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Gardening-blog_featured

Jenny Tuckey owns EverGood Farm along with her husband Brendan and 2 year old son Emmett.  Together they have over 10 years experience growing organic vegetables and fruits, which are sold locally through their CSA and Farmers Markets.  They love sharing their knowledge about gardening, leading a healthier lifestyle through eating locally, and promoting a community around a love of food!  Stay tuned for more posts from Jenny about gardening and veggie prep tips throughout the seasons.

But today, here are some GREAT tips for starting your own garden.  Get excited! {ps- we love bullet points – thanks Jenny!}

General Tips

  • If this is your first time gardening, start small.  There is nothing more disappointing than not being able to keep up and losing your crops to bugs, weeds, or time.  Think quality not quantity.
  • If you think you need a fence to keep out deer, rodents, or other critters, put one up.  It’s heartbreaking to find all your hard work devoured by a hungry animal in one night.
  • Grow the things you and your family love to eat, and not novelty crops.  I can’t stress this enough.
  • If your space is small stay away from vegetables that are in the ground all season that only yields one or two harvests.  Think cauliflower and broccoli.

Laying the Groundwork-Preparing Your Garden 

Ideally if you knew you wanted a garden this year, you would have dug it and prepared it last fall.  I know I don’t always plan that well so if you didn’t either, here are some tips. This is the most typical way to build a garden, but there are tons of other ways too!

Existing Garden

  • Work 1-2 inches of compost into top layer of soil.
  • Add more if you think you have low soil fertility.
  • The best compost sources are 1. your own 2. a local farm or composting company 3. big box stores and garden centers.

New Garden

  • Start tilling as soon as your soil is thawed and can be worked.
  • Check out double digging or purchase a small broad fork to loosen the soil.
  • Till/rake your garden until you have nice smooth soil.
  • If you have time, let the soil rest and allow some weeds to germinate. Then till or hoe again to knock down the weeds (you can do this a few times). It will really help your weed control later.
  • Try to remove as many of the perennial weeds and grasses as possible. The best way is to let the garden “cook” under a black tarp for a few weeks (the weeds will germinate but will die). If you don’t have time pull as many out by hand as possible! (you’ll thank me later for this one!)

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Raised Beds

  • Are a fantastic way to garden for many reasons, one of them being the soil warms up faster.
  • Can be easily built from lumber, or the wide range of kits for sale (both online and at local stores).
  • Stay away from treated timber, and railroad ties as they are both treated with arsenic, which will definitely leach into your soil. You best type of wood to use is cedar.
  • I’d recommend laying thick landscape fabric down especially if your beds will be on lawn. This will keep those weeds from growing up.
  • You can make your beds as long as you want, but make sure you can reach the middle of the bed from either side to avoid walking and compacting the soil.
  • Add in high quality soil and compost depending on your soil.

Transplants and Seeds

  • Some seeds do not “transplant” well so you will put them directly into the ground when your soil is warm enough, this is true with something like carrots.  Make sure to check the seed packet for optimum germinating temperature and spacing.
  • Transplants are seeds that have sprouted, also called seedlings, and a great way to get a jump on the season and will also give you a head start on weeds.
  • You can start your own transplants from seed (more on this in the winter  edition) or buy transplants.  You will get more choice in varieties if you grow your own, but there are many places out there selling transplants.  Some even sell organically grown ones (which we recommend).
  • Check for transplants first at your farmers market and local farms, natural food stores, online, and finally your big box stores.

Weeding and Insects

Weeds

  • Spring is a lovely time of growth on the farm, but our hardest in regards to weeds and insects.  Everything is racing to get started and reproduce!
  • If we keep on top of our weeds it puts us in a much better place for the season and years to come.
  • We hardly ever do the bent-over hands and knees weeding.  We actually like weeding…when it’s easy.  Our secret?  Weed before you see a problem, even before you see any weeds germinating.  Sounds silly right?  Those little weeds are germinating and growing and before you know it will be huge with deep roots.
  • Go through quickly with a stirrup hoe, or three toothed cultivator after germination once/week for 2-3 weeks when the plant should have a good root hold and maybe some leaves to shade those weeds out.
  • Invest in good tools, not only will they last but they will be more likely to “fit” your body. We’ve had a lot of luck with tools from Johnny’s Seeds, but there are many others out there too.

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Insects

  • We don’t do much for insects, but don’t have a huge problem, because our soil and plants are healthy.
  • Spring is our hardest time, and we find once that passes we may have lost a few crops, but everything usually works out.  (Tip: always plant a little extra than you need if you have the space)
  • We don’t spray anything as we don’t want to harm the beneficial  insects, but there are a lot of gentle “home remedies” out there which do work if you reapply often.
  • Our biggest “pests” are mice, aphids, and potato beetles.  You best bet against aphids if they get bad are to go on a lady bug hunt, or order them online (gardeningzone.com). Potato beetles we hand pick off the plant and we also plant our potatoes June 1st to avoid the first big flush of beetles.
  • The same applies to plants as does our bodies “if you keep them healthy they will be better able to withstand insects, disease, and stress”

Succession Planting 101

This is a very important topic for those who want to get the maximum yields from their gardens.  Succession planting ensures we will always have a supply of most of our crops. Depending on the crop, it gets planted/seeded every week to every few weeks.  Once a crop is finished, pull it out, or till it in and cover the soil with a black tarp to help it to decompose faster.  In a few days to a week you should be able to reapply more compost and plant a new crop (from another vegetable family ideally). The idea is to always have something growing in your soil to get the most use from your space.

Veggies to seed directly in the the ground: 

  • carrots
  • salad mix and baby greens
  • peas
  • beans
  • radishes
  • turnips
  • beets

Succession planting-our tips

  • Salad mix/baby greens/spinach-seed every 2-3 weeks in the spring and fall, and every 1-2 weeks in the summer (some of you with very hot summers may not be able to keep these growing).
  • Radishes-every week (may not grow well in the summer if it’s hot where you live).
  • Scallions-every 2-3 weeks.
  • Carrots and beets-every 3 weeks.
  • Summer Squash, zucchini, and cucs- you may want to plant 2-3 times in the season depending on your climate and how much you love cucumbers and squash!

Growing in Pots

  • Many vegetables can be adapted to grow in pots.
  • Look for varieties that say “compact” habit, or “grows well in pots.”
  • It’s important to make sure they are well fertilized and getting plenty of sun.

The best vegetables to grow in pots

  • Tomatoes-all types but there are some “patio” varieties that do especially well in pots.
  • Cucumber- you can vine these up a pole or fence.
  • Poll Beans and peas-will vine up like a cucumber.
  • Strawberries-look for those varieties suited to growing in pots.
  • All herbs do well in pots, but cilantro and dill you will have to keep replanting before they flower so they may be better suited to the garden.
  • Peppers and Eggplant-make sure the pot is large enough to support the root growth.
  • Potatoes-all types-check out growing potatoes in containers online.

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Thanks everyone for reading, we hope you found some new tips. For more ideas on gardening  and the farm lifestyle check out our blog and Pinterest page!  Coming up in the summer edition will be:  keeping your garden healthy, earthworms, beneficial insects, crop rotation and more.

Happy Gardening from your farmer Jenny.

Helpful Websites

johnnyseeds.com

territorialseed.com

seedsavers.org