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Vegetable Gardening A-Z, Part III

Updated on January 30, 2010

Peppers
Peppers should be started indoors about 8 weeks before placing outside. Plant outside about 1 month after the last frost. Peppers need warm soil and benefit from a light mulch of hay or grass clippings. The soil should also be loose and well-drained. Ideal pH 5.5 - 7.0

Potatoes
Be sure to plant certified disease-free seed potatoes that are appropriate for your climate. Before planting, dig in about 2 pounds of compost for every 10 feet of row. Keep the soil piled up around the base of the plants so that sunlight does not reach the tubers. Light can cause the potatoes to turn green and, yes, poisonous. Sprinkle a potassium nitrate fertilizer around the base of the plants when they are about 8 inches tall. Potatoes are ready to harvest when the foliage withers and dries. Try to harvest on a cloudy day to avoid exposure to sunlight. Ideal pH 6.5 - 7.0.

Pumpkins
Sow pumpkins outside when the threat of frost is past. They need about 110 frost-free days and love the summer heat. To encourage giant pumpkins, start with a rich soil and fertilize with potassium. Let the plant form only 3 fruits, then cut off two. The remaining fruit will continue to grow. Fertilize the side vines regularly by sprinkling potassium around their bases. Ideal pH 6.0 - 8.0.

Radishes
Radishes like it cool! Plant in early spring or fall. They like plenty of water and will grow faster if you never let the soil dry out. Keep them protected from hot afternoon soil by planting in a spot where they will have afternoon shade. Ideal pH 6.0- 7.0.

Spinach
Grow in early spring or fall. Spinach prefers cool conditions and will wither in hot summer heat. Water regularly and prevent the soil from drying out by using a mulch. Spinach does well when planted where it will receive afternoon shade. Fertilize weekly until the plants are about 3 inches tall. Ideal pH 6.5 -7.0.

Squash
Squash grows prolifically. Grow only one plant per person in your family. Squash demands a rich soil with lots of organic matter. Give it a sunny spot that has been amended with compost or manure. Squash rarely needs fertilizing if planted in a rich soil. Ideal pH 6.0 - 8.0.

Tomatoes
Sow tomatoes indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost. Keep the seedlings in a warm spot until they have 4 leaves. Then move them to a cooler spot during the night. This slows down their development and keeps them from getting too lanky while they wait to be transplanted outside. Tomatoes need a rich, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. Before transplanting, dig in a handful of bone meal and 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts to each planting hole. This boosts the calcium level in the soil and helps prevent blossom-end rot. It also helps keep the pH at a neutral level, which tomatoes prefer. Also, use a low N fertilizer, such as 4-8-4, and fertilize only once a month once fruit is set. Keep the soil evenly moist and prevent it from drying out. Tomatoes become cracked when wet periods follow dry spells. Ideal pH 6.0 - 7.0.

Zucchini
Zucchini produce lots of fruit. Plant only one plant per family member. They like warm spots, so plant in a sunny spot. Harvest when the fruits are 4 to 6 inches long. Ideal pH 6.0 - 8.0.

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