Yielding An Abundant Tomato Crop With These Gardening Tips

tomato cluster ripening on vine - Yielding An Abundant Tomato Crop With These Gardening Tips If you want to grow the healthiest and most delicious tomatoes you possibly can this gardening season, take some pointers from the pros. There are a few very easy ways to implement, and therefore consistently grow a rich harvest of tasty, lush, mouthwatering tomatoes.

Why not try out the following organic gardening tips and see for yourself the biggest and healthiest yield your tomato plants can give you.

Organic Gardening Tips For Growing Succulent Tomatoes

Tip #1

Whether growing in containers or in the ground, make sure you select a location that will give your plants 6 to 8 hours of natural sunlight.  Also, make sure you have enough room between your tomato plants to not only provide for adequate air circulation, but it also assures adequate room for the plants to grow not only upwards, but for extending their stems.

Tip #2

illistration of transplanting a tomato plant

Illustration by Hyperion Yard

If you are buying plants to transplant, make sure you plant deep for the best possible results.

Burying the stem of a tomato allows the plant to sprout new roots which will help improve strength and vitality of the plant.

This also provides better absorption of the nutrients your tomato plants need to grow faster and healthier.

To do this, remove the bottom sets of leaves and bury the stem up to just below the bottom of the remaining leaves.

Experimenting with the above description for transplanting tomato plants to the first true leaf, when compared to just covering the root ball has shown to increase tomato yields by 18% and up to 26% percent for every 25 pounds of fruit at first harvest, according to Dr. Charles Vavrina at the Southwest Florida Research & Education Center.

Rodale’s Organic Life writes, that the secret to great tomatoes is all in the roots. Plants with big root systems need less water and can stand up to summer storms.

To encourage your tomatoes to put down robust roots, start by taking a look at the stems of your tomato seedlings. The fine “hairs” lining the stem develop into roots when they come into contact with moist soil. Burying a large portion of the stem at planting time effectively doubles the size of the plant’s root system and encourages productive plants.

Tip #3

This tip is crucial to planting, growing, and harvesting an abundant of tomatoes. Test your soil. Why? Tomatoes grow and produce well in soil that is more acidic, between 6.0 – 6.8 pH.

You can take a sample of your soil to the horticultural department of your local collage or University for lab testing, or you purchase a pH level testing kit.

After you have discerned your garden soils alkaline and acidity levels, you can add the appropriate organic soil amendments to reach the recommended 6.0 – 6.8 pH for tomatoes. Most garden centers can tell you just what you need to do to get your soil perfect.

Tip #4

prunning tomato suckers for better fruit

Image credit: Fine Gardening

 

Trick your tomatoes into being stronger by plucking the first flowers that appear. This allows your tomato plants to grow more extensive root systems, as well as a mature and developed leaf canopy, before any fruit is produced.

You should also prune any suckers, which are the little offshoots of the main stem below your first fruit-producing branch.

Fine Gardening says that doing so will allow most of the sugar produced in the first 30 days after transplanting, to be directed to the developing fruit, since the only competition is a single growing tip.

Tip #5

Use tomato cages or supports to grow your tomatoes vertically. When you allow tomato vines to lay on the ground, your plants are much more susceptible to pests and diseases.

When you provide vertical support, these garden dangers have a harder time attacking your plants. Sprawling vines also take up valuable space in your garden.

Tip #6

Organic fertilizer for tomatoesSouthwest Gardener says to fertilize your tomato plants once a month for in-ground tomatoes, and every three weeks for tomatoes in containers.

Adding organic compost, either your own or store bought will also help to encourage healthy growth and a bigger harvest.

Scratch compost into the ground around the stem, and at the same time, trim a few of the upper leaves on each plant.

Tip #7

Whether you decide to plant determinate or indeterminate varieties, consider planting new tomatoes three weeks after your original plants are planted. This will extend your growing season and guarantees that if you run into any weather or pest problems, you are still sure to enjoy multiple, healthy harvests. This means you won’t need to harvest and use your entire crop at once.

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Indeterminate Or Determinate Tomatoes – Which Is Right For Your Garden?

Indeterminate Verses Determinate Tomatoes - Which One Is Right For My GardenIf you are a tomato gardener, then you know there are several thousands of tomato varieties to choose from. If you are an advt tomato grower you know that all tomatoes are classified as either determinate or indeterminate.

If you are brand new at growing tomatoes, you might be asking, what is the difference between these two classifications? And which class type should I choose for my garden?

Sea Spring Seeds says that you can read a gardening book or magazine, ask a fellow gardener, or review the seed catalogs. They say these are all good starting points, but even taking these steps can still leave you deciding on the right variety for your garden. To make the choice easier, tomatoes must be broken down into their basic elements, and only then, can an informed decision be made.

Know Your Tomatoes Classification

Is it not true that before buying a car you test drive it first? Or you try on the close or shoes first before purchasing them? The same is true of deciding which classification of tomato you want to plant in your garden. But in the case of you won’t test drive or try the tomatoes on first, but rather investigate the best variety of tomatoes you want to plant in your garden.

We noted at the start the two classifications of tomato plants, determinate and indeterminate. The difference between the two are how they bare fruit.

Determinate

determinate tomato Determinate tomatoes are more compact, and for that, they are referred to as “bush” tomatoes because of their growth habit. A determinate verity could be referred to as having limits. How so?

Their buds are at the tip of stem, which naturally stops stem growth. This class of tomato most often does not need support.

Blossoms and fruit grow at the same time, and the harvest lasts between 7 to 10 days. Determinate tomatoes yield their entire crop all at once.

After the plant has produced the fruit, and has been harvested, the plant will start to weather and die.

Determinate’s are also great for container gardening.

Each determinate verity will produce at different times. When purchasing the seeds or plants from a on-line source, catalog, or local nursery, it should be list on the label as to the number of days to harvest after planting the seed or a plant you bought.

Knowing this information will allow you to space out your determinate tomatoes so that you can receive early, middle and late season yields.

Indeterminate

Indeterminate tomatoes usually grow longer vines and need support, like stakes, cages or fencing to support their stems.

Indeterminate TomatoThis class of tomato has no limits, as the buds form on the side branches and the tips of the stems continue growing, doing so like a vine. These types of tomatoes can grow up to 10 feet high.

The blossoms and fruit grow at different times, and the harvest can last several months. They can also give fruit in the Autumn util the first frost.

Indeterminate varieties are an ideal choice for fresh food lovers who want to enjoy bright and succulent tomatoes directly off the vine throughout the growing season.

We can see there really is no correct answer when deciding between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants. It really hinges on your own preference and circumstances to determine which is right for you.

Also keep in mind most tomato gardeners grow indeterminate tomatoes for fresh eating, and smaller, meatier determinate for canning and sauce-making.

If space allows, why not experience the best of both worlds and incorporate both determinate and indeterminate varieties into your vegetable garden.

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How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato Garden

How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato GardenBlossom rot, or blossom end rot, is a common problem encountered by professional and back yard tomato gardeners. You may be asking what is blossom rot? It is a disease that that can be identified by a dark, rotten spot at the blossom end of developing tomatoes.

But no need to despair, as there are techniques you can use to counter act blossom rot before it even starts. It is pertinent that you follow through with the methods, because once the end rot appears on an individual fruit, there is no way to cure the affected tomato.

You can cut away the rotted portion of the tomato after you harvest it and safely eat the portion that was not affected, but it is best to eliminate the problem before it reaches that point.

How To Prevent Tomato Blossom Rot

Let’s examine these questions:

  1. How does blossom rot start?
  2. How can I prevent it from showing up in the first place?

Blossom end rot is a physiological affliction of the tomato plant. Initial symptoms can  and consist of small, light brown flecks and lesions occur initially on green fruit that are clustered on the blossom end of the developing fruit.

As the disorder worsens, a circular to oblong, dark brown, firm lesion develops on the blossom end.

If blossom rot is left unchecked, you can lose a large portion of your entire tomato crop to this condition.

What causes blossom end rot is the plants deficiency in calcium. Adequate amounts of calcium are needed in order for tomato plants to produce their fruit properly. Even if you have plenty of calcium in your soil, your plants may not be able to effectively absorb it for a number of reasons. When this occurs, your plants are at risk of contracting blossom rot.

Prevention

Now to answer the question of how to prevent blossom rot in the first place? To prevent blossom end rot is making sure your plants have getting enough calcium and are able to absorb enough of the mineral.

soil test kitBefore planting your tomatoes, be sure to have your soil tested or do it yourself with an inexpensive soil testing kit.

Ideally, your soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH somewhere running between 6.2 to 6.8. The plants also need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients as well (Bonnie Plants).

To start, if your soil is too acidic, add some limestone to increase the pH. Use caution when adding this soil amendment, because adding too much will cause the soil too be, to alkaline.

If this occurs, or if your soil is naturally alkaline, you can amend it with rich organic matter, elemental sulfur or an acidifying fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate. It can be very challenging to lower soil pH, however, because limestone in the ground is continually dissolving.

If you live in an area where alkaline soil is a fact of life, you may want to build raised beds to create a more favorable environment that tomato plants will thrive and produce tasty fruits.

water base of tomato plant

Image Credit: HGTV – Garden

Once your soil is at the optimum pH level, you’ll want to ensure your plants are receiving adequate moisture.

Optimal tomato growth requires regular and deep watering, so that water gets all the way down to the entire root system.

Make sure your plants are receiving 1 to 2 inches of water weekly, and more if a warm spell comes on.

To reduce the chance of foliar diseases, water the base of tomato plants and avoid getting water on the leaves, especially if you’re watering in the evening.

Blossom end rot will usually occur at the start of the season as the first fruits appear. If you notice your tomatoes are showing possible signs of blossom rot, make sure your plants are watered deeply every 4 to 5 days. If it is extremely hot in your area, water them even more frequently.

To determine when it is time to water your plants, dig down 3 or 4 inches into the soil. If the soil is moist, wait 24 hours and check again. When the soil at that level is dry, it is time to water again.

seaweed extractFinally, many tomato gardeners also swear by liquid kelp (seaweed) extract as a way to combat blossom rot. Sea Kelp contains a natural substance you can use to condition soil, and it can contain more than 70 vitamins, minerals and enzymes essential to the health your tomato plants.

The extract and fertilizer are readily available in local garden centers, large home improvement stores or via online retailers. You may want to test it out on part of your garden to see how it works for you.

Although blossom rot can be a garden dilemma, it is time will spent in preparation and planning your tomato garden, which will go a long ways towards eradicating blossom end rot from your garden.

Header Article Image Credit: Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program

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The Best Tomato Varieties For Your Container Gardening

The Best Tomato Varieties For Your Container Gardening

A great alternative for the tomato gardener with limited garden space is to use buckets, pots or containers to grow tomato plants.

Container gardening offers many advantages, such as growing a few plants in containers is a lot less intimidating to beginning gardeners than trying to plan and care for a large vegetable garden. Without a doubt, it is much easier to care for and maintain a small container garden than a large outdoor area.

Planting your tomatoes in a portable set up allows you to move your tomato plants around so they get the necessary sunlight each day. Though growing tomatoes in the sun is necessary, but the fruit themselves do not need sunlight to ripen, as the tomato actually ripens fastest in the absence of sunlight. Tomatoes ripen because of heat and ethylene gas, not because of sunlight (Gardening Know How).

A word to the wise, not all tomato varieties are perfect for container gardening. To ensure that you receive great tasting tomatoes, and the biggest possible yield, then take a look at these three tomato varieties.

Container Gardening With The Right Tomato Plants

Japanese Black Trifele

Japanese Black Trifele TomatoAlthough the Japanese Black Trifele is considered a great container tomato, be advised that it can be found in both indeterminate and determinate varieties.

Before buying a particular plant, you’ll want to make sure the ones you are considering are the more compact variety.

The pear-shaped fruits of the Japanese Black Trifele will develop a deep mahogany color as a sign that it is ripe. This beautiful fruit is as visually appealing as it is delicious. You can expect a sweet and smoky, multi-layered taste.

Rareseeds says the plants produce loads of fruit all summer long, and has been a favorite with many seed savers.

Sungold Cherry Tomato

 Sungold Cherry TomatoThe Sungold cherry tomato is a indeterminate hybrid. These tangerine-orange cherry tomatoes are super sweet and savory.

The plant boasts as a vigorous, disease resistant plant, and as such this cherry tomato plant is very strong and requires very little care.

Also, a single Sungold plant can give you cherry tomatoes all summer long.

Brandywine

Heirloom Organics says that the Brandywine tomato is among the oldest heirloom tomato varieties, and have been grown for well over 100 years. The fruit is a large, slightly sweet, pink, beefsteak tomato that can weigh 1 ½ pounds. It is an indeterminate growing vine plant that can reach 9 feet in height with plenty of light and heat.

This tomato variety consistently wins first place in tomato taste tests not only in the United States, but throughout the world.

Some other great tomatoes to grow in your container garden include the Wapsipinicon Peach, with its delicious and fuzzy fruit or the intriguing Black Krim heirloom variety which yields large purple and red fruits.

The tomatoes we have mentioned here is far from a comprehensive list. With thousands of tomato varieties to choose from, you are sure to find great options for your container gardening.

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Roasted Yams with Cilantro and Lime Juice 

Roasted Yams with Cilantro and Lime Juice 

The softer, orange-fleshed variety of sweet po...

The softer, orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato, commonly referred to as a yam in the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you know the difference between a yam and a sweet potato? In some parts of North America, including Canada, the yam and sweet potato are enter twinded or in other words people think they are same.

The fact is, they are not. They both are tubers, and that is as far as it goes to being similar.

The yam are monocots related to lilies and grasses. Were as sweet potatoes are related to or we should say the unrelated morning glory family (Wikipedia ).

Yam in a market

Yam in a market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to About Foods, yams are mostly sold in chunks sealed in plastic wrap, as they can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh up to 150 pounds. (Home Cooking – About Food).

Better Homes and Garden (BHG) suggests storing yams in a cool dry place. Much like you would do with potatos.

BHG says do not store yams in the refrigerator as they will dry out (BHG).

Before we get on with our featured recipe, here is a link to a pdf file from the University of California on yams and sweet potatoes: LINK HERE.

Our featured recipe is: Roasted Yams with Cilantro and Lime Juice, and here is what you will need.

2 medium yams, washed and diced with skin on

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons dried cumin

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

diced yams with olive oil in a large bowel Add the oil, cumin, and salt to a large mixing bowel. Mix together, then add died yams and toss to coat.

Roasted Yams with Cilantro and Lime Juice  - close upSpoon yams onto a baking sheet spread out evenly. Place baking sheet into a preheated 425 degree oven, and roast the diced yams for 30 to 40 minutes or until a fork can pierce them, turning once during the roasting process.

Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes. Add yams to a serving bowel along with chopped cilantro and lime juice. Mix gently to coat roasted yams.

Eat the dish as is or as a side dish with your favorite meat.

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What is Kitchen Gardening?

This is the seventh post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first six posts please link here to read.

Now for – What is Kitchen Gardening? – with Judith Sorg.

Have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden?

For starters, a kitchen garden or potager (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history tracing back to old English and French culinary gardens.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

1. Convenience. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

2. Size. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions to a potager.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

3. Beauty. While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

potted herbsAs you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!

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Planning a Productive and Practical Potager

Woman and her child harvesting carrots from her potager garden

 

This is the sixth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first five posts please link here to read.

Now for – Planning a Productive and Practical Potager – with Judith Sorg.

A well-planned potager, or kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet.

  Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden


Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden

 

The traditional potager or kitchen garden, is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden, such as the ornamental and flowering plants and lawn areas. Most vegetable gardens are a smaller version of old family farm plots, but the kitchen garden is different, as it has its own history as well as design.

 

The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical potatger.

Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals.

The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is nice to have, as well.

Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your potager is to think about what you like to cook.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby.

In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season. Items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use are ideal for your regular vegetable garden.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many kitchen gardens are confined to a relatively small space. If your proposed potager has a small overall footprint, don’t get discouraged. Instead – look up!

Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your potager has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available.

beautiful potager garden

Beautiful potager garden

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your potager, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your potager is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

Next we will talk about the difference between kitchen gardening and a regular vegetable garden.

For Judith’s next discussion link here: What is Kitchen Gardening?

 

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Caring for Your Flower Garden

Tiny white flowers against the trunk of a cherry tree

Knowing how to care for your flower garden can make a big difference in the look and over-all health of your plants. Here are some simple hints to make your garden bloom with health.

1. The essentials must always be given major consideration

Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, sunlight, and fertile soil. Any lack of these basic necessities will greatly affect the health of plants. Water the flower garden more frequently during dry spells.

Blooming Tulips When planting bulbs, make sure they go at the correct depth. When planting shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don’t heap soil or mulch up around the base of the plant, 2 to 3 inches is sufficient.

Water well, but avoid standing water as this could damage the shrub or perennial. Standing water around the base of trees and shrubs will rot the trunk.

2. Mix and match perennials with annuals

Perennial flower bulbs need not to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Mixing a few perennials with annuals ensures that you will always have blooming flowers in your garden.

3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms

Deadheading is simply snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will help the plant produce more flowers. Leaving the wilted flowers on the plant will cause the plant to produce seeds over more flowers.

Don’t discard dead debris on the garden floor during growing season or mildew and other plant disease will attack your plants.

4. Know the good from the bad bugs

A butterfly pollinating a Butterfly BushMost garden insects do more good than harm. Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival.

Sow bugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.

Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like aphis.

An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer. Organic fertilizers are the best to use, and better for the environment.

5. Some Pruning Tips

potted hanging FuchsiasAlways prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted to give you a new plant, so it won’t be wasted.

Blooming Forsythia Blooming Lilac Prune Lilacs and Forsythias after the flowers bloom and fade. Flowers bloom from new growth, and pruning in early Spring will only remove the growth that is prepared to produce buds for flowering.

All the images in this article are just a few from the authors garden from over the past flowering seasons from 2008 till 2013. If you have any questions about flower gardening, leave it in the comment section and I will respond as soon as be possible.

 

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How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

This is the fifith post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds – with Judith Sorg.

There are many benefits to using raised vegetable garden beds in your garden.

For starters, I have found elevated garden beds are easier on your back and knees because they require less bending, kneeling and crawling than regular beds.  In addition, raised garden beds offer better drainage, which means your plants aren’t stuck sitting in excess water every time it rains. Plus, it is much easier to build your soil UP than it is to work amendments into the ground.

raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds also are great for those who are wheelchair or scooter bound.

Fortunately, building raised vegetable beds is a super easy do-it-yourself project. All you need are some readily available tools and materials, and an extra pair of hands.

How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Tools and Materials  

(makes two 8’ x 4’ x 6” high beds)

(6) 1” x 6” x 8’ cedar boards* – 2 boards cut into 4’ sections

Wood screws and/or 8 metal corner brackets

Power drill

Important Note: Cedar is naturally insect and moisture resistant, so it tends to hold up well in outdoor environments. Avoid using pressure treated lumber for your food growing areas because the chemicals used to create them can leach into your soil.

*Cedar boards come in a variety of lengths and widths. Obviously, using 6” wide boards will give you more shallow beds than 10” boards. Choose whichever length and width combination you prefer. If you find 4’ beds are too wide, simply reduce the length of each shorter section to 3’ – 3.5’.

Instructions:

To assemble your raised vegetable garden beds, line the ends of an 8’ foot section and a 4’ sections up so they form an “L” shape. While your helper holds the boards in place, secure the two boards together with wood screws or with the metal corner brackets.

Repeat this process with the remaining cedar boards until you create 2 wooden rectangles, each measuring 8’ in length by 4’ in width.

Once your beds are assembled, carry them a sunny spot in your garden and place them where you want your raised beds before you begin filling them.

Filling Your Vegetable Garden Beds

Of course, you can fill each bed with pre-packaged gardening mix, but you may find that gets a bit pricey. You can also create your own more cost-effective planting medium very easily.

 Build Raised Vegetable Garden BedsStart by adding a thick layer of newspaper or flattened cardboard across the bottom of your raised garden box. This will help prevent weeds and grass from growing up into your planter. Then, add alternating layers of peat moss, compost, aged manure or barn litter, and topsoil.

You can add additional amendments, such as bone meal or a slow-release organic fertilizer, once you decide which plants you want to grow in each bed and you’ve conducted soil tests to determine what nutrients your soil needs to accommodate those plants.

If you prepare and fill your raised beds in the fall, simply cover them with dark plastic to “cook down” all winter.  You will be rewarded with beautiful rich soil in the spring, but it will be quite a bit lower than you remember – so be extra generous when filling the beds.

If you assemble your raised vegetable garden beds in the spring, you can plant right into the layered mixture. Over time, the layers will break down to form a rich soil. In the near term, your plants will do just fine in it as long as you don’t use fresh compost, manure or barn litter, all of which can “burn” your plants.

As you can see, learning how to build raised vegetable garden beds isn’t difficult. If you follow these easy instructions, you can look forward to years of more rewarding and efficient gardening.

Next post will be March. 20,2014, themed, “Planning a Productive and Practical Potager.”

 

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How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps

This is the fourth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps – with Judith Sorg.

If you love to cook, learning how to plant a vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. When you grow your own garden, you can harvest fresh seasonal fruits, veggies and herbs as you need them instead of having to drive miles to the nearest grocery store. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that.

Here’s How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in 4 Easy Steps:

simple garden layout

Example of a simple garden layout
image credit: vegetablegardenplanning.net
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Step #1. Decide What You Want to Plant. This is the fun part. Start by making a list of all the recipes you frequently make. Note which vegetables and herbs you use over and over again, because this will tell you not only what you should plant, but also in what quantity.

Don’t forget to jot down other items your family enjoys, even if you aren’t using them in your cooking currently. Growing your own vegetable garden is a great way to expand your culinary horizons.

This planning phase is a great time to get your children interested in gardening, too. Ask what they might like to grow or make fun suggestions if they are too young to come up with ideas on their own. Pumpkins, ornamental gourds and sunflowers (for their beauty and seeds) are popular choices with kids of all ages. Fast growing plants, such as lettuce and beans, are also great choices for children because they produce noticeable results quickly.

Once you’ve made a list of plants you want to grow, collect mail order catalogs, search online or stop by your favorite garden center to find seeds and transplants. You can learn a lot about what grows well in your area by tapping into these resources, as well.

Step #2:  Pick a Location for Your Vegetable Garden

Just like in real estate, planting a successful vegetable garden is all about location, location, location. If you want your plants to thrive, there are a couple non-negotiable items you will need to provide:

Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps with sunshine1. Sunshine. Pick a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

2. Water.  Make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You will need to water your plants whenever Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, so make sure you have a convenient source of water nearby.

3. Accessibility. Gardens need care, so position your vegetable garden in an area that is convenient to get to with the tools you need to work in it. If you place it too far from the house or garden shed where you keep your tools or in an area difficult to reach with a wheelbarrow, you may find yourself tempted to neglect it.

Make your life easier and plant your garden in the most convenient sunny location you can find.

4. Good Drainage. You may have to do some work for this one, especially if you live in an area with heavy clay or compacted soil. If you find the area you want to plant tends to collect standing water, you will want to build your beds up to protect your plants from overly wet feet.

Step #3: Create Your Garden Beds

Once you’ve identified where you want your garden, you will need to decide where you want the individual beds within it. As you are doing so, keep in mind the orientation of the sun throughout the day because taller plants or those growing on trellises can cast damaging shadows if they aren’t positioned correctly.

To create the individual beds, many old school gardeners swear by the traditional practice of removing heavy layers of sod, then tilling and amending the soil beneath it before planting your vegetable plants.

Although this method will certainly work, you simply don’t have to work that hard.   Instead, you can use the Lasagna Gardening method of building your beds UP instead of digging down to create them. This methods works equally well with raised garden beds or directly on the ground.

compost needed for gardening in four easy stepsTo get started, add flattened cardboard or a thick stack of newspapers on top of the ground and then add alternate layers of peat, topsoil, aged manure or barn litter, organic mulch, yard clippings and/or compost.

You can either prepare these beds months in advance or right before you plant. Either way, the layers will meld together into a beautiful, rich soil for your plants.

For more details on this no-dig gardening method, check out Lasagna Gardening, a New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.

Step #4: Start Planting!

Once your beds are ready, it’s time to start planting!

Before you start digging, you have some choices to make: you can sow seeds directly into the soil, start seeds indoors then harden them off outdoors before adding them to your garden, or plant established transplants you’ve purchased directly into your prepared beds.
Some plants require direct sowing, while others need to be started indoors several weeks before the frost-free date in your area in order to perform well. While you are creating your list of plants you want to grow, make a note of the growing requirements for each so you can give your plants the best chance of survival.

If you decide to follow these four easy steps to plant a vegetable garden, you will be rewarded all season long with an abundant supply of fresh and healthy produce. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you did it with your own two hands.

Next will talk about: “How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds.”

Return for Judiths next garden discussion March. 17, 2014.

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