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vegetable gardening

The 3 Most Important Tips for a
Successful Vegetable Garden

You may have heard these tips before, but it never hurts to repeat them…especially when we are just getting started into Gardening Season! Here are the three things that I emphasize every year in our Gardening 101 Class, because you will be able to grow lots of vegetables when you follow these rules:

  1. Proper soil content is a must.
    If you are gardening directly in the soil, then you must do a soil test. Soil tests are easy and will help you amend it with nutrients if it’s lacking. Also, if the soil is too alkaline or too acidic, it will definitely affect your veggie production. Here is the link with instructions on how to do a soil test in TN and where to carry your sample for evaluation. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1061.pdf

    If you are gardening in a new raised bed, it is important to start out with an balanced mixture of soil that will drain well. We use a mixture of 50% composted cow manure and 50% topsoil in our beds. We are careful not to overwater, since there is not a lot of drainage materials in it like sand or vermiculite. Another great mixture is Mel’s mix from the Square Foot Garden Book. The average mixture is approximately 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost (different types of compost should be used). Mel’s soil mixture claims that you can’t overwater it (which is the number one issue with beginning gardeners). Of course there are numerous other soil mixtures that you can use and easily research over the internet, but the most important point is nutrient content with a PH around 6.1 – 6.3. Proper PH will allow the nutrients to feed the vegetable plants and thrive.

  2. Planting seed and transplanting plants in your garden must occur at the correct time and temperature.
    The easiest way to find out when to plant certain vegetables is to follow the USDA hardiness map: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

    A good rule of thumb is to plant your vegetable garden after the last frost date for your area, which is April 15th for Middle Tennessee. Of course each state and area will have different frost dates…so be sure to look. Some vegetables, like corn and okra, need a warmer soil temperature to germinate, if they are being planted by seed directly into the soil. Seed packets will tell you the proper soil temperature required. Almost any thermometer can be put in the soil to check out the temperature.

  3. Successful gardens must have 8 hours or more of sunlight per day and one inch of water a week.
    Sunlight is important for most vegetable to grow well. Some gardeners have gotten away with only 6 hours of sunlight, but it’s always hit or miss….depending on the particular variety. One inch of rainwater per week is a must for the plants, which roughly equates to a quart mason jar of water in the week. That does not mean to water each plant only once per week with a quart of water…it means that over a week’s period of time, it should receive about a quart. The easiest way to determine how much water it is getting, is to keep a rain gauge and monitor how much rain you are getting and then supplement whenever needed. The most common mistake of beginning gardeners is overwatering their plants!

I hope these tips have been helpful and feel free to contact us with any questions or comments at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com

Want to learn about gardening, but don’t know where to start? Our Gardening 101 Class will give you all the tools and resources to begin a garden and be successful. Plus you have the option to buy a 4’x4′ raised bed for only $20 by attending the class.

You will learn about the following topics:
• Planting from seed
• Transplanting plants to your garden
• Overview of raised bed gardening
• Compost and soil mixtures for healthy plants
• Watering methods and rainwater capture
• Temporary Greenhouse production
and companion planting, best web resources and more….

Gardening 101 Class
April 7th, Saturday, 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Cost $35, plus the option of purchasing a 4’x4′ raised bed for only $20

This class is free to anyone renting a garden plot at Stoney Creek Farm for 2018.
To register:




 

How to Plant Seeds for the Garden

It’s not rocket science, but you do have to follow the directions on the seed packet…for instance: Depth to sow = 1/2″  which means to put the seed about a half an inch under the top of the soil.  The easiest way to make sure you are getting the correct depth is to use a ruler the first few times you plant the seeds.  Place the seed on top of the soil and use the top of the ruler to push it down into the soil to the correct depth.

In general, you will find that the larger the seed is, the deeper it will go in the soil and the smaller the seed is, the reverse is true.  Herb seeds are famous for being extremely small and most of the time, I sow them by sprinkling the tiny seeds on top of the soil and then watering them.  The seeds are so tiny that they will settle into the soil from watering.  If a seed is sown too deep, it may not germinate properly and then deteriorate before it has a chance to thrive above ground.

Seeds will need somewhere between 65-80 degrees temperature to germinate (depending on the seed), so starting them indoors near a window sill will work.  We build a temporary greenhouse each year that house hundreds of plants for our U-Pick Garden until the April 15th (last) frost date and then we transplant them into the ground. In the picture below we have over 1,000 seeds planted just on the left hand side of the greenhouse.  The green trays have 108 cells and the black trays have 72 cells.  We planted 5 varieties of tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and marigolds.  On the other side of the greenhouse (not pictured) are peppers and many varieties of herbs. Special thanks go to our volunteer interns Sarah Cho and Kendall Pinkston for all their help this week!!!

Plants need three things to survive:  nutrient rich soil, water and air.  Using a good potting soil will get your seeds off to a good start.  I like to use very small cells to plant my seeds and then transplant to larger containers  after they have germinated and grow to about 1-2 inches tall (depending on the plant).

You want to keep your cells/trays moist but not wet and let them dry out in between.  If your soil is too moist it can create mildew and mold which is a terrible environment for your new plants.  If your soil is too dry, your seeds will not germinate…a fine line indeed!

Here are Broccoli seedlings that have  popped up after 3 days.  Seeds have different germination times, so check your packet for all the info.

Olin and Alaina Knott (MTSU Intern) after they built our temporary greenhouse this year.  We reuse materials for several years which saves on cost.

Happy Planting!