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Planning the Vegetable Garden

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Last year this time we were already enjoying well above normal temperatures, well ahead of schedule. This year we are for the most part looking at a more normal spring planting season for our vegetable garden. Although most of us don't, we could be planning for at least two complete gardens in our yards. Our usual efforts combine a bit of spring and summer garden together and then give up the garden about the time school starts again in the fall.

With just a bit of planning and a willingness to start earlier, we could be harvesting our spring garden crops as we plant for the summer and by mid-summer begin to plant for the fall garden. Even a small 10X10 or 10X12 foot garden can provide fresh vegetables for table use season long for a family of four.

Vegetables can be sorted into 4 groups, depending on how cold tolerant they are. Very hardy vegetables will be set out in the garden as seeds, transplants or underground roots, crowns or tubers. Examples of hardy seeds are spinach, lettuce, and pea and onion seed. Transplants include asparagus (crowns), onion sets, Irish potato (tubers) and cabbage transplants. All of these will make it out into the garden about 4 weeks before our average frost fee date. That date for our area can be from late April through May 5th or so. We are able to do this because either the seed is tolerate of the very cold soils or the underground plant parts are being protected from the very cold air temperatures.

The frost tolerate group is next and gets set out or seeds sown two to three weeks after we pass that freeze date, but with a good chance of a frost. More of our root crops can be put in like carrot, beet, and radish. It is then time for planting cauliflower and herb transplants.


So far we have planted the garden twice and we are just getting to that frost free date. The third grouping is called our tender vegetables and really does not like frosty weather very much. Examples of vegetables from seed are snap beans, summer squash and tomatoes as a transplant. We might have to protect the tomato on a chilly night, but the seeds are ok and by the time they germinate, we have even warmer weather. The final group of vegetables is those that cannot tolerate even a chilly night without suffering. These are known as the warm loving group. The rest of our vine crops like cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash and watermelon are in this group. Okra and lima beans could be planted as well. Transplants of eggplant and peppers are now ready to be planted as well.

By the time you are planting those later vegetables from seed or transplants, you should be harvesting the early vegetables, leaving room for more successive plantings of your favorites like snap beans or fall cabbage from fresh transplants. By mid-June and through even early August you can begin to repeat those early crops of radish, spinach and leaf lettuce.

So plan ahead, only plant what you can easily harvest and use on a regular or weekly basis. Consider sowing short rows several days apart for continued harvest and try mixing radishes and carrot seed in the same row. The radish mark the row, are harvested long before the carrots are ready and you have gotten twice the yield out the same space.

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