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Gardening Tips

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.
Spinach Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
:1/2”
Row Spacing:12”-18”
Seed Spacing:1/2”
Days to Germination:10-14 days
Germination Temperature:45°-85°F

Vitamin-rich Spinach likes it cool, so you may direct-sow in the spring as soon as you can work the soil. You may also sow in the late summer or early fall for fall and early winter harvest. Spinach thrives in rich soil, so amend beds with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure as needed. Keep soil evenly moist. When seedlings are 2" tall, thin to 4" to 5" apart. (Thinnings are great tossed into salads.) If you plant Spinach in warm weather, sow seeds deeper and in partial shade with frequent watering to help it avoid bolting. In cool climates, direct-sow Spinach seed every 2 to 3 weeks for constant harvest. To harvest, either use a few outer leaves from each plant or cut the plant off at the base, after which the plants will likely regrow a second crop of leaves. Make sure to wash thoroughly in cool water before use. Pat dry.

Cool Weather Spinach
Summer gardeners miss out on the three seasons in which this tasty, nutritious green truly thrives. For fall Spinach, wait until cool weather is just starting to settle in, but there are still enough frost-free days to bring the crop to maturity. For winter Spinach, just protect it with a cold frame or--if your climate is mild--a layer of straw. The outer leaves may look beat-up in the dead of winter, but fresh new growth will continually appear at the center. For spring Spinach, you can keep on harvesting these wintered-over plants, or start new ones from seed as soon as the soil can be worked. Another trick is to sow a late fall crop that will germinate just before the ground freezes up, then overwinter the young seedlings. (In cold climates, protect them with a cold frame.) They’ll start to grow as soon as spring arrives!

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.

Shade Tolerance
Winter Squash Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
:1”
Row Spacing:5’
Hill Spacing:5’-6’
Days to Germination: 5-10 days
Germination Temperature:65°-75°F

Winter Squash needs space to ramble as well as a hot growing site in full sunlight. They may be started after the last frost when the temperature is a reliable 60°F. Direct-sow 3 to 5 seeds per hill, then thin to the 2 strongest seedlings. To start indoors for transplanting, sow singly in pots 3 to 4 weeks before the transplant date. Provide seedlings with good ventilation, strong light and even moisture. Transplant outdoors after the last frost date. Enrich soil with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure. Cover seedlings with cloches if it gets cool, water regularly and feed as needed with kelp or fish emulsion. Powdery mildew on leaves won’t affect the squash. Harvest with a sharp knife when skin is hard and fruits are fully colored. As long as there is no danger of frost, you may cure squash outdoors in the sun for 10 days. Or, you may place them in a warm, dry room for 5 to 7 days to cure.

Our Pollinators are in Peril

Patience Pays Off
I’m always in a hurry to get my Winter Squash growing, and have often started them ahead indoors. But I find that the plants really dislike being transplanted, especially into chilly spring soil. I find it works best to sow directly. If your growing season is short, it helps to warm up the soil with black plastic sheets instead, cutting an X wherever a Squash plant will go.

Squash as a Groundcover
Here's a trick that saves space, keeps down weeds and deters critters, all at the same time. Plant Winter Squash along the edge of the garden and train the vines outward, through the fence. The vines will soon blanket the area just outside, shading weeds out; the leaves make a prickly carpet that some animals prefer not to walk on.

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Tips for Harvesting and Storing Pumpkins and Winter Squash
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
Direct-Sow Basics

Asian Greens Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: ¼”-1/2"
Row Spacing: 12”
Seed Spacing:2”-3”
Days to Germination: 5-10 days
Germination Temperature: 70°-75°F

Our versatile, easy and popular Asian Greens thrive in cool temperatures, tolerating mild frost. Sow when the danger of heavy frost has passed. Asian Greens appreciate soil with a moderate amount of organic matter dug in. Keep the soil evenly moist for a mild, sweet taste. When growing individuals, thin them to 8" to 10" apart. For ‘baby leaf’ harvesting, lightly broadcast seed, sprinkle with soil and water lightly. As the plants grow to about 3" tall, give them a “haircut” for salads and stir-fries. Feed regularly to enjoy one or two more cuttings from the initial sowing. In cool summer areas, seed at 10 to 14 day intervals, ensuring a steady harvest of fresh, vitamin-rich greens. Hot weather causes hot and/or bitter flavor and bolting. Your last sowing may be toward the end of summer for fall harvest. Protect with shade cloth at the hottest part of summer days if necessary.

Shade Tolerance

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties
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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