant that has at least six leaves 3 to 4 inches long. Carefully cutting the outside leaves will extend the plants’ productivity, particularly with fall crops. Harvest the entire crop at the first sign of bolting by using a sharp knife to cut through the main stem just below the soil surface.
Radishes mature very quickly—some in as little as 3 weeks. They’re a useful marker crop when sown lightly along rows of slow germinators such as carrots and parsnips.
Dig the soil to a depth of 6 inches for quick-growing radishes and up to 2 feet for large, sharper-tasting, slower-growing winter types. Space seeds ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart; firm the soil and water gently. Make weekly spring sowings as soon as you can work the soil (4 to 6 weeks before the last expected frost) until early summer; start again in late summer. Sow winter radishes in midsummer for a fall harvest.
Thin seedlings to 2 inches apart, 3 to 6 inches for the larger winter types. Mulch to keep down weeds. For quick growth and the best flavor, water regularly.
Sow Radishes amid hills of cucumbers and squash to repel cucumber beetles. Plant them near spinach. Radishes attract leafminers away from the spinach. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn’t prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.
Cabbage maggots are attracted to radishes but seldom ruin a whole crop.
Pull as soon as the roots mature. Oversized radishes often crack and are tough or woody.
We hope you enjoyed reading through some of the ways to grow these veggies and we hope you even try growing one or two in your own backyard. If you do so take some pictures and send them to us here at Peabody Landscape and you will be rewarded for your efforts!