Vegetable Gardening A-Z

Ideal growing conditions and tips for planting your garden with vegetables.

Artichokes
Artichokes do best in mild climates. They take close to 5 months to mature from seed. Plant only outside after all danger of frost has passed. Keeping them well-watered helps speed their growth. Ideal pH 5.5 - 6.5.

Asparagus
Start with a soil rich in organic matter. Add compost or manure to boost organic matter content. Dig it in well before planting. In the fall and spring, cover the asparagus bed with 4 to 6 inches of mulch mixed with manure. Asparagus likes a soil pH around 6.5, so avoid acid additions like aluminum sulfate or acidic mulches like sawdust and pine bark. Plant asparagus roots about 8 inches deep and 18 inches apart. You will need about 25 asparagus roots for each member of your family (each member who eats asparagus, that is).

Many gardeners suggest waiting until the 2nd or 3rd year to harvest your first crop of asparagus. You can harvest the first year if you limit the harvest to 2 or 3 weeks. After that, stop harvesting, and wait until next year. The 2nd and 3rd years, you should be able to harvest asparagus for 4 to 6 weeks. After harvest each year, cut off the tops of the plants just above the stem. Ideal pH 6.0 - 7.0.

Beans
Two big rules about beans: plant in warm soil, and never plant in soggy soil. Beans like it warm, and they hate being wet. Wait until the soil is warm enough to walk barefoot on it, and wait until the water from any recent rain has drained away.

Beans should be harvested young before the shells dry out. Harvest about every 2 days to encourage more production. The exceptions are shelling beans like pintos or great northerns: you want those to stay on the plant until dry and the foliage begins to wither. Ideal pH 5.5 - 6.5.

Broccoli
Broccoli likes it cool. Plant in early spring or fall to avoid the hot days of summer. Give it a well drained soil. Dig in compost to your broccoli rows and add about 1 pound of 5-10-10 fertilizer for every 25 feet of row. Ideal pH 6.0 - 7.0.

Cabbage
Put cabbage seedlings in the garden when they have 3 to 5 leaves. Then bury them deep, even covering the bottom set of leaves. Cabbage needs an especially rich soil. Fertilize once a month by spreading a 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of each plant. Cabbage does best if grown in early spring and fall. Be sure to rotate where you plant cabbage in the garden each year. Cabbage is susceptible to a number of fungal infections, and by moving it to a different spot in the garden each year, you can keep infections in check. Also, cabbage is susceptible to caterpillar damage. An effective caterpillar control is Bt, which is an organic insecticide obtained at almost any garden supply center. Ideal pH 6.0 - 7.0.

Continued In Vegetable Gardening A-Z, Part II

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