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Vegetable Gardening 101: The Basics

•Basic necessities of growing •Direct seeding vs. transplanting •Pollination Basics •Routine Maintenance •Pest Management •Vegetable Problems •Growing seedlings at home

Why is water important? • Hydration • Carries soil nutrients from the soil and throughout the plant

How do plants get water? • Through the roots • Temperature and humidity affect transpiration • Must have conducive soil composition for roots to have ample access to water and air.

The Necessities: Water Veggie Gardening 101

Soil amendment • Physical, chemical and biological benefits • Dig into garden bed prior to planting the first crop of the season

Available, free, from St. Louis Composting. • Pick up location at Bell Garden

Compost Veggie Gardening 101

Soil amendment • Significantly increases water retention of soil • Improves soil structure • Dig into garden bed or add as a mulch

How to make it: • Fill large plastic garbage bag with leaves • Damped leaves and seal the bag • Cut slits in the bag, for air flow • Check bag once a month for moisture. Add Water • Finished leaf mold in 6-12 months

Leaf Mold Veggie Gardening 101

Soil Amendment: • Retain moisture, reduce erosion, suppress weeds • Apply as a soil cover

Wood Mulch Veggie Gardening 101

Direct Seeding Cost: $2-3/seed pack, with dozens to hundreds of seeds per pack Transplant shock: some plants cannot handle being transplanted, and must be direct seeded (root crops esp.; beans; peas; cucurbits; okra) Ease of growing: sprinkle or plant seeds and water. No need to harden off plants. Thinning: Seedlings will inevitably need thinning, which is time-consuming Damping off disease: Slow growing plants from seed have a better chance of dying from damping-off disease

Direct Seeding vs. Transplanting Veggie Gardening 101

Transplanting Cost: Expensive. Buying plants may cost $1-4 per plant. Aesthetics: makes the garden look full and beautiful quickly Faster harvests: transplants will have 2-10 weeks earlier maturity date than those grown from seeds Pest control: transplants will be stronger and more able to fight off pests and weeds than slow-growing plants from seed Transplant shock: Regardless of the plant, careful consideration of outdoor conditions and plant handling will dictate if plant lives after transplanting Hardening-off: Transplants need extra time to acclimate to outside conditions, and may need to be stored indoors briefly

Direct Seeding Techniques Individual Divot • Depth and spacing • Tatsoi, mizuna, other brassicas (plants with large, easy to handle seeds) • Use finger or tool to create divots -> drop 2 seeds in each hole -> cover and water


• • •

Depth and spacing Root crops: carrots, beets, radish, etc. Use rake or stick to create multiple trenches along bed -> drop individual seeds 1-2 inches apart -> cover and water


• •

Plants with tiny seeds (too small to worry about spacing) Lettuce Moisten soil -> spread seeds evenly -> water in

Direct Seeding Strategies Veggie Gardening 101

Reading Seed Packets Veggie Gardening 101

60 days until maturity or harvestable size Warm season crop=Tender plant Will be killed by temperatures below freezing

Reading Seed Packets Veggie Gardening 101

65-75 days until maturity or harvestable size Cool season crop=Hardy plant Will not be killed by temperatures at or below freezing (32 degrees)

Reading Seed Packets Veggie Gardening 101

Bean, bush, snap




Corn, sweet


Garlic, from cloves


New Zealand spinach




Bean, bush, lima

Very Tender



Onion, from seed



Very Tender

Onion, from plants or sets



Very Tender




Very tender




Very tender




Very tender






Very tender



Squash, summer

Very Tender



Squash, winter

Very Tender



Sweet potato

Very Tender






Very Tender

Lettuce, leaf



Very Tender









Radish, spring


Radish, winter




Vegetable Hardiness Veggie Gardening 101


Last Frost Date Veggie Gardening 101


First Frost Date Veggie Gardening 101

Reading Seed Packets Veggie Gardening 101

Time: 7-10 days of acclimation before planting in the ground Process: • 2-3 days of shade during the daylight hours only; decrease watering • 2-3 days of sunny conditions during the day only • 2-3 days of all day and night conditions, preferably still protected by winds and precipitation (under row covers or cloches; in cold frames; under a deck or other structure) • Frost: carefully watch weather forecasts; any freezing temperatures will kill tender seedlings and may damage hardy ones • When planting: Provide favorable conditions after planting, such as screening from hot, direct sunlight, intense precipitation, or cold temperatures • •

Harden Off Seedlings Veggie Gardening 101

Transplant on a day that will be cloudy and cool. • Dig a hole as deep as the plant is currently growing and a bit wider. Add some water if the weather is dry or hot. • Carefully remove plants from pots, taking care not to shock roots. Hold by the leaves rather than roots or stems. Wrap your hand around the plant and gently turn the plant over. • Place plant in the pre-dug hole, cover gently with crumbly dirt and/or compost. • Add a diluted fertilizer such as fish emulsion to the transplant. Water in the plant and monitor closely over the next few days. • If weather will be hot, place a window screen or other shade device over plants. • When transplanting tomatoes, prune all leaves halfway or more up stem and plant deeply. •

Transplanting Seedlings Veggie Gardening 101

Pollination: transfer of pollen grains from male flower part to female flower part (plant sex)

Image copyright 2009, David L. Green

Tomatoes (Eggplant; Pepper): “self-fertile� (but could use the help)

Cucurbits (cucumber; squash; melon; pumpkin; zucchini): insect-pollinated

Pollination Basics Veggie Gardening 101

Corn: wind-pollinated

Manual Pollination Basics Veggie Gardening 101

Spring: cultivate only when soil is ready; should be moist and crumbly, not cold and soaking wet

Maintenance: Soil Prep Veggie Gardening 101

Fall/Winter: add compost and other soil amendments and leave fallow or grow cover crop (annual rye)

Choose cloudy or early part of day Water plants before thinning • Determine proper spacing of plants • Select healthiest and most vigorous • Pull or clip off close to soil • Use scissors if small • Transplant if possible • Eat if possible • Give saved seedlings another dose of water to help recuperate roots and stressed plants • •

Maintenance: Thinning Veggie Gardening 101

Maintenance: Thinning Veggie Gardening 101

How much is one inch of water?

Water evaporates more when temperatures are high and/or humidity is low. Too much water during other conditions may cause disease and plant rot. • When days are bright and clear, plants will need more water. • Windy and dry conditions call for more water. • Water according to the plant’s needs. Some require different amounts of water at different stages of the plant’s life cycle. • Wilted plants may not always need water. If plants are wilting during a hot afternoon, it may not be cause for alarm. However, plants wilting in the morning call for a good watering. • When watering, soak the soil thoroughly. Light daily sprays will do more harm than good. After watering, the soil should be moist about 6 inches deep. Check to be sure! •

Maintenance: Water Veggie Gardening 101

Maintenance: Weeding Veggie Gardening 101

Lamb’s Quarters

Shepherd’s Purse


Wood Sorrel (edible)

Maintenance: Weeding Veggie Gardening 101



Nut Grass


Important to harvest when the crop is ready… •

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• •

• •

• •

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Beans: snap easily; seeds beginning to form Beets: tops ½” at soil Broccoli: before unopened flowers turn yellow Cabbage: head feels solid Carrots: pull away soil from tops, check at ½” Cauliflower: head is full Corn: squeeze a few kernels and see if it looks milky Cucumber: useable size and consistently; don’t let them get big Eggplant: when small 4-6” Garlic: Tops fall over and brown Leeks: 1” in diameter Lettuce: continuous outer leaves; cut 1” above soil and more may sprout

Maintenance: Harvesting Veggie Gardening 101

Onions: tops brown and fall over; harvest early for green onions Peas: taste to see if sweet; plump but not overplump Potatoes: “new” potatoes at flowering; full size once foliage dies back Winter squash (incl. pumpkins): Mature color; hard rind (poke w/fingernail); dried stem Radish: ½”-1” tops; greens also delicious Turnips: 1-2” tops at soil; greens also tasty Spinach: early to avoid bolting; cut at soil; in fall allow frost to sweeten leaves Summer squash (incl. zucchini): as fast as you can! Watermelon: yellow spot on bottom; dull thump of finger; dried curlicue

Develop a Strategy‌Look for Signs

Organic Pest Management Veggie Gardening 101

Is it a fungus, insects, a virus infecting one plant‌

‌or is half of your garden dead?

Organic Pest Management Veggie Gardening 101


Cultural: broad strategies and preventative measures


Physical: controls to exclude or remove the problem


Biological: using living organisms to cure the problem


Chemical: organic sprays, compounds, and botanical controls

Organic Pest Management Veggie Gardening 101

Pest Management: Resistance Veggie Gardening 101

Rotation by Family as the Best Pest Management Strategy

Alabama Cooperative Extension Service

Pest Management: Crop Rotation Veggie Gardening 101

Pest Management: Cultural Veggie Gardening 101

Pest Emergence Timetable Managing Insects in the Home Vegetable Garden by J. A. Wyman & P. J. Pellitteri

Veggie Gardening 101

Larger insects (also water sprays and shaking)

Seedling Collars Cutworms

Aluminum mulch Aphids, leafhoppers, and thrips

Pest Management: Physical Veggie Gardening 101

Floating Row Covers Flying and crawling insects such as squash vine borer, aphids, flea beetles, leafhoppers, caterpillars, etc.

Japanese Beetle Traps Be careful of these: keep downwind from plants and empty often

Sticky Yellow Traps Aphids, carrot rust flies, cucumber beetles, cabbageworms, thrips, whiteflies


Tomato hornworm

Flea Beetle


Army cutworm

Veggie Gardening 101

Squash bugs

Squash vine borer

Cucumber beetles: striped and spotted

Cabbage looper

Japanese Beetle

Aphid Midge

Predatory Beetle

Trichogramma wasps

Predatory Mite

Beneficial Insects Veggie Gardening 101

Green Lacewing

Lady Beetle

Encourage Beneficial Insects • Food: pollen, nectar, and insects • Plant herbs of the carrot family (caraway, dill, fennel, lovage, and parsley), the mint family (catnip, hyssop, and lemon balm), daisies (coneflower, daisies, and yarrow) and other herbs such as rosemary and thyme. Cover crops such as buckwheat, alfalfa, and clover work well. • Water: during drought provide small pools of water with rocks • Shelter • Provide some spots around the garden as permanent plantings • Use mulches and compost (although this may also harbor pests) • Limit excessive tilling, as this also disrupts beneficials • Environment • Take care not to spray broad-spectrum pesticides • Leave some pests for the beneficials to feed on

Beneficial Insects Veggie Gardening 101

Chemical: organic sprays, compounds, and botanical controls •Use as a last resort if all other strategies have failed •Practices to consider: •Apply only during calm weather •Harvest before spraying (BT ok to spray up to harvest) •Wear clothing that covers skin and wear a dust mask or respirator •Mix only as much as needed •Spray when beneficial insects are inactive. Use a row cover to separate from beneficials •Apply during early morning or evening •Thoroughly apply to both sides of leaves and in mulch •Always read the label!

Pest Management: Chemical Veggie Gardening 101

Pyrethrum Broad-spectrum Cabbageworms, beetles, aphids, leaf miners, leafhoppers mealybugs, whiteflies, squash bugs. Will kill lady beetles but not bees.

Insecticidal Soap Controls soft-bodied insects Aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, mites, fleas, and thrips.

Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) var. kurstaki (worms, caterpillars, loopers) Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) var. sandiego or tennebrionis (Colorado potato beetle)

Pest Management: Chemical Veggie Gardening 101

Neem Aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, leafminers, loopers, cucumber beetles, Colorado potato beetles, corn earworms, and flea beetles

Powdery Mildew


Common Problems Veggie Gardening 101

Blossom End Rot

Mosaic Viruses

Verticillum Wilt

Fusarium Wilt

Bacterial Wilt Common Blight/Fuscuous Blight

Potassium Deficiency

Blossom Drop Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Common Problems Veggie Gardening 101

Potting Mix

Light: 12-16 hours

Plastic Wrap: optional; creates humid conditions like a greenhouse

Growing Seedlings Veggie Gardening 101

Containers: Drainage holes

Bottom Heat: optional

Growing Seedlings: Containers Veggie Gardening 101

Fluffy, bulking agent with water-wicking and air-holding capacity

Microorganisms, nutrients, water-holding capacity


Seedling Mix Veggie Gardening 101

Increase air space and water drainage


No Outside Soil


Typical home setup

Growing Seedlings Veggie Gardening 101

Damping-off Disease

Leggy Seedlings

Keep soils moist, but not soaking wet  At first sight of germination, get Use well-drained planting media (less soil; more peat, coir, thee to strong, close light perlite, etc. )  Fluorescent bulbs or long hours of Keep soil and seedlings at proper germination temperature sunny window exposure (difficult in Plant seeds at appropriate depths (surface to ½”) winter) Using sterile or pasteurized germination mix Spread perlite or sphagnum moss on the surface to increase water absorption Do not soak plants overnight. Water from the bottom. Fill containers near the brim with potting mix. This will allow air to flow across the medium and keep fungus problems at bay. Run a fan on low to circulate air around the seedlings  Let biodegradable pots dry somewhat When transplanting, plant those most vigorous and healthy (white roots, sturdy stems, good color) and at the proper depths

Growing Seedlings Veggie Gardening 101

Happy Gardening!

Garden Summit  

Gardening 101

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