Tip: Keep Picking Those Vegetables

Do you know exactly when to pick some of the more popular vegetables? Pick vegetables to keep them producing. Pick green beans when pods are 3 to 4 inches long, but still smooth and smaller around than your little finger. Pick zucchini when it’s less than 5 inches long. Tomatoes are best when left to ripen on the vine, they lose flavor when picked to soon. Cucumbers are meant to be picked before they start turning white on the bottom, remaining all green. Pumpkin last several months when picked after the stem is brown and the pumpkin is mostly orange. If corn cobs feel full through to the top and the silk are dark brown, then grab an ear and snap downwards.

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

Starting a Garden

Growing vegetables and flowers can be one of the most rewarding hobbies you can pursue. Gardening can satisfy your need for beauty, accomplishment and nourishment. Plus, it keeps me from snacking allowing me to shed a few pounds, from the winter weight gain if you know what I mean.

It’s important to plant your garden seeds at the right time, and the key is knowing when your area will see its last spring frost. You’ll sure be sorry if you put your long-awaited, warm season crops in the ground too soon, but it’s easy to determine when the danger of frost has passed. You just need to learn your location’s average last spring frost date.

To get started, find a good sunny location. Determine the size of the garden you would like to have. First thing I did was to get a soil sample, which you can do through your local Extension center. They have soil sample boxes available for use at no charge. One box (1.5 to 2 cups) is all the University lab needs for analyses. I just use a brown paper sack. Using a small shovel or soil probe, sample to a 6 inch depth. Take 12 or more random cores from each area of the lawn to be tested and remove the thatch and live plant material before breaking up the cores and mixing thoroughly in a dry plastic bucket. (Metal buckets contaminate the sample with micronutrients.) Take random samples from the lawn as a whole unless there is a need to sample problem areas separately. Air dry the sample overnight before sending. When you receive your results in the mail, they will send you a guide on how to read your results as well as how you can amend your soil accordingly to the results. If you don’t have time for this, I would recommend tilling the soil and then adding compost. This would be a great start.

Compost is one of the ways to garden organically. You definitely will appreciate the fertilizing and weed controlling benefits of compost. You could ask your city parks department if they sell compost, go to your local nursery, or make your own. It will take compost several months to decompose so you will have to wait to use your pile until then. I started mine last October and after removing the top several inches, most of the pile is ready for use. If you don’t have access to compost you could add some sphagnum moss to your soil. This will allow air to get to your roots.

Americans generate about 210 million tons (231 million short tons) of trash, or solid waste, each year. Most of this trash (57 percent) gets placed in municipal landfills. About 56 million tons (27 percent) is recovered through either recycling, in the case of glass, paper products, plastic or metals, or through composting, in the case of yard waste. Composting is a method for treating solid waste in which organic material is broken down by microorganisms in the presence of oxygen to a point where it can be safely stored, handled and applied to the environment. Composting is an essential part of reducing household wastes. It can be done inexpensively by every household and produces a product — finished compost or humus — that can benefit the environment as a natural fertilizer for gardening and farming.

Next, I remove any large size rocks that would impede my vegetables from growing out of the soil by simply picking them out. Then, I remove some of the smaller rocks with a rock rake. With some type of post, mark out your rows per your seeds, making sure to keep your rows at their given distance apart. Read the back of the packet or tag for specific instructions for how and when to plant.