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Don Davis: Time to make decisions on your vegetable garden
Growing vegetables involves decisions. The first one is about what you want to grow.You can choose heirloom or hybrid vegetables. They each have their advantages.Heirlooms have been saved from extinction by generations of gardeners who valued their special characteristics, such as eating quality. Today, there is a new class of tomatoes called hybrid heirlooms that have the flavors and colors of heirloom tomatoes combined with the higher productivity of hybrids.Hybrid vegetables have more uniformity than heirlooms, so they will be very similar in appearance and harvest date. Many hybrids feature resistance to diseases and pests.Your choice of what to grow depends on the space available. Pumpkins, melons and sweet potatoes have spreading growth habits that require bigger gardens.Voracious insect pests will ruin your harvests of kale and other members of the cabbage family unless you control them. To avoid the need for insect control, you could choose crops such as pepper, spinach, lettuce, bean and beet, which have no serious pests.Deer also may influence your choice of crops to grow. Although they relish beans, lettuce and almost everything else, deer rarely ever touch radish, squash, pepper, eggplant, onion, okra, mustard, turnip and Irish potato.The time of year has a great effect on your best choices for planting. Cool season crops to plant this month and next include broccoli, cabbage, peas (snow, snap, shelling), lettuce, spinach, arugula and onion.Once May arrives, your choices shift to warm season vegetables such as tomato, pepper, cucumber, squash, corn and beans of all kinds. Then, later on in August and September, it is time to repeat the spring plantings for autumn harvest.Length of harvest period is worth keeping in mind as you plan a vegetable garden. Harvest comes and goes quickly with lettuce so you need to keep planting more seeds every three weeks from now until Labor Day.Planting just once is enough where pepper and eggplant are concerned. Due to diseases and insect pests, you will definitely have to plant cucumber and squash several times to have a long term harvest.A single planting of tomatoes may produce ripe fruit from July to October — if you are lucky. Because their harvest season usually is cut short by diseases such as early blight, it is always a good idea to plant a late crop of tomatoes in June.While one planting of lima and butter beans often is enough, you need to plant every three weeks for a season long harvest of green or snap beans. Bush bean plants require more frequent replanting than pole beans.You can plant vegetables in single rows, double rows and any other configuration that seems suitable. Raised beds are an option whether or not you have them framed with wood.Container gardening requires a soil formulated for containers, one with plenty of organic matter. You can choose from several brands found in stores or make your own by combining equal amounts of topsoil, peat moss and builders sand.Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at [email protected]
Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at [email protected]
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