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Beans Broccoli Celery Cucumbers Corn Eggplants Herbs Lettuce Melons Peas Potatoes Peppers Sweet Strawberries
Swiss Chard
Zucchini Tomatoes

Planting Tips from Uncle Mike
Growing your own vegetable garden can be very rewarding.  Just think, an endless supply of the finest vegetables right in your backyard.  Not only will you save money, but there's nothing quite like fresh home grown produce.  Take these tips from Uncle Mike to ensure that your garden will grow to its fullest potential!

General: 

What is the best way to remove my plants from their containers?

When removing your vegetables from their packs, it is best to squeeze the sides of the container and push the plant out from the bottom up.  Once the vegetable is free from the container, gently tease the bottom of the root ball which will help the plant to send new roots into the soil.

When can I start planting my vegetable garden?
Early March to April: spinach, peas, lettuces, beets, carrots, onions, and Cole crops such as broccoli, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc. should be transplanted.  After these are harvested, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, and melons can then be transplanted.  The second transplanting should be later in the spring so that the soil temperature is warmer, and the danger of frost is gone.

How can I use black plastic to get an early start?*
Black plastic can be placed on top of the soil to warm the area and reduce the amount of weeds.  To transplant, make a slit in the plastic where the plant will be placed.  Secure the plastic with bricks or soil so that it does not move over the plant causing it to suffocate.  As the summer heats up, straw or mulch can be placed on top of the plastic so that the roots of the plants are not destroyed by intense heat.

How should I prepare my soil?

Dig a hole that you will be planting your vegetables. It should be about twice the size as the plant's root ball.  Mix the removed soil with organic matter, such as compost or rotten manure, and return to the area.  Make a smaller hole for the vegetable plant, a bit larger than the root ball, and plant in the loose mixture.  

What is the optimum soil conditions for my garden?
Proper pH and nutrient levels are essential to grow high yielding, quality produce. One way to achieve this is to have your soil professionally tested. We recommend "Chemical Consulting of Babylon", located at 41 E. Main St. Babylon, NY, 11702. Phone: (631) 587-0632.

How should I water my new plants?
Water early in the day.  Foliage should remain dry, and water should be aimed at the roots of the plant.  A soaker hose works best for this technique.  If used with black plastic, make sure to put soaker hose prior to laying the plastic.  The hose should be in close proximity to the plants to make sure they receive adequate water.

How often should I rotate my crops?

Your vegetable crops should be rotated every season which will help to prevent diseases, and grow healthier plants. Most notably, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and eggplants should not be planted in the same space each year. They can be rotated with carrots, lettuces, onions, beans, or peas.

What is blossom end rot, and how can it be prevented?
Blossom end rot is a disorder found in squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other fruiting vegetables.  This disorder prevents the fruit from reaching maturity.  It is caused by low calcium levels in the fruit.  To prevent it, make sure that the area is properly drained, and the pH remains around 6.5.  Lime, bone meal, and compost can be added prior to planting to make sure that the calcium level is high enough in the soil.  By removing the affected fruit, it will reduce the stress on the plant.   

Growing Tips By Variety:


Beans: Bush and Pole varieties
Location: Need full sun, and well drained soil.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Best grown in warm weather, with no danger of frost.
Water: Plants require sufficient moisture. 

Water at least once a week, more if the weather is very dry. 
Spacing: Four inches between plants, in rows eighteen to twenty-four inches apart.

Bush Beans: Small bushy plants grow close to the ground so there is no need for extra support. 
Pole Beans: Vine-growing plants require extra support and staking.

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Broccoli: Location: Loves full sun, but cool weather. Grows best as a transplant crop in spring and fall. For best results harden transplant by cooling it to approximately sixty degrees Fahrenheit for a few days prior to planting in the garden. Harvest when buds are tight.

Water: Prefers consistent soil moisture. pH of soil should be between 6.0 - 7.0.
Space 12" (31cm) apart in rows 36" (91cm) apart.


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Celery:
Location: Grows best in full sun when planted in spring or late summer. Performs best in cooler weather but must be harvested prior to deep frost. Stores well if harvested in cooler weather. Slow to mature, 90-125 days.

Water: Prefers consistent soil moisture. Lack of water will damage crop.

For the best flavor, use rich soil, high in compost.


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Cucumbers:
Location: Need full sun, and well drained soil.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Grow best in warm, humid weather with no danger of frost.  *For early planting use black plastic or paper mulch to protect the plants from getting damaged by the cold.  This also acts as a barrier to protect against weeds.*

Water: At least an inch of water per week.
Spacing: Vine varieties should be spaced two to three feet apart, and bush varieties should be spaced eighteen inches apart.


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Corn:
Location: Need full sun, and well drained soil.  Keep different varieties separated to avoid cross pollination.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Temperature of soil must be at least sixty degree Fahrenheit, and even slightly higher for sweet corn.

Water: Requires frequent watering, do not allow soil to dry out.  Water about one inch per week.
Spacing: Plant about one foot apart, with rows thirty-two inches apart from one another.  Keep at least two rows together to stimulate pollination.  

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Eggplants:
Location: Need full sun, well drained soil, and good air circulation.  Best to transplant in cloudy weather or late in the afternoon so that plant can better acclimate.

Optimal Temperature to Grow: Need warm temperatures to grow, night temperature must be above fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. For early planting use black plastic or paper mulch to protect the plants from getting damaged by the cold.  This also acts as a barrier to protect against weeds.*

Water: Keep soil moist, should not be too wet or too dry.

Spacing: Plants should be twenty-four inches apart in rows thirty inches apart.  May need to stake or cage plants to keep the vegetables off the ground.
Fertilization: Mix soil with compost or well rotted manure, eggplants are heavy feeders and grow best with added organic matter.

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Herbs:
Location: At least six to eight hours of sunlight each day, and well drained soil.  Does not require highly fertile soil to grow, but grow well in soil with adequate organic matter.

Water: Soil should remain moist but not too wet and not too dry.
Herb Care:  Make sure to nip any flowers from the herbs, doing so will ensure that plant will continue to produce.

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Lettuce: Leaf and Head Lettuce
Location: Can be grown in full sun, but in warmer months it is better to keep it against the side of the house that receives morning sun or near the shade of taller vegetable plants.  Also grows well in containers.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Grows best in cooler weather, some can handle even a light frost.  Forty to sixty degree Fahrenheit is optimal.

Water: Water regularly half inch to one inch per week, soil should be moist but not saturated.
For continuous harvest of lettuce throughout the summer, crop should be planted every two weeks.
Leaf Lettuce: Loose bunches of leaves, rather than a solid head.  Grows better in warmer weather than other types of lettuce.  Leaves should be cut an inch or two from the ground to send out new leaves for a second crop.
Head Lettuce: Tight, crunchy solid head of lettuce, can only be cut once per crop.

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Melons:
Location: Full sun, protected from any cold winds, in rich well drained soil.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Grows best in warm temperatures, soil must be above sixty degrees Fahrenheit, without any danger of frost. For early planting use black plastic or paper mulch to protect the plants from getting damaged by the cold.  This also acts as a barrier to protect against weeds.*

Water: Water plants constantly until they begin to ripen, then watering should be stopped unless there is a drought in your area.  To prevent rotting, place the melons on a wooden board.
Spacing: Space plants three feet apart, in rows four to six feet apart. 

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Peas:
Location: Plant in full sun, can tolerate partial shade but will be destroyed by heavy winds.  Do not plant too close to walls or fences, these areas have less moisture in the soil and peas grow best when the soil is moist.

Optimal Temperature to Grow: Grow best in cooler temperatures, will stop producing in temperature exceeding 70 degrees
Fahrenheit.

Water: Water regularly, but be sure not to overwater as this could lead to root rot.
Spacing: Rows should be spaced eighteen inches apart.

Fertilization: Do not add any nitrogen to the soil in areas where peas are planted.  Peas obtain the nitrogen they need from the air, and too much will decrease the amount of pods produced.

Garden Peas: Should be picked when the pod is swollen to get the perfect pea.
Sugar and Snap Peas: Are ripe when body of pod can be snapped like a green bean, harvest every one to three days.

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Peppers:
Location: Plant in full sun, with well drained soil.  Also can be planted in containers.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Need warm temperatures to grow, night temperature must be above fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. For early planting use black plastic or paper mulch to protect the plants from getting damaged by the cold.  This also acts as a barrier to protect against weeds.*

Water: Water around the base of the plant to ensure that the roots are deeply moistened.
Spacing: Space plants eighteen to twenty-four inches apart in rows eighteen to thirty-six inches apart.

Fertilization: Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsions and seaweed work well to bring soil organisms, such as earthworms, and bacteria to the area which promotes good plant health.

Hot Peppers: To get a hotter pepper, withhold water to stress the plant near the end of the crop.  By giving excess water a milder tasting pepper will grow. Hot peppers take longer to produce fruit.

Pepper Care:  Make sure to nip any flowers or buds from the plant during the first two weeks.  Doing so will ensure that the plant will grow larger and produce more fruit.

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Potatoes:
Potatoes are a "tuber" crop meaning they grow under the ground. They take 2-3 months to mature.
Location: Plant in full sun 2-3" deep. Potatoes need loamy, well draining, preferably sandy soil. When plants are about 1 ft tall "hill" around the tuber with soil. Hilling is the process of building up the soil around the visible plant. This protects the tuber from "greening" as a result of sun exposure. Allow green upper portion of the plant to die back before harvesting potatoes. When harvesting use a shovel to dig around the tuber and gently
remove from the ground. Tubers store well after harvesting when placed in a cool dark place.
Low pH of 5.0 to 5.5.

Water: Require consistent water in a well draining soil condition. Will not grow well if sitting in wet conditions or if there is a lack of water.

When rotating crops, do not plant where tomatoes or eggplants were previously planted because they share similar types of problems.

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Strawberries:

Location: Need full sun and excellent drainage.  Make sure not to grow in areas where eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes have been recently planted to avoid disease.  Can also be grown in containers or hanging baskets.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Can be grown at lower temperatures, but a frost will kill off the blossoms.

Water: Water one to two inches per week, especially while fruit is forming.

pH: Require pH of 5.3-6.5

Winter Protection: Cover the plants with about four inches of mulch, clean straw, or salt hay during cooler months beginning in November when temperatures reach below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Strawberry Care: Everberry strawberries are a perennial plant. They will produce for several years. The first year will produce fewer berries. After 3-4 years, plants should be replaced.  Fruit will continually form from summer until the end of fall.  Runners should be trimmed at the end of the harvest so that new shoots can form for the following season.

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Swiss Chard:
Location: Grows well in full sun. Occasionally used as an alternative to spinach, swiss chard is a colorful, hearty leaf vegetable. Swiss chard is high in vitamins and is an attractive addition to your garden and table when harvested. Can be grown in beds or containers. Will continue to produce in cooler weather if placed under black plastic to prevent against hard frost. Leaves may be harvested and will continue to produce if core of plant is not damaged.
pH of soil should be between 6.5 and 6.8.

Water : Prefers consistent soil moisture

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Zucchini:
Location: Need full sun, but can tolerate partial shade, and must be in a well drained area.
Optimal Temperature to Grow: Grows in warmer weather, plant after there is no danger of frost.  If planting early, it is necessary to protect them from the cold.

Water: Water at base of plant, making sure not to wet the stems or foliage. 

Fertilization: Water in fertilizer immediately after first zucchini fruit is seen.  Do not over fertilize or the plant will produce more leaves and smaller fruit.

Harvesting: Picking fruit frequently will allow plant to produce more and continue to grow.  Fruit should be picked when they are approximately four inches long or slightly longer.

Disease Prevention: To prevent powdery mildew and bacterial wilt, do not handle the leaves or vines when they are wet.
Certain varieties of zucchini do not need to be pollinated, parthenocarpic brands such as Sultan Zucchini will produce fruit regardless of pollination.

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Tomatoes:
Determinate vs. Indeterminate: Determinate varieties are bush type plants. Blossoms and fruit develop on the plant at the same time. These plants seldom need staking however, they have a shorter harvest period.  Indeterminate varieties need to be staked or caged. Blossoms and fruit develop progressively and can be harvested for a longer period of time.

Location: Need full sun, and well drained soil.  Best to transplant in cloudy weather or late in the afternoon so that plant can better acclimate.  Certain varieties may also be grown in containers.

Optimal Temperature to Grow: Need warm temperatures to grow, night temperature must be above fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. For early planting use black plastic or paper mulch to protect the plants from getting damaged by the cold.  This also acts as a barrier to protect against weeds.*

Water: Make sure to water around base of plant so that roots are fully moistened.  Plants should get one to two inches of water per week.  Do not wet foliage of plants during watering.

Spacing: Plants should be spaced thirty-six inches apart in rows thirty-six inches apart.
Fertilization: Soil should be dug at least twelve inches deep if you are planting a new garden.  This soil should then be mixed with a variety of organic fertilizers such as compost, cow manure, shredded leaves. The organic matter will help to aerate and loosen the soil, adding nutrients and holding moisture.

Tomato plants perform well when basil is planted parallel to them. This helps overcome both insects and diseases and improves the flavor of the tomato.

pH: Require pH of 6.0-7.0

Disease Prevention: Smokers should be sure to wash hands thoroughly before touching plants. Tomatoes are susceptible to diseases transmitted through tobacco.
Insect Prevention: To deter cutworms from killing plant, place a paper collar around the plant.  Secure paper down so that it is not blown into the plant by the wind.  This will not only protect them from the insects, but from cooler temperatures as well.  The paper can be removed after the season has warmed up.

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