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Tomatoes are the most anticipated and pampered of the garden vegetables. People start calling our store in early February asking if we have tomatoes for sale yet. Unfortunately, these eager gardeners are 6-7 weeks too early, and any tomatoes that are planted out before early-April will just tread water until the soil and the night time temperatures have warmed up to sufficient levels. If you, like me, do decide to get a jump on your tomatoes and plant them in March, try planting smaller tomatoes like cherry’s or cool weather varieties, save the larger, beef steak varieties for warmer weather. Plant tomatoes in a full sun area in your garden and allow the top two inches of soil to dry out between waterings. When watering, put the hose on a slow trickle and water deeply over a 20-40 minute period. Before planting, the soil can be prepared by adding one bucketful of compost, and 4 cups each of landscape mix and worm castings into the area that you are transplanting into. We recommend some sort of support for each plant so that the fruits are kept off of the ground while they are ripening. This can be anything from a tomato cage, to a fence to a homemade trellis of sticks. You will have the greatest success with growing tomatoes if you put them into your garden between April 1st and August 15t .
Tomatoes have not evolved to grow in our coastal environment, and as such they are susceptible to a wide range of diseases, and viruses like powdery mildew, rust, black spot and verticilium and fusilarium wilts. Eventually one or more of these diseases will overtake the plant and lead to its demise. The best you can hope to do, is just delay the inevitable, as long as possible. This is accomplished by proactively changing your cultural growing practices. When watering, place your hose at the base of your tomato with the volume at a slow trickle, do not shoot, or beam the water at your plant from any sort of distance. This will splash water onto the plants and possibly kick up soil borne diseases onto the leaves, where they will multiply and eventually take over your tomato. Water early in the day, so that the plant is dry when the sun goes down, also, let the top two to three inches of soil dry out between waterings. It is also advisable to layer your soil with an inch of mulch. This will keep the soil cool during the heat of summer, help to keep the soil more evenly moist and make it harder for diseases to transfer from the soil to your plant. Tomatoes fall into two categories: Determinant which produce the majority of their crop all at once and then die back and Indeterminant which will continue to produce new flowers and fruits for as long as the weather and diseases are cooperative.
Squashes have similar characteristics and needs to cucumbers, melons and pumpkins. They grow best in the warm months, like a compost rich soil and to be watered deeply. Summer squashes like zucchini, crookneck and sunburst have the widest growing window and can be planted out between mid-march and early-September. Winter squashes, so named because of their ability to be stored deep into the winter months, need more heat and are best when planted from mid-April through early-August. Before transplanting, we recommend that you amend your garden bed by adding two heaping handfuls of compost and three cups each of landscape mix and worm castings. Once transplanted, water your squash deeply using a slow trickle from your hose. Allow the soil surface to dry out between applications. Squash are extremely susceptible to powdery mildew and rust. In fact, it is one of these viruses that will most likely lead to the inevitable downfall of your plant.
Spinach likes to grow in a cool environment, with moist soil and a light dose of fertilizer. In the cool months, plant out into a full sun location, during the warmer months, spinach does best when planted in a shady location. During the heat of July, August and September, it may not be practical to grow spinach because it tends to taste bitter and will bolt quickly. Spinach does not require heavy amounts of fertilizer, the plants can get by simply, by just adding one handful of compost and a quarter cup each of landscape mix and worm castings. Harvesting the outer leaves as they mature, will lead to increased yields.
Pumpkins are large, rambling growers that need to be transplanted into your garden by mid-June if you are growing them for Halloween. These plants are lovers of a rich, composted soil and do well when planted into the outskirts of a going compost pile, or into the zone that once had a compost pile on top of it. If not using your compost pile as a site to grow your pumpkin, look for an area that will receive as much sun and heat as possible. A southwest facing hillside is ideal. Having found your location, you can prepare the soil by loosening a patch 2-3 feet wide and adding one bucketful of compost and 6 cups each of landscape mix and worm castings. Thoroughly incorporate the ingredients into your soil and plant between two and four seedlings into this prepared area. Build a moat around your plants and water them deeply, letting the soil surface dry out between waterings. As the plants grow, let them run out as far as they can, if you are growing pumpkins in a tight area, you can pick up and move the vines and dictate where they grow. Conventional lore holds that you pick off the first young pumpkin that sets and begins to grow. This will encourage the plant to redouble its efforts and increase the energy that gets put into flower production. If you are trying to grow the largest pumpkin that you can, allow two or three flowers to set fruit, inspect and choose the strongest appearing one and then pick off every other one that starts to grow. This will cause the plant to direct all of its energies into the chosen one and lead to a bigger fruit. If instead, you want to maximize your harvest in terms of number of pumpkins produced, just let the plant grow on its own, depending on variety, each vine can produce between 3-6 fruits a piece. In the late summer to early fall, the vine will begin to wither and the leaves will fall prey to powdery mildew, yellow and die. Do not worry, this is just the natural progression of things. The pumpkins will continue to ripen and turn orange as the plant around them dies.
Peppers are grown when the weather is at its warmest. Some of the smaller fruiting varieties like jalapenos and serranos need less heat and can be planted as early as mid-March. The majority of peppers, including bells and stuffers, need more heat and grow best when planted between mid-April mid-September. Peppers can be planted either by themselves or in rows or groups with other peppers. Before transplanting, loosen the soil in and 12-18’ circle and incorporate two heaping handfuls of compost and two cups each of landscape mix and worm castings. Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the top two inches of soil to dry out between waterings. Harvest peppers as they ripen, this will encourage the plants to continue producing fruits.
Peas are a great sweet treat from the garden and grow the best when the weather is cool. The best months for transplanting peas into your garden are late-August through late-March. For optimum yields, all peas should be given a supporting structure to climb up on. Peas want to be planted in a bright sunny location, however, if you are planting peas late in the recommended window, allow for some shade from the mid-day sun, this will extend their harvest and keep the peas sweet. Before transplanting, prepare your garden soil by adding compost, landscape mix and worm castings. If planting peas in a row, add in two handfuls of compost, and one each of landscape mix and compost for every two feet of row.
Melon These are some of the most heat loving plants that there are. Choose a full sun location, and prepare your soil for transplanting by loosening the soil in a 24” circle and mixing in one bucketful of compost, 6 cups of landscape mix and 6 cups of worm castings. Plant melons in groups, or hills, that have between 2-4 plants in them. After the initial feeding, no more fertilizing will be necessary for your melons. Watering should be done deeply and slowly and the top two inches of soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Melons are ready to harvest when they fall off of the vines with only a slight tug. The best months to transplant melons into your garden are late-April through mid-August.
Lettuce and Greens These semi-delicate plants need to be given partial shade during the summer months and given full sun in the cooler winter months. These are tender plants that can be tucked in and amongst other taller plants, or put out in rows with each other. When transplanting an individual lettuce, add one-half handful of both landscape mix and worm castings to each hole. You can prolong the harvest period of your greens by picking the older, outer leaves of each plant first, and working your way in.
Onion/Leek transplants are a really easy way for you to grow onions in your garden. You can break apart the individual cells of the 6 packs and plant out the onion seedlings six inches apart in a richly composted soil. Prepare the bed with an inch of horse manure, and enough landscape mix and worm castings to completely color the ground, first green, and then black. Use any finger to poke a hole into the ground and then plant an onion into that hole. Usually onions take up to half a year to mature, however, you can harvest the developing bulbs at any time, prior to maturity and you will still get that great onion flavor but just not have the size that really matters. As you plant each onion seedling, add a fistful of landscape mix and worm castings to the soil.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that contains a high level of minerals in its rich, juicy leaves. While able to grow all year long, kale is best suited to the cooler months of the year when its leaves taste sweeter and are more succulent. Transplant each seedling into a hole that has been amended with at least 3 cups of compost, one cup of landscape mix and one cup of worm castings. Pick the leaves from the bottom, up and you will have a prolonged harvest. Kales will typically produce new leaves for one year and then they will put their energy into blooming, at which point they can be removed from the garden.
Eggplants are a real heat lover, and grow best when transplanted between mid-April and the end of August. Eggplants usually hit their peak of production later in the growing season, between August and October, when the daytime temps are at their hottest and before the nights get too cold. When preparing your garden bed for eggplants, loosen the soil in an 18” wide circle and add 6 cups of compost, two cups of landscape mix and two cups of worm castings to each hole and thoroughly incorporate. Eggplants will want to be kept on the dry side and can be watered deeply, once a week. This means 30-40 minutes with a slow trickle, coming from a hose. Give each plant 18-24 inches of space.
Cucumbers can be transplanted into your garden between April 1 and August 15. They would like to be planted into a richly composted soil and given three cups of both our Landscape Mix fertilizer and of worm castings. Cucumbers will be happier and will produce more harvestable fruit if they are trellised or somehow are kept off of the ground. Anything from a chain-link fence, to a wooden pole, to a tomato cage can be used to prop up your cucumbers. Water deeply, every five days during the summer and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Collards are an under-rated green, that are high in vitamins and minerals, but are low in flavor. The large, paddle-shaped leaves, can be harvested over an extended period when they are picked from the bottom up, as they mature. Plants can grow up to three feet tall, and will produce new leaves for several years before they go into their bloom mode. The flavor of the leaves is sweeter when the weather is colder, frost actually enhances the flavor. When transplanting, add two handfuls of compost, one handful of landscape mix and one of worm castings to the hole. Yield is greater when each plant is given 18- 24” of space.
Chard is a nutritious leafy green that is best, meaning sweetest, when grown during the cool months of the year. Typically, chard is planted into the garden between September and April, however, in our mild coastal climate, chard really does well during any month of the year. When transplanting chard into your garden, add 3 handfuls of compost and one handful each of landscape mix and worm castings into the immediate area that you are placing the plant. The harvest of your chard can be maximized by continuously taking the outer leaves of the plant as they mature. Individual plants will produce harvestable leaves for about one year before they decide that it is time to bolt, at which time their leaves will turn bitter and the plant will put its energy into flowering. Chard leaves that get left on the plant for too , and don’t look so good to eat, make a great soil mulch, when they are laid down flat on the ground that surrounds the plant.
Celery is thought to be tricky to grow because it can be temperamental when being transplanted. When transplanting, the seedlings should be at least 3” tall and should look sturdy. Locate the young plants in a part of your garden that receives partial shade throughout the year with slightly more during the summer months if possible. Celery can be grown in the full sun, but it is sweeter if partially shaded. Feed each plant with two handfuls each of our Landscape Mix and worm castings. Harvest the older, outer stems as you go, this will encourage the plant to keep producing new shoots and will allow for a larger harvest over the season.
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, and Cauliflower are all in the brassica family and as such have similar growing requirements and needs. Typically planted into your garden between mid-August and early May. Each of these varieties wants to be planted into a rich garden bed and have full access to the sun. Before transplanting, prepare the soil, by digging and loosening the soil 8-10 inches deep and 12-18 inches in diameter. Add to this zone, 6 cups of finished compost, 3 cups of Landscape Mix and 3 cups of worm castings. Thoroughly incorporate the ingredients and then transplant the seedling. For optimum growth, allow two feet of space per plant. These plants want are continually growing and expanding and as such, need adequate moisture. Water slowly and deeply once every 5-7 days during the growing season. It is possible that you will not need to water during the winter months if we are having a cool, wet winter.