Giant pumpkinGiant Pumpkin

In the fall, Mother Nature works overtime to provide us with beautiful colorful trees and shrubs that brighten up the landscape just before the arrival of winter. The fall season brings us colorful flowering mums, sedum and hardy asters. In the cut flower garden cut bouquets of Bittersweet, Silver Dollars, Japanese Lanterns and interesting seedpods. The vegetable garden has them all beat with unusual shaped and colored gourds, colorful and exotic looking squashes and pumpkins. Pumpkins are her signature item that represents the fall season. Children love to select a small pumpkin for their bedroom and a large one to place on the front door step to be carved for Halloween. Now, Dad has a new challenge from the kids and that is, to grow a pumpkin that is so large no one can steal it from the front porch. This is possible and the whole family can get involved to grow the biggest pumpkin in town. Begin by selecting a sight that has full sun all day long. Now test the soil for Acidity because the pumpkin plant will grow best if the soil has a P.H. of 6.5 to 7.0 slightly acid. Soil fertility is very important and the more organic matter you add to the soil, the better your chance will be to grow a giant pumpkin. The giant pumpkin loves animal manure, compost, and peat moss added to the soil. Till the soil to 12 inches deep, blending everything evenly to stimulate the roots. Pumpkins grow best if once planted you do not walk on the soil so the roots can quickly grow in this rich, fertile, and well aerated fluffy soil. Set out your started seedlings about May 10 in the garden. These seedlings should be started indoors about 3 weeks earlier in large 6-inch pots to help gain a little growing time during cold spring weather. Each pumpkin plant needs about 100 square feet of garden to grow but 200 will help to produce more foliage for even bigger pumpkins. Other fertilizers that will help stimulate the roots and fruit are Superphosphate, Ironite, and Organic fertilizers like Neptune Harvest Fish and Seaweed blend. You will need special seeds also and they can be purchased along with a sheet of 20 tips for only $5.00 at Dill Atlantic Giant, NEPGA, 445 Middlesex St., Wilmington, Mass, 01887. For the serious pumpkin grower look for: How to grow World Class Giant Pumpkins 1 and 2, By Don Langevin. Call him to order the books at 1-800-985-7878. For more information, be sure to pick up a copy of the Paul Parent Garden Club Magazine at a nursery near you. Click on magazine on my website at http://www.paulparent.com


cucumberCucumbers

The cucumber is one vegetable that has a different taste when picked fresh from your garden, and that taste cannot be compared to what came from the supermarket. First of all supermarket cucumbers are covered with a wax to help keep them fresh but as hard as the grower tries the taste is not the same. This spring prepare your soil to grow the best cucumbers ever in your garden. Select a location with full sun all day long if possible. Your soil should be sweet and your P.H. should be 6.o to 7.o for the best results. A well -drained soil will be more productive so do not plant in areas that have standing water. Cucumbers love a rich soil so be sure to add compost, animal manure, and peat moss in the spring before planting. These plants are heavy feeders and monthly applications of chicken manure fertilizer or 10.10.10. should be used. Do not rush the planting season as the plants thrive in warm soil 60' degrees or warmer. That means daytime temperatures of 70' degrees or they will just sit there. You should wait until the week after the last frost to plant seedlings I prefer to start seed indoors mid may and transplant in early June to the garden. Try not to disturb the roots when transplanting to the garden. Plant 3 seeds per pot and when setting them out in the garden space potted seedlings 3 feet between plantings. When the plants begin to grow flowers will quickly appear and you may be concerned because there are so many flowers and few fruit. This is natural, because the plant has male and female flowers. There will be 5 or more male flowers to every female flower to help attract the bees to the garden. The male flowers start to appear 7 to 10 days before the female blooms begin, so do not panic! When the weather gets hot your plants will begin to produce like crazy if you can keep the soil moist. Water twice a week in the morning and never at night or disease problems will develop. Dry soils will give you fruit that resembles a baby bottle nipple and the taste will be bitter. Pick often, when cucumbers have filled out and skin is covered with small spines.


 

SeedlingsSeedlings

Spring is here and now is the time to begin to start seeds indoors. Growing your own plants for the garden is easier than you can imagine. Starting your own vegetable and flower plants is a part of gardening that most of us enjoy because we can tell our friends and family that we grew these plants from start to finish. Most seeds are planted about 4 to 6 weeks prier to the time that they have to go out in the garden. This keeps the plants short, stocky and better able to adapt to the outside growing conditions when moved outside. The secret to stimulating the seeds to germinate better is with bottom heat. Save your self a few dollars and use a heating pad set on low to do this. Cover your heating pad with a trash bag to prevent it from getting wet and stained. On a table lay a bath towel down first and place the heating pad on the towel, this will give you more uniform heat. Place your seed tray on the pad and set the heat on the lowest setting. You will have better luck with seed trays that have their own clear covering on top, like a small greenhouse. Check daily and water as needed because this bottom heat will dry the soil faster but it will speed up the germination of the seed by several days. When watering seed trays be sure to use a mister to prevent washing small seeds deep into the soil. As soon as you see the seeds breaking thru the soil turn off the heat and keep the room at about 60'degrees. If you do not have grow lights to put plants under set the seed tray near the window and swivel the tray daily to keep plants growing straight. Cool temperatures in the house, is a must to prevent stretching of the seedlings. Transplanting is done when seedlings have their second set of leaves. Use a seed started soil when transplanting because this soil is sterilized and disease free. I prefer to use peat moss pots when transplanting so it is easier to set plants in the garden when the time is right with out disturbing the roots of the plant. Look for Plantation Peat Pots this spring at a garden center near you because they are made with wood fiber and peat moss not peat moss and paper like other pots. These pots will allow the roots to penetrate thru into your garden soil much faster. Fertilize at half rate while seedling are indoors to prevent rapid growth. When you get ready to set plants out doors be sure to acclimate them to the cooler weather first in your garage or tool shed for one week prior to setting plants in the garden.


 

PeasPeas

The vegetable that I enjoy eating the most is the garden pea. The spring of 1949 came early and it was nice and warm for the state of Maine. This allowed my mother to get out in the garden early in the season to plant her peas. She hoped for an early harvest so she could enjoy eating her peas because I, her first born, was also due about the same time. The morning of June 16th was sunny and the peas were ready to be picked. As the harvest began and a few fresh picked peas were being eaten, right in the garden, my mother announced that she was also now ready to deliver. She asked my father to take her into the house, "with the peas" to prepare for the event. In less than three hours, I was born and my mother celebrated the birth in the hospital by eating fresh peas picked from her garden, that my father had cooked for her. Every spring when I plant peas, the memories of this story told to me by my mother make this vegetable special. This spring as the weather warms up, you should be prepared to start early and get out in the garden. Peas love cool weather and will mature early, just after spinach. Midsummer harvest is not as heavy or as good as early summer or fall harvest. Plant peas in a sandy, well-drained soil, that warms up quickly in the spring. Plant peas very early in the spring, as soon as the garden soil has thawed or has dried out during a wet springs. If this is a new vegetable garden and you never planted peas or beans in this soil be sure to use nitrogen fixing bacterial inoculant to help the seed extract nitrogen from the air. This bacteria form must be present in the soil for the pea to grow vigorously. This inoculant is readily available at your favorite garden center. Mix the seed with the inoculant and plant. After you have grown peas once, the bacteria will survive in the soil. Peas do not need fertilizer because the plant can gather it from the air if the bacterium is present in the soil. Plant peas 2 inches deep, space the seed 3 inches apart and 18 inches between rows. Peas do not take from the soil; they help build a rich soil


 

OnionsOnions

Can you think of anything better than a thick slice of fresh garden grown onion from the on a barbeque hamburger? How about liver with onions, think about adding onions to your home made pasta sauce, or picked Scallions from the garden and eating them with a bit of salt and how about home made Onion soup. These are all possible if you plant a few onions in your garden this spring. First, begin with a sunny location where the sun can really warm the soil all day. Your soil should be fertile and well drained [no standing water after a heavy rain] you will grow big and flavorful onions. Add manure, peat moss and compost to help the plants thrive during periods of dry weather. Onions will grow best when the P.H. is 6 to 7.5 so be sure to lime the soil each year. Fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer such as a 10.10.10. or chicken manure. Never use high nitrogen fertilizer or you will have only tops and small onion bulbs. When onions begin to grow in the garden and they reach 7 to 8 inches tall cut them back to 4 or 5 inches to allow the roots time to develop properly, or the plant will tip over and begin producing seed. You will have a better onion if you start with seed or seedlings than onion sets! Onion sets are Start onion seeds indoors during February to March and transplant to the garden. Be sure to harden off the seedlings in the garage for a few days before planting outside. When planting seedlings in the garden, space them 4 inches apart and 12 inches in between rows. Try never to plant the onions in the same place year after year or disease will become a problem. Onion sets are more prone to disease problems than seedlings. Plant garlic cloves bulbs in early august and harvest the following august for a nice big bulb. Leaks should be planted as seedlings in spring and 4 inches deep to produce a long white bulb with good flavor. Most important of all, plant onions no deeper than ½ inch deep. Onions are ready when the white skin turns papery and the tops begin to fall over. Pull up plants and let sit in the sun for a week to cure them for storage in your basement and a sweeter taste.


 

Watermelon

On a hot and humid summer day, how would you like to bite into a cold and juicy watermelon? The red flesh of the melon is so cold and sweet you now want a second piece. You can grow a watermelon in your garden if you follow these few tips! Begin with a sandy soil because clay soil is to heavy and melons will not do well. Add a lot of manure, compost and peat moss at planting time. The soil P.H. should be 5.8 to 6.5 to encourage rapid growth. To help form a large root system and many flowers are sure to add 0-20-0 fertilizer Supershosphate at the rate of 5 pounds per 500 square feet. Fertilize is needed at the time you plant the seed and again 30 days later. Use animal manure or 10.10.10 and cultivate in the soil 3 inches deep about a foot from the plant. Water is needed at a regular rate about 1 inch per week and best in the morning. Plants will do best in a hot and sunny location and the more sun the better. When you think the crop is getting ready to be picked, stop watering the plants and they will have a sweeter taste. Start your plants indoors 3 weeks before setting out them in the garden this will give you a head start of 21 days. If you plant thru black weed barrier poly mulch you will gain another 14 day in growing time. Watermelon will need about 100 days from seed planting to harvest, so use these tips to help produce a better melon. The watermelon is ready to pick when the belly of the fruit or bottom changes from white to green. Also, near the stem attached to the melon, you will see a corkscrew shaped tendril, when it turns brown the melon is ready to pick. Pick it and store it in a cool place for 3 to 5 days so the melon can become sweeter. If you want big melons allow a 25' by 30' space for the plants to grow in and do not walk on the soil. Soft soil makes a big difference, more air to the roots, easier for the roots to grow in and room for the foliage to develop. Feed weekly with Neptune Harvest fish and sea fertilizer they love fish food and trace elements from the ocean. Can you taste it yet, I can!



Corn

There is no better tasting vegetable than fresh corn on the cob from the garden! If you agree than lets plant a few seeds this spring. Prepare the soil with a lot of manure at the rate of 25 pounds per 10' by 10' planting area of garden. Spread one pound of 0-20-0, fertilizer, Supershosphate and 5 lbs of lime to the same area. Corn will grow best with a soil P.H. of 5.5 to 6.5. Prepare the area early in the season, when you have time. It is very important to remember that corn will not germinate if the soil temperature is below 65'F. Once planted keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate and you see the beginnings of a plant. Plant the seed 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 seeds together but space the grouping 10 inches apart and rows 30 inches apart. Plant 4 rows of corn for best pollination and full ears. When planting corn for several pickings, be sure they are 2 week apart to prevent pollination problems if you are planting different varieties. If you want big and sweet tasting ears of corn be sure to [fertilize every 2 weeks]. Use chicken manure or a 10-10-10 granular fertilizer. When the seedlings are 2 inches tall cut down the weakest plants and keep only one plant, do not pull. When plants are 6 inches tall pull soil around the plant and create a mound of soil 4 inches high and 12 inches wide. Do the same when plants are 12 to 18 inches tall. Water as needed to encourage strong growth about 1 inch of water per week. The corn will be ready to pick when the kernels are " milky" and full also the silk will turn brown. The corn is ready to pick in about 18 to 25 days after the silk first appears. Apply 3 drops of Mineral oil to the brown silk to keep out Corn Ear Worms. Each plant should produce 1 to 2 ears per plant if you care for the plant properly. Now start boiling the water, go to the garden and pick the corn. Run back to the house as you peal the corn and drop in the boiling pot of water. Use a lot of butter and salt when eating and don't worry if the butter drips from your chin. It's a sign that the corn taste good!


 

BroccoliBroccoli
When spring arrives and your ready to work in the garden, begin by planting the cold crops. The Cold Crops are Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and Broccoli. They get their name because they will do better if they are planted early in the spring while the soil and air are still cool to cold. They develop faster with cool weather and the plant can produce a larger flower or foliage head. When you eat Broccoli and Cauliflower, you are eating the flower buds of the plant. These plants will also tolerate a frost or freeze. For a great crop, condition the soil with a lot of animal manure 25 pounds per 12 plants in a row. Be sure to add peat moss and compost to help make the soil rich in humus. This will make the soil more fertile and better able to hold moisture especially during the summer heat. Lime is necessary with these crops and it should be added every year at the rate of 50 pounds per 500 sq. ft. of garden. You can also plant Cauliflower, Cabbage and Broccoli as a fall crop if you start seeds in early June and transplant in garden in early July. Space the plants 18 inches apart and 18 to 24 inches between rows. Brussels Sprouts need 24 inches between plants and 30 inches between rows. Harvest Cauliflower as soon as the head is fully formed and white but the flowers are still tight in the bud. Broccoli should be picked with tight buds, also and be ready to pick several pounds of side shoots that form in the weeks to come. It is common to pick these shoots until Thanksgiving or later. Feed every two weeks with fish fertilizer or chicken manure to keep the plant productive. Cabbage should be picked when the head gets to the size you want. Brussels Sprouts will taste better if you allow the plant to be hit by a good frost or even a little snow. When the lower sprouts get to be ½ inch in diameter pinch off the top of the plant so all the energy is used to build larger sprouts uniformly on the plant. Feed every 2 weeks with fish fertilizer or chicken manure after pinching top of plant off. I have picked sprouts as late as Christmas day and remember they love cold weather for better taste.
Brussels Sprouts

















 

LettuceLettuce

Have you ever tasted fresh lettuce out of the garden? Now compare it to the ball of green foliage that comes in a bag from the supermarket, what do you think, does it taste the same? Lets plant lettuce this year in the vegetable garden and when the summer heat arrives how about planting some in a shady garden. You can also plant lettuce until September because it will tolerate a cool fall planting. You can plant lettuce as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, if you are setting out seedlings. About the time you plant Pansies in the flower garden you should be setting out the seedlings. Lettuce will tolerate cool nights better than most vegetables. Plant before the air temperatures get around 60 to 65'F. If you're planting seed start every 3 weeks for a new crop. Seeds will germinate when soil is as cool as 40'F. When starting seeds in the summer, plant them in trays of soil. Keep them in the shade until your ready to transplant into the garden. Keep the soil moist at all times and water established plants 2 times a week for uniform growth. Water in the morning to help discourage slug problems and eliminate disease. Soil P.H. of 6 to 7 is best so add lime to garden yearly. Lettuce will taste better if you use a lot of animal manure, peat moss and compost in the garden. Soils that have worms in them have better tasting lettuce, so add organic matter every spring and then again in the fall. Healthy soil will have less of a problem with disease and fewer insects. When plants are 2 to 3 inches tall fertilize with a 10-10-10 fertilizer or animal manure, that's all it will take. Pick as soon as ready and if the plant develops a tall stem making flowers pull our and add to compost pile. Once the plant starts to make flowers it will taste very bitter and is not worth using. If you want a steady crop of lettuce all season, talk to the seed catalog sales person and have them recommend varieties that will do best for summer production and number the packages in the order you want to plant. Now sit back and enjoy a big bowl of fresh salad greens.


 

PeppersPeppers

Have you discovered the delicious and beautiful Peppers that can be grown in your garden? When I first started gardening I grew green Peppers and a few Hot Peppers for chile sauce but not today. The once popular green Pepper has been moved to one side and replaced with red, orange, yellow and even the new lavender and chocolate Peppers. The colors will excite your salads, the flavors will improve the taste of your cooking, and they are easy to grow in your garden or planter. Begin by adding a lot of organic matter to the garden before planting. Use animal manure, compost and peat moss, the more the better. Lime the garden yearly and the fall is best, so it has time to work it into the soil. When selecting plants be sure to select plants that are stocky, they will perform better for you. Tall leggy plants in flats with open flowers will be weak and have low yields. The best plants have flower buds but no open flowers. Potted plants are O.K. because there will be no transplanting shock. Peppers love a high Phosphorus fertilizer; so broadcast 0.20.0 fertilizer known as Superphosphate at time of planting. Garden soil containing adequate amounts of Phosphorus will produce a plant with higher yields. Peppers will grow better if at planting time you add one tablespoon of Epson salt per plant and mix well in the hole. Epson salt contains magnesium to help form the pepper faster. Now set your seedling in and push 2 wooden matches on the side of the plant about 3 inches from the stem. The sulfur on the match head will help the plant to mature faster. Do not plant until the weather is free of frost. Peppers love "Heat" and to help warm up the soil faster and keep it hot, lay down a strip of black weed cloth and cut holes in it to plant. This will help you gain several days to ripening.


TomatoesTomato
The most popular vegetable is the tomato and if you follow these tips you will have enough for the neighbors and yours will ripen sooner. Begin with healthy soil and that means adding compost, animal manure and peat moss. The better your soil is the fewer problems you will have. If your soil is sandy add one teaspoon of Soil-Moist to the hole and blend, creating a bowl 1 foot by 1 foot and 1 foot deep. When you select tomato plants for the garden, never choose plants in flats with open flowers or small fruit. These plants have become root bound in the flat and could remain stunted and produce only a few small, poor quality fruit. Individual potted plants with flowers and fruit are o.k. Plant the tomato to the first leaf because the stem of the plant will form additional roots to make the plant grow faster. If you have Cut worms in the garden make a collar with a toilet paper roll around the stem. One roll will make two collars and to place it around the plant slit the side and pull around the stem, also push it into the soil about 1 inch. During the season, mound soil like potatoes to stimulate roots to form around the stem and during a dry summer your plants will thank you. Fertilize monthly until the first fruit is golf ball size and then STOP for the year. Heavy fed plants grow a lot of foliage and ripen fruit late. Lime garden yearly to prevent Blossom-End Rot. Try watering without soaking foliage, or if you must first thing in the morning, never at night! Spacing should be 3 feet apart and 3 feet between rows. Most important of all rotate the positioning of the Tomatoes every year because diseases spend the winter in the soil and moving minimizes the problems.




 

PotatoesPotato

Growing Potatoes in the garden is easy if you start with certified seed potatoes. Never potatoes from the supermarket or your harvest will be a disappointment. Organic grown potatoes are free of disease and insect problems without the use of chemicals, a real good start. Let's start when the soil has warmed up to above 45 degrees, usually about the time you can safely plant Tomatoes. Work large amounts of compost, peat moss or well aged animal manure into the soil. Never ever fresh manure or your potatoes will develop "Scab" disease and the potatoes will not look good or keep well. Increase the organic matter in your garden and you will increase the crop production. Healthy soil grows healthy plants, which provide healthy crops. Plant your seed potatoes 2 inches deep, 12 inches apart and in a row 30 to 36 inches between rows. Your seed pieces should have 2 eyes {shoots} and be as large as an egg. Cut the potatoes and plant right away or you can dust the cut end with limestone. Potatoes will do better in slightly acid soils around a 6 P.H. Once the plant has grown to 6 inches tall, pull the soil around the plant creating a hill around the base of the plant. Do this several time until the hill becomes 10 to 12 inches high and 2 feet wide. This will give the potatoes room to grow and give you larger tubers. Fertilize monthly with granular fertilizer or seasoned manure. Most insects can be controlled with B.T. sprays or Rotenone.

 


 


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