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Gardening Tips

Beet Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1⁄4"-1⁄2"
Row Spacing: 12"
Seed Spacing: 1"
Days to Germination: 6-12 days
Germination Temperature: 45°-75°F

Beets grow from compound seeds, which may produce several seedlings. Enhance germination by soaking the Beet seeds for an hour in bathtubwarm water. Planting Beets too early may cause stunting and bolting (going to seed), so wait until the soil has warmed to at least 45°F and there is no chance of hard frost. Beets prefer evenly moist, moderately fertile soil. Keep the Beet bed wellweeded, carefully thinning to 3" between plants when seedlings are about 2" tall. Baby Beets make the most choice eating. Harvest them on the smaller side to enjoy their sweet taste and smooth texture. (Or, harvest a bit larger for winter storage.) Enjoy chilled, with goat cheese, black olives and dried cranberries over baby greens with a raspberry vinaigrette. Yum. Or roast them whole with other root vegetables for hearty winter dinners. Beet greens are delicious too when steamed and dressed with butter and lemon juice.

Tips for Harvesting and Storing Root Vegetables

Baby Beets
If you’re planning to serve your tender baby Beets whole and unpeeled, try hilling the soil around their shoulders as they grow. This will keep the skin from hardening over and losing its smooth, red appearance.

Beet Geometry Saves Time
Beets do long service in the garden, from the first snippets of spring greens to rich, flavorful storage beets in winter. But their “seeds” are actually pods containing multiple seeds, so rows must be laboriously thinned. Turn that trait into a time-saver by planting multi-plant blocks. Using soil blocks or plug trays, sow two seeds in each block. This will produce four or five seedlings per block. Plant the blocks 10" apart in rows 12" apart. They will grow fine in clusters, and you’ll have plenty of space in between for cultivating in two directions~much easier than weeding a crowded row. The same trick works for Onion seedlings, which are also difficult to weed. Plant them in groups of four and they will push themselves apart a bit as they grow.

Late Great Beets
Storage Beets need to be planted early in the season to give them plenty of time to make full size. But did you know you could start a second crop of smaller beets just for fresh fall eating? Sow these six weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. You’ll be rewarded with tender, tasty Beets that you can harvest all the way up to the first hard freeze. They’re great steamed in a covered pan with butter or even sliced raw in salads. And the tender greens are delicious too. The cool weather keeps them mild and fresh tasting.

Shade Tolerance

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties
Cucumber Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1"
Row Spacing: 6”
Seed Spacing: 4”
Days to Germination: 5-10 days
Germination Temperature: 60°-70°F

Cucumbers thrive in heat. Start transplants indoors 4 weeks before the soil is at least 60°F (the last expected frost date), planting 3 seeds per 4" pot or 1 seed per peat pot in sterile starter mix. Provide heat, light, ventilation and good drainage. At the seedling stage, Cucumbers are vulnerable so keep soil lightly moist but not wet. When third true leaf is expanding, transplant out carefully. Cucumbers may be direct-sown 1 to 2 weeks after the danger of frost has passed to a sunny, well-draining spot: sow 6 seeds per hill; then thin to the strongest 3 plants. Cukes need regular watering and prefer a rich garden bed; fertilize prior to planting and again as needed. Support with large tomato cages, stakes or netting. Harvest cukes when small, well before they set seed. ‘Cornichon’ varieties should be harvested when they are the size of your little finger.

String Theory for Cucumbers
If you have plenty of space in your garden it’s fine to let Cucumbers sprawl on the ground. But in today’s small, often shaded yards, gardeners must make the most of every sunny foot of row. That’s where trellising comes in. A Cucumber support need not be an elaborate structure. A simple but sturdy frame will do fine, with strings dangling from an overhead bar. Tie the bottom end of each string to a cuke plant in a loose knot, then wind the vine around the string as it grows. Train to one stem, by pruning out all side shoots up to 3’, then letting one fruit form at each leaf node. When the vine reaches the top, train it over the bar, then allow two stems to come down. You’ll get a huge harvest from just one row. Use string that is at least 2-ply, so it won’t break. If it’s untreated, you can put all the vines on the compost pile at summer’s end, strings and all.

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties
Eggplant Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1/4"
Row Spacing: 18”-24”
Plant Spacing: 12”-18”
Days to Germination: 7-12 days
Germination Temperature: 70°-90°F

This Nightshade family member just loves the heat! To speed germination, soak the seed in warm water for an hour, then sow sparingly in flats or pots in sterilized seed starting mix. Provide light, heat and ventilation: bottom heat hastens germination. Two weeks after emergence (or when 2" tall), replant individual seedlings into 4" pots. Use richer-thanaverage soil mix and fertilize seedlings weekly. Eggplants need 8 to 10 weeks to achieve sufficient size to be tranplanted outdoors. Prepare your Eggplant bed in a hot spot with good drainage, adding lots of compost and/or well-rotted manure. Plant out when soil and air temperatures have thoroughly warmed. Create additional warmth (especially at night) if temperatures are expected to drop below 55°F by covering plants with cloches or other coverings to retain heat. Harvest Eggplants when the skin is thin and shiny, using a sharp blade.

An Ounce of Prevention
Young eggplant seedlings have little leaf surface to spare, and are especially vulnerable to flea beetle predation. Covering the bed with lightweight floating row covers as soon as you set out the plants will usually help.

Egging on Eggplant
Of all the nightshade family (Eggplant, Tomato, Pepper or Potato), Eggplant is the one that needs the most heat to produce an abundant harvest. If your climate is a chilly one, laying down black plastic on the soil will help the plants to set and ripen fruit. Just cut an "X" where each little transplant needs to go and set it in. If you use one of the "IRT" (infra-red transmitting) plastics, you'll speed progress even more.

Ornamental Eggplant
Eggplants are beautiful to look at, with their large, dark-veined leaves and glossy fruits, especially when you grow a variety of colors--pink, red, white, green or the classic deep purple. Why not showcase them in planters? Since the soil in containers warms up faster, they’ll bear sooner than your in-ground plants, and if raised up off the ground, may escape early assaults by flea beetles as well. Try one or two in a whisky barrel, surrounded with curly parsley, dusty miller, and pink-flowered scented geraniums for a romantic look. Or blazing French Marigolds for the Mardi Gras effect.

Soul-Satisfying Eggplant

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Cooking Tips:
Frying Eggplant Slices--A Better Way
Salting slices of Eggplants and letting the liquid drain out of them is a good way to make them less spongy, so that they absorb less oil when frying. It is also said to draw out bitterness, though personally I don’t find well-grown eggplants especially bitter tasting. I salt one side and let them rest on paper towels, salted side down, for 20 minutes or so, then do the same for the other side. After that I rinse them under the tap, removing the salt and squeezing the slices hard. Then I fry them lightly in olive oil. I find that the water they do retain makes them cook beautifully, and the oil they absorb is just a light, flavorful coating.

Oil Crisis
There are many versions of the story behind Imam Bayildi, a Turkish Eggplant dish which translates as “the priest fainted”. In my favorite, the Eggplant soaked up so much oil that it consumed the Imam’s wife’s dowry, which consisted of great jugs of olive oil. Anyone who has fried Eggplant would find this quite plausible. The usual remedy is to salt Eggplant slices heavily before frying them and let them sit a while. This draws out water and somewhat reduces their porosity. I also squeeze them firmly as I rinse off the salt, so that they are flattened. They fry beautifully and soak up much less oil.
Ground Cherry Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1/2"
Row Spacing: 36”
Plant Spacing: 24”-30”
Days to Germination: 6-15 days
Germination Temperature: 70°-85°F

These compact, sprawling plants produce fruits, encased in papery husks, that are of an indescribable flavor that is a mix of Cherry Tomato, Pineapple and Grape. Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. Sow the seeds 1/2" deep and keep the soil warm and consistently moist. They may take their time germinating, but will grow steadily once they do. Once all danger of frost has passed, harden off the seedlings by slowly introducing them to the outdoors over the span of a week, and then plant them out in rows, 2-3' apart. While the plants prefer full sun, they will tolerate just a bit of shade. Mulch the plants, fertilize occasionally and keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season to ensure fruit set, tapering off as the fruits begin to ripen. When the fruits begin falling from the plant, they are ready to harvest.
Kale Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: ¼”-1/2"
Row Spacing: 18”-24”
Seed Spacing: 2”-4”
Days to Germination: 5-10 days
Germination Temperature: 45°-75°F

This leafy member of the Brassica family prefers cool weather for optimal growth. Start Kale in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked or in late summer for fall and winter harvest. You can grow Kale in partial shade as long as it gets at least 4 hours of mid-day sunlight. When growing as individuals, thin to 12" to 16" apart. Or, broadcast seed to harvest in the “cut and come again” method. Kale prefers well-draining, moderately fertile soil amended with compost and/or wellrotted manure. Seedlings thrive in evenly moist soil and enjoy occasional supplemental feedings of organic fertilizer. Hardy and pest-resistant, Kale becomes more tender and sweet after being kissed by frost. Harvest large leaves by cutting them at the base, leaving the plant to keep producing. Harvest as “cut and come again” greens when plants reach a height between 3" to 6".

A Boost For Brassicas
Kale and other leafy Brassica crops such as Cabbage, Broccoli, Arugula and Tatsoi all benefit from an extra dose of nitrogen. Forgo the chemical sources and look for what nature has put together for you. Aflalfa meal, blood meal, crab meal, soybean meal and cottonseed meal - these are all great nitrogen sources. The best time to give the crops their dose of "Vitamin N" is in early spring, at planting time. Follow the directions on the bag for the correct amount and work the product into the top 3" to 4" of soil. Then, put in your transplants or seeds and water thoroughly. Healthy, dark green leaves will be your report card and your reward.

Hail to the Hardy Greens
Most garden greens can hardly wait for cool weather to come. They perk up and sweeten up as the mugginess of August fades away. Crops such as Spinach, Arugula, Claytonia and Mâche, if protected by a cold frame or simple unheated greenhouse, survive the winter in cold climates, to be cut and re-cut for a continuous harvest. Sow them in September in the north, October in warmer parts of the country. They do best hunkering down, close to the earth. Lettuce and Endive over-winter best when cut at baby leaf size rather than full-sized heads.

Kale, Collards and Brussels Sprouts fare better if grown to full size and left outdoors to soldier on as long as they can, since they do not re-grow if cut back in winter. We can often harvest them for our Christmas table, even in snowy Maine.

Everyone's Delicious Darling: Kale

Shade Tolerance
Sweet Corn Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1"-1 1⁄2"
Row Spacing: 24"-30”
Seed Spacing: 3"-4”
Days to Germination: 4-14 days
Germination Temperature: 60°-80°F

Direct-sow Corn when the soil is reliably warm, above 60°F, well after the last spring frost date. Prepare a well-draining area with rich soil in full sunlight. Amend the soil as necessary with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure. Corn is pollinated by the wind, so grow a minimum of 4 rows, even if they are short rows, to ensure good pollination. If the weather gets wet and cold, you might want to re-seed just to be safe since Corn has a long maturation cycle. After thinning to 10" to 12" between the plants, water regularly and mulch with hay or straw to deter weeds and retain ground moisture. Corn is particularly hungry for nitrogen: feed regularly as needed.Harvest when the silk begins to turn brown and a kernel, pinched with your fingernail, releases its sweet,milky liquid.Harvest shortly before cooking by holding the stalk and twisting the ears off at their bases.

Note: Try growing Corn in the ancient “Three Sisters”method: in hills spaced 5' apart, sow 3 seeds in the center of each hill. Sow 6 Pole Bean seeds adjacent to the Corn seeds and then sow Pumpkin or Winter Squash seed in the valleys between the hills. The Beans will scramble up the Corn and the Squash will ramble on the ground, creating a living mulch.

Winning the Corn Olympics
Corn is easily grown by sowing it directly into the ground. This is the simplest, most logical way to grow Corn. But if you're in a race to be the first in your neighborhood with Sweet Corn, try this trick. Since Corn needs a much warmer temperature to germinate than it does to grow, start the seeds indoors and then transplant them into the garden the minute you see the Sprouts emerge. This must be done immediately, since the little seedlings grow quickly and can easily become potbound.

Space Saver
In July or August, after the Corn crop is well on its way toward harvest time, set out some Broccoli transplants in between the rows. The shade cast by the cornstalks will help keep the Broccoli from going to seed in hot weather. After the Corn has been picked, cut the stalks down and turn the space over to the Broccoli, which will bear a nice fall crop. A Bean crop would work also, but choose a bush variety. Vining Beans will climb all over the Corn plants and fell them like timber.

Cooking Tip: Uncanny Creamed Corn
Why do most people think creamed Corn always comes in a can? You’ll never touch that sweet, gummy stuff again after you’ve tried creaming fresh Corn. Just cut the kernels off the cob and simmer them in cream until the kernels are cooked and the cream has reduced and thickened. No sugar needed!
Winged Bean Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1"
Row Spacing: 3" - 4"
Seed Spacing: 12" - 24"
Days to Germination: 6-10 days
Germination Temperature: 60°-80°F

All parts of this Asian are edible! The small pods are wonderful grilled and sautéed. Larger pods yield flavorful beans that can be dried for storage. The nutrient-rich leaves can be eaten fresh or cooked like spinach, and the delicate, pale blue flowers are edible too. Even the roots are delicious, and have more protein than both potatoes and yams.

A tropical vine, Winged Bean is grown as an annual in northern climates, where it grows like a pole bean up to 12' tall. Seeds can be a challenge to germinate. Nick each seed and soak them in warm water for 24-48 hours, changing the water 2-3 times a day, before sowing outdoors after all danger of frost has passed in spring. Choose the hottest, sunniest spot in your garden and sow the seeds up to 1" deep and 1-2' apart in trellised rows spaced 3-4' apart. In colder zones, starting seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date may increase the success of pod formation before frost in fall. Harden off the seedlings by slowly introducing them to the outdoors over the span of a week, and then transplant out into the garden after the last frost date. Fertilize twice: once when the plants are young and again when pods begin to form.
A New Use for Old Leaves
Brassicas such as Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage benefit from a nitrogen boost. An excellent way to provide this—and trace minerals as well—is to till or fork some autumn leaves into the bed, the fall before planting. If the leaves have been composted for a year or two, so much the better.

A Swish in Time
The little green worms on your Broccoli are harmless--but not the most appetizing garnish. After picking, soak the heads for 10 minutes in a sink full of heavily salted water, then swish the Broccoli before removing it. The worms, killed by the salt, will fall to the bottom.

Coaxing Up Carrots
Carrots, like Parsley, Dill and other Umbelliferae, can be difficult to germinate when direct-sown outdoors. To speed things up, be sure you keep the seed bed continually moist until the sprouts emerge.

Carrot Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1⁄4"
Row Spacing: 12"
Seed Spacing: 1"-2"
Days to Germination: 14-21 days
Germination Temperature: 45°-85°F

Carrots grow best in moderately fertile, sandy and well-draining soil. Sow seed thinly in rows when the soil has warmed to 45°F, usually as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Or, mix the seed with fine sand for easier seed distribution. Barely cover with fine soil, tamp down lightly and water with a fine spray. Your challenge: to keep the seed in place while keeping the surface soil from drying and crusting!

Until seeds germinate, keep the soil moist with frequent, light water sprinklings. The first thinning should be 1" to 2" apart. Later on, thin as desired depending on the variety. Frequent finicky weeding and watering until the seedlings take hold will pay off in a juicy, luscious Carrot crop. Carrots are at their sweetest when small, so harvest by gently pulling them out while holding the base of the greens.

Tips for Harvesting and Storing Root Vegetables

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties
Gardening Tips: Hail to the Hardy Greens
Most garden greens can hardly wait for cool weather to come. They perk up and sweeten up as the mugginess of August fades away. Crops such as Spinach, Arugula, Claytonia and Mâche, if protected by a cold frame or simple unheated greenhouse, survive the winter in cold climates, to be cut and re-cut for a continuous harvest. Sow them in September in the north, October in warmer parts of the country. They do best hunkering down, close to the earth. Lettuce and Endive over-winter best when cut at baby leaf size rather than full-sized heads.

Kale, Collards and Brussels Sprouts fare better if grown to full size and left outdoors to soldier on as long as they can, since they do not re-grow if cut back in winter. We can often harvest them for our Christmas table, even in snowy Maine.

Let It Bloom
Nothing goes to seed quite as relentlessly as Broccoli. You are, after all, growing heads of tasty green buds, and a bud is determined to become a flower unless cool weather slows it down. One tries to keep up with the harvesting—to encourage the production of new bud-laden shoots—and to snip off flowering stalks promptly. After a certain point, the edible stalks diminish and soon the plant is a riot of yellow blooms. Tidy gardeners then rip the plants out and compost them. We like to leave some for the bees, who are grateful for this superior nectar source.

Cauliflower Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1⁄4" - 1/2"
Row Spacing: 18" - 24"
Plant Spacing: 12"
Days to Germination: 5-12 days
Germination Temperature: 70°-75°F

Cauliflower should be grown as transplants. Six to 8 weeks prior to setting outside, place a few seeds in 4" pots in sterile seed mix. Place pots in a warm spot with good air ventilation, strong sunlight and even moisture.When 3 true leaves emerge, move to individual containers, feeding lightly. Gradually accustom seedlings to the outdoors when the danger of heavy frost has passed. Plant out only after temperatures have reached 60°F, but before they have reached 80°F.

Cauliflower is a fairly heavy feeder: amend the soil by adding well-rotted manure and/or compost. Work in organic fertilizer under each transplant and water well. To protect the color of the Cauliflower head, fold over one of the big leaves or tie leaves together gently. Harvest Cauliflower using a sharp blade when head is fully colored and tight. Practice the usual rotation for the Brassica family.

Crazy for Cauliflower

Shade Tolerance

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Fool Proofing Artichokes
The part of the Artichoke that we eat is actually the flower bud—picked before it bursts into fuzzy, brilliant purple blooms. In nature, since artichokes are biennials, the plants set buds in their second year. Before annual varieties were developed, it was necessary to “vernalize” the plants in areas where temperatures fell too low for the plants to survive the winter (zone 7 and colder). This meant giving them an artificial “winter” – a chilling period as young plants, to trick them into thinking the warm days of June were their second summer. With annual varieties like Imperial Star it is still important to give your transplants a bit of a chill in spring, just to be sure they’ll set buds. A couple of weeks at 50°F should do the trick.

Giving Artichokes a fertile soil will help to insure productive plants. Frequent watering and a straw mulch to retain moisture, will also increase bud production, especially in climates where summers are very warm.

Long Life for Cabbages
Next time you harvest Cabbages, try leaving the stem and roots on before you put them in your root cellar, or other cool, moist storage area. They will keep better and you can produce a second crop from each stem. Pot up a stem, with the Cabbage head removed, in a large pot of soil mix, feed and water, and wait for tasty young leaves to sprout all along the stem. Great for winter soups!

Many summer pest problems can be avoided with an ounce of springtime protection. Lightweight floating row covers, placed over young transplants as soon as you set them out, will keep out the flying insects that later turn into root maggots and Cabbage worms - both of which bother brassica crops such as Broccoli, Cabbage and Kale. The covers will let in plenty of light, air and water, but you'll need to pull them aside when you weed. Do this early in the morning when flying insects are the least active, to keep them from laying their eggs. By the time the plants are big enough to be constrained by the covers, they'll be mature enough to withstand a couple of little buggies and won't need the covers anyway.

Direct-Sow Basics

Lettuce Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: ¼”
Row Spacing: 12”-18”
Plant Spacing:12”
Days to Germination: 7-12 days
Germination Temperature: 45°-90°F

Lettuce prefers cool weather. To raise transplants, start seeds 5 to 8 weeks before setting out. Transplant out as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow thinly in flats or pots using sterilized starter mix, cover lightly and water. Provide light, moderate warmth and good ventilation. Avoid crowding: thin to 2" apart. Amend Lettuce beds with compost, organic fertilizer and/or well-rotted manure. Gradually acclimate seedlings to outdoor temperatures and moderate sunlight, water well at transplanting time, shade seedlings from scorching sun and protect from heavy frosts. Keep soil moist with regular watering and feed with a liquid fertilizer as needed. For “baby” greens, broadcast seed, harvesting leaves when 3" to 4" high with scissors. Make successive sowings every 2 weeks for continuous harvest.

Shade Tolerance
Just because legumes are known to improve the soil in which they grow, it does not mean that they needn't be planted in good soil themselves. This is especially true of Beans. If you dig in well-rotted manure at the time of planting, your bean plants will grow better, be more free from disease and give you a better yield.

Beans Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1"
Row Spacing: 18"-36"
Seed Spacing: 3"-4"
Days to Germination: 6-10 days
Germination Temperature: 60°-80°F

Beans love sun and well-draining, fertile soil. Plant Beans when the soil has warmed to 60°F and all danger of frost has passed. Amend the soil as needed with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-aged manure. Cool, wet weather may necessitate a second planting: bean seeds rot in cold, damp soil. After planting, do not water until the sprouts emerge, unless it is very hot and dry. After emergence, and throughout the season, avoid watering the foliage. Water as needed by soaking the soil around the Beans and fertilize with kelp or fish emulsion as needed.

For Pole Beans, provide support with rough poles, teepees, netting or a trellis. Harvest when the Beans are young, slim and on the small side for the best eating! It is vital to keep Beans picked regularly since seed formation slows and eventually halts production. Sow Bush Beans every 10 to 15 days until 2 months before the first frost date in the fall for continuous yields.

A mainstay of the kitchen garden, homegrown Beans outshine those that are store-bought in their delicious, just-picked flavor, crisp-tender texture and rich vitamin content.

Beans Show Their Colors
My favorite use for purple-podded Beans is to pick them while slim and tender, along with green and yellow ones, and arrange all three on a platter with a hummus dip.

Beans, Beans & More Beans

Shade Tolerance

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