How to grow a vegetable garden in times of food uncertainty

The pandemic proves that scarcity is possible for almost anyone, and it’s no surprise that growing vegetables at home is suddenly being viewed with great interest.

On February 1st our garden column with the title “Victory Gardens was back! Here’s why, ”he explains of growing your own food, which offers increased food security and other benefits. Given the pandemic, now may be time to get Victory Gardens up to speed.

Vegetables like potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and onions are good to use in the winter months. Photo of the forum file

What if you don’t know how to plant a garden? Starting this week, we’ll be running a three-week series on the basics of the vegetable garden. This week we discuss traditional gardening practices. Next week we will focus on raised beds, container gardens and growing vegetables without traditional land. In the third week, community gardens are discussed and how we can participate in group gardening.

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Below is a guideline for traditionally growing a vegetable garden with a plot of land. Many of these tips also apply to the elevated gardens, which we’ll be discussing next week.

Location in the garden: Sun all day is required for most types of vegetables. Leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, and herbs tolerate some partial shade, but vegetables that produce fruit or underground structures require eight hours of direct sunlight, including tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans, and others.

Decide what to plant: focus on vegetables that you or your family like. For winter storage, plant potatoes, pumpkin, onions and carrots. For canning, freezing and pickling, plant tomatoes, corn, beets, peas, beans, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower.

Start: Do not start too early, as frost will still appear in the first half of May in most years. The most successful 10-day window for widespread garden planting is the 15th – 25th. May.

Cool plants and warm plants: If you want to split up your gardening work and plant vegetables early, plants of the “cool season” can tolerate frosts between 28 and 32 degrees. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, and potatoes can be planted in late April through early May. Warm season vegetables that are easily damaged by frost include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, squash, and squash. Wait until May 20th or 25th before planting as they will also need warm soil for growth.

Tools Needed: If you don’t own a rototiller, you can rent one. Small gardens can be worked with a spade fork. A sturdy garden rake for smoothing the soil before planting. Two wooden stakes tied with twine to form rows. A yardstick or wooden slat marked 6 inches apart to determine the distance between rows. A hoe for digging and covering furrows. Stakes to mark where rows will be sown. (Plastic milk jugs cut into 8-inch strips are weatherproof row markers.)

Seeds versus transplants: Vegetables that are usually sown directly into garden soil include carrots, beets, beans, peas, lettuce, radish, spinach, and corn. Vegetables that are best planted from pre-started transplants are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and melons. They need too long a season for direct sowing. Pumpkin, squash, and cucumber can be sown directly or use transplants started for previous crops. (If sown in peat pots in early May, they will be ready for garden planting around May 25th.)

Anyone can learn to grow vegetables by following basic gardening guidelines.  Photo of the forum file

Anyone can learn to grow vegetables by following basic gardening guidelines. Photo of the forum file

How to plant: After the garden has been plowed or dug and raked, mark the first row by stretching string between the stakes from one side of the garden to the other. Using the string as a guide, pull the hoe and dig a trench in the ground.

The depth depends on the seed size. Check the seed package for the recommended planting depth. Plant large seeds like peas and beans about an inch deep and an inch apart. Small seeds like carrots, lettuce, and radish are scattered into a shallow trench only ¼ inch deep. Packages usually indicate how many feet of row the package is expected to plant.

Use a hoe or rake to gently pull the soil back into the trench and cover the seeds to the correct depth. Then go back across the row and lightly tamp the ground with the flat side of the cleaver. Mark each row so you know where seedlings are expected to be, which will help with weeding, as weeds often sprout around the same time as the vegetables.

Next, move the stakes and string to the next row. Most rows sown are best at least 18 inches apart. Place rows of vegetable grafts like tomatoes and cabbage 24 to 36 inches apart.

Next week: gardening in raised beds and containers.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Don Kinzler’s Growing Together columns

Don Kinzler, a Lifelong Gardener, is a Gardener with the North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or by calling 701-241-5707.

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