The most difficult part of starting a vegetable garden is getting your schedule down to ensure that start your vegetable seeds with enough lead time that they are mature enough to venture outside but also not so large they take over your growing area.
Personally this has been a difficult part for me where I am really good getting the early vegetables started on time (onions, peppers, tomatoes) but when it comes to the later plants and/or second/third plantings is where I begin to get forgetful. Over the years I have come across a couple of great tools to make this easier that I thought I would share.
No matter which option you choose you will need to determine an important date, your last frost date. There are many sites/tables out there that will give an estimate I actually have a couple posts on the subject but at the moment my favorite site that makes this very easy is WeatherSpark, it uses historical data with great visuals to easily determine when the best probability of picking the right date. Here you can take a look at this historical data and make your call of what date you think will be safe.
1. Create a garden schedule. Just by figuring out your last frost date and doing a little math (Excel works great for this) you can determine the optimal seed starting dates and even get a general idea of when your plants should be ready for transplanting. What I love about this technique is you can tweak it each year as things worked well (or not so well) in previous years to get the schedule finely tuned to your particular garden and the micro-climates within it.
In addition knowing an estimate of when these plants will be venturing out in the wild can assist in your space planning for your seeding area as well as having a reality check if you see your peppers will be ready to be transplanted in March when it doesn’t get above freezing until mid-June.
Here is my schedule for my area and estimated last frost date (April 20th), though sure everyone that is reading this will not have the same date as mine so thanks to my infinite nerdiness I made the following table so you can adjust the “Last Frost Date” to yours and see how my schedule would look in your area.
|Last Frost Date:|
|Vegetable Name||Seed Start Date||Estimated
|Pepper – Jalapeno||2/9/2013||4/28/2013||4/25/2013|
|Pepper – Bell||2/9/2013||5/4/2013||4/25/2013|
|Summer Squash – Sunburst||4/9/2013||5/16/2013||6/3/2013|
|Winter Squash – Hunter||4/9/2013||5/16/2013||7/3/2013|
|Cabbage – Napa||7/24/2013||8/21/2013||10/7/2013|
|Onion – Bunching||7/24/2013||10/2/2013|
* N/A because vegetables should be sown directly in the ground.
2. Create a garden plan online and get reminders. My favorite online vegetable gardening software is GrowVeg. It is very easy to use and provides some great visuals when to specifically plant seeds and transplant your seedlings outdoors, which you can see below.
In addition you also can recreate a virtual copy of your garden and plan exactly where you want to plant your vegetables, to ensure your ambitions for growing a huge crop this year does not exceed the reality of the limited space you have to actually grow. It also remembers where you planted vegetables in previous years to help enforce crop rotation to ensure pests/diseases will be forced to remain in check.
Though one of my favorite features is the weekly reminders, once a week you get a simple email letting you know what plants you should be starting/transplanting that week. This was very helpful later in the season where I probably would have completely forgotten about my carrots without this helpful reminder.
3. Buy a garden planning book. If you want something that you can really get your hands on you might want to check out the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook helps with this problem by providing weekly reminders of what vegetables you should be order/planting and what preparations you should be doing in your garden. This can be a very helpful tool in getting a little more organized in your vegetable garden.
Already falling behind on your seed planting here are a few great options to get a great selection of seeds without spending a lot of money:
- The name is not too exciting but Generic Seeds offers no thrills packaging with quality seeds and very reasonable prices and if you spend $20 or more shipping is on them.
- Another of my favorites is Park Seeds, they have been around since 1858 and definitely know their stuff. They actually have seed sale going on right now and have a great selection of organic seeds and also offer frequent web specials where you can find some killer deals. You might want to get on their free mailing list where they send out pretty good gardening tips but also frequent coupon codes and special deals.
I came across this pretty cool Kickstarter from Vegetronix where they are putting together a neat little kit that includes an adjustable 1 watt that can plug into any USB port on your computer. All you need to supply is an old 2 liter bottle and you have a nicely contained growing environment.
Personally, I think this could make an awesome addition to my windowless office and bring a little plant life to my personal space.
If the Vegetronix name sounds familiar, I use their moisture sensors in my grow box which I wrote here.
There are so many options these days when you decide to own a greenhouse. You can buy a lot of greenhouse structures and modify them or just do-it-yourself. Also there are guides for you to build your own greenhouse. These guides are available on the net, and also on print.
But before you start, you first need to decide on what you need. It is also important to know or understand what you can build and what you want to grow.
Other important aspect that needs to be considered is the expenditure and the climate of your region. Space that you have at your disposal is also one of the key factors. Mentioned below are some of the things you must know before you start your dream project.
Always try to place your greenhouse in such a spot that enjoys a lot of sunshine. It is better that there are no shady trees around. This will have two benefits, during storms the chances of branches falling on your greenhouse is nullified, and shade from the trees will not affect the heating up of your greenhouse. More importantly shedding of the leaves from these plants can prove to be a problem to the greenhouse too.
In case the greenhouse tends to overheat, using a cover or painting it can be good options.
If you are planning to reuse your old greenhouse or even set up your new one, make sure to clean and scrub all windows and glass parts. Also clean the outer surface. Using brown soap for cleaning seems to be the best option. In case you are cleaning the old one make sure to remove insect protections if any before the cleaning jobs starts.
The temperature in the greenhouse should range between 77 degrees F (25 degrees C) and 59 degrees F (15 degree Celsius) on the positive side. There can be lots of options to heat your greenhouse, which is very essential for the success of a greenhouse. Electrical heaters, oil or wood fuelled ones are also available with the gas powered ones; but all these heating systems particularly the last three must be ventilated to the outside properly.
These days passive solar green heating options are also available which are very much environment friendly as well. They also have a heat sink which stores the heat and uses it to heat the structure during the dark phase.
The heat needed in the greenhouse is proportional to the size of the greenhouse and also varies with the crops. Consult a professional to help you calculate the proper temperature to be maintained.
Proper ventilation of the greenhouse is extremely important.
Ventilation will circulate air inside the greenhouse and fresh air is necessary for proper plant growth. Stale air is not conducive for proper plant growth.
Insulating the greenhouse is very important for it to function properly. The structure need to be airtight in order to bring in the best result.
The moisture inside the greenhouse needs to be maintained along with a good drainage. Overwatering and under-watering can both be harmful to the plants. So make sure to have the right amount of water, and a good drainage to ensure that its does not remain water-logged. Automated water sprinklers can be very useful. Rainwater harvesting and recycling can be environment friendly options.
Protecting the plants from pests and other elements need to be one of the priorities. Make sure to use good quality soil, and treating them before use, and also use pesticides and fungicides regularly. Bio-pesticides and bio-fungicides will help for greener environment.
Depending on the soil quality and nutrient choose fertilizers. But do not use excessive fertilizers, as they harm the plants much more. Use bio-fertilizers like compost for best results.
Take into account the climate you live in and choose the crops accordingly. That will save you a lot of pain. Non-heated greenhouse can be fine, but that will only reduce your choice of crops, and the growing season possibly. Try not to make the green house too low, or the roof flat as that may cause unforeseen trouble, as the roof might cave in at some point of time.
About The Author: Alia is a writer/blogger. She loves writing, travelling and blogging. She contributes in Morris Gad
Nearly August and I decided it is finally time to bring the peppers out from the garage, though in some ways they are doing so well in the heated grow box with a killer 120 watt Extreme Flower LED lighting not sure if I should chance it but looking at the upcoming forecast this might be as good as it gets.
So far my peppers in the Topsy Turvy strawberry planter appears to be a success. Even with the cold wet summer we have been having plants have survived and even has at least one baby cayenne pepper growing on it.
Though they are just now starting to see their first rays of sunshine have a good looking Rossi Italian Pepper growing here.
Here I have a couple of banana peppers I can pick anytime.
I am also excited to see these jalapeno peppers provided I ran out of jalapeno pepper powder a few months ago and have been missing it in my omelets in the mornings.
Finally I have my cayenne plants which was a survivor from last year, I pulled it into the garage to let some of the last few peppers ripen up as the temperatures got cool and forgot about it. After a few months I assumed it was dead until I saw some new growth on the plant and quickly put it under the LEDs where it fully recovered and started flowering and producing fruit. Currently drying some of the pods and also saving some of the extra mature ones to save for seeds might have a hearty specimen here.
Well this is the soonest I have gotten peppers growing, but the temperature controlled grow box did help out a lot. I brought this pant indoors last year when it still had a half dozen green peppers on it when the temperatures started to decline. The peppers turned red and a picked and dried them out for cayenne powder and sort of forgot about this plant.
It went dormant and by sheer neglect somehow survived so when I noticed that leaves started growing from it I quickly gave it a good watering and put it back in the grow box where it has come back strong and plan on getting enough peppers from this plant to meet my BBQ needs for a good year.
Unfortunately we do not have no where near the preferred climate to grow tomatoes. We have extremely mild temperatures with summer maximum average high of 78°F and maximum average lows of 59°F. Take that with our very short window of consistent rain (bringing blight) tomato plants are lucky to even be surviving when planted in our area let alone have a tremendous yield, though with a little planning and care you can be eating delicious tomatoes from your garden.
1. Pick the right variety. You want to choose a plant that has has a low number of days to maturity. Given we have a very short growing season this can significantly improve your chances of growing some ripe red tomatoes. Some good examples of tomato varieties to try followed by the average days to maturity Early Girl (52), Goliath (60), Juliet (60), Oregon Spring (58), Sugary (62), or Sunsugar (62). You may also want to consider growing smaller tomato varieties such as cherry or globe which can be beneficial given the smaller the fruit the shorter amount of time is takes to ripen which could allow you to harvest your tomatoes before the rains along with the diseases.
2. Start with big plants. Paying a couple dollars more on your tomato plants can shave off a 2-3 weeks off your “days to maturity” number so go for the largest plant you can afford. On a budget (or just cheap like myself) plant your seeds early and make use of a greenhouse or grow box to make your own more mature tomato plants and save yourself a considerable amount of money. If you do purchase a larger plant, don’t be in a hurry to get it into the ground…let they nursery keep it alive for you until you have optimum environment to plant it in your garden.