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If you have never grown your own vegetables maybe this is the year to start.The flavor of freshly harvested vegetables from your own garden is hard to beat.Novice vegetable gardeners should start small, so you are not overwhelmed later in the summer with taking care of the garden. Seasoned gardeners know that each year brings its own successes and challenges.The most important step when planning a vegetable garden is picking the location.Vegetables need at least six to eight hours of sunlight for best growth, and 10 hours would be better. Choose a location as far away as possible from trees and shrubs as their roots will rob your vegetables of nutrients and water.Most vegetables do best in well-drained, organically rich soil that is evenly moist. It is always a good idea to have your soil tested before you start a new garden to determine the pH and nutrient levels.Locate your garden by a water source as most vegetables are not drought tolerant. They will need to be watered if rain does not supply their needs. The closer your garden is to a water source, the easier it will be, and it’s more likely you will water the garden when needed.Do not go overboard buying seeds or transplants. Grow what your family likes to eat.If you are a first-time gardener stay away from harder to grow vegetables such as cauliflower or carrots. You can pick those up at a local farmers market or roadside stand.Never work your soil when it is wet. Tilling or digging wet soil will cause it to dry into concrete-like clods or compact it.If you aren’t sure, try this simple soil test: Pick up a handful of soil from the garden and squeeze it.If it falls apart easily, it is ready to be cultivated. If it stays in a ball, it is still too wet to work — let the soil dry for a few days and test again.When you buy transplants, leaves and stems should be green and healthy. Plants with yellowing or browning leaves can indicate disease, insects, or nutrient issues.Look for disease resistant varieties. Check plants for insects.Most insects will hide under the leaves. If you see tiny white flying insects, whiteflies are likely.Aphids are tiny, oval shaped insects. Both insects will cause browning and curling of leaves as they feed on the plant.Avoid transplants that have roots growing out of the drainage holes as they might be root bound. These plants tend to wilt quickly, and they may have yellow or brown leaves, or stunted growth.Look at the roots by gently tapping the plant out of the pot. Healthy roots are white.Transplants from a greenhouse should be hardened off before you plant them in the garden. Hardening off is a process of slowly introducing plants to wind, cooler temperatures, and outdoor light conditions.Put them in a sheltered area and gradually introduce them to more sun over the course of a week before planting.Vegetables that are very hardy can be planted four to six weeks before the last spring frost.Onion sets, potato tubers and broccoli, cabbage and asparagus transplants can be planted. Seeds of peas, spinach, turnips, and lettuce can be planted.Two to three weeks before the last frost date, frost tolerant vegetables can be planted.Beets, radishes, carrots, and parsnip can be planted from seed. Transplants of cauliflower can be planted.Tender vegetables must wait until after the frost-free date. Tomato transplants can finally be planted. Direct seed sweet corn, beans, and summer squash.Wait to plant warm-loving vegetables until one to two weeks after the frost-free date. They need the soil to warm and warm air temperatures before planting.This includes vine crops like cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelon, and cantaloupe. You can finally put out transplants of peppers and eggplants or give sweet potatoes a try.Start a garden journal. Record the varieties of vegetables you grew, as well as the weather, last spring/first fall frost date, seeding and planting dates, insect and disease issues, harvest dates and yields.This information can be valuable to you as a reminder of what worked and what did not in future years.Be tolerant of small insect infestations in parts of your yard or garden as beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings need to eat insects like aphids. Many large wasps will take caterpillars to feed their young, while smaller wasps tend to be parasitic.Consider planting annual flowers or herbs in your vegetable garden as these will attract pollinators and beneficial insects to help control pests. Bachelor buttons, sweet alyssum, dill, fennel, cosmos, marigold, zinnia, or sunflowers are all good choices.Avoid the use of pesticides when possible.Hours & programmingHave a gardening question?Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. You can stop in at the CCE office at 420 E. Main St., Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or e-mail [email protected] our May 5 Garden Talk in person at the CCE office or on Zoom. “Kitchen Gardens” with Master Gardener Kathie W. will start at noon.Kitchen gardens have been around for as long as humans have lived in communities. And no, they are not gardens in your kitchen.Join us to find out a little history, a little design, what exactly is a kitchen garden, and what can be planted in yours.Garden Talk classes are free, but you do need to register. For the Zoom option, register at our CCE website events page at http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/events. To attend in person, register by calling Mandy at (585) 343-3040 ext. 101.The Spring Garden Gala will be May 14 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County in Batavia. This annual plant sale features a variety of perennials and a selection of house plants.The plant sale starts promptly at 10 a.m. It’s asked that people avoid arriving early.Visit the basket auction for garden art, gift certificates and a variety of themed baskets. Gently used garden books will also be for sale.The basket auction drawing starts at 12: 30 p.m. New this year is a garden garage sale which will feature gently used garden tools, containers, decor and more.
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