Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Grow Cabbage

You will enjoy the time invested in growing cabbage in your spring vegetable garden. Cabbage is grown for a variety of uses and is quite popular whether eaten fresh or canned or even cooked up in a recipe. Cabbage can be grown in both the spring and the fall months and is a very desirable plant to grow.

Starting your plants indoors under a lighting system is your best bet to get quality transplants to set out in the garden; however, you can purchase your transplants from your local garden center. If you are planting for a late fall harvest, plant transplants 15 to 18 weeks prior to the first winter frost. If you are planning for a late spring harvest, plant transplants at least 4-5 weeks prior to the last frost date in the spring.

Prepare the soil in your cabbage beds well in advance of the actual planting of transplants. Make sure to use copious amounts of finished compost from your own pile, or you can purchase bagged material from your nursery. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12” for best drainage results. Cabbage does not like wet feet, so make sure the soil drains well.

Cabbage plants are big and leafy, so, give them plenty of room to grow. Set your transplants at least two feet apart and mulch heavily with something light like wheat straw. Mulch with at least 4” of straw. This will keep most weeds from competing with the cabbage and it will maintain even moisture levels if you are watering properly. Mulching with straw also helps to keep the garden soil out of the cabbage head.

You have two options when it comes to feeding your cabbage plants. You can purchase a commercial fertilizer that is balanced, and apply at the labeled rates, or approximately one pound of fertilizer per 100 square feet of planted bed. You should start making your first application of fertilizer about 3 weeks after the plants were first planted. Apply fertilizer at the same rate once the cabbage heads start to form. If your plants are looking healthy, avoid fertilizer until absolutely necessary, as too much will cause the heads to split apart.

The other option is to use a side dressing of finished compost, spread evenly around the plants, to a depth of 2 inches. Make applications as necessary through the growing season. By side dressing with finished compost, you are adding beneficial micro-organisms to the soil. This will aid the plants intake of needed nutrient through the life of the plant.

Water consistently but avoid saturating the soil. Water evenly, both in quantity and in timing so that the soil does not create problems for the cabbage down the stretch. The mulch will help to retain moisture, so keep checking for the need to water prior to watering.

One pest that you need to be aware of is the cabbage looper. This is a chewing insect and will do a lot of damage if allowed to get out of control. Place sticky boards hanging from poles over the cabbage to help you identify when adults are in the area. There are several options for pest control of the cabbage looper. Please read the label of any pesticide you may consider using, even if it is branded as an “organic” control product.

Aphids are a soft bodied insect that will attack your cabbage plants new growth. If possible, release “Lady Bird Beetle” larvae around your plants just as you begin to see aphids show up. These little buggers have a voracious appetite in regard to aphids and will eat 100’s of aphids each as they grow into adult beetles.

Harvest your cabbage when heads are bigger than a softball. You can harvest them all the way up to a soccer ball size, but you shouldn’t wait too long since the heads will start to split or they could get sunburned. Rinse and process your cabbage as quickly as possible for best flavor.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How to Grow Healthy Bush Variety Green Beans

Have you always wanted to grow green beans, but were never able to carry it out? Growing green beans is just as easy as any other vegetable. I grow the “bush” variety and have had tremendous success by planting Ferry-Morse “Contender” variety. Follow these tips and you can have the same success.

Start off by preparing your garden soil with quality compost, either freshly complete from your own garden compost pile, or purchased from your local supplier. Turn the compost into the soil and water heavily. Wait one week before planting your seed.

Check the back of the seed package for the current “LOT” year printed on the package. Making sure you start out with fresh seed is the first step to success. If you soak your seeds in water overnight, your germination success rate will be much improved.

Plant your seed after the last frost, according to the USDA map on the package for your region. Bush green beans are typically planted to a depth of one inch. They are usually spaced about four inches apart in rows spaced twenty inches apart. Expect your seedlings to pop their heads up after about 7 days. Thin them to about six inches apart.

Once the seedlings are up and have grown the second set of “true” leaves, I mulch heavily (4 to 6 inches) with wheat straw. Bush beans will grow in almost any kind of soil, but it helps to side dress your rows with well-rotted manure or finished compost just prior to the plants setting beans.

Beans are known for adding a lot of value to the soil by producing bacteria in the nodules on the roots, improving both the physical condition and the fertility of the soil. Make sure you clip the plants off at the soil level at the end of the growing season, and turn under the root system.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How to Plant and Grow Cantaloupe

I know you will enjoy planting Cantaloupe as much as I do. Enjoy this sweet summer fruit as long as the plants continue to produce. They are easy to plant and maintain and will produce juicy fruit with a little care.

I filled up a 4’x4’x2’ high plastic bin with quality soil and mixed in some compost. I planted the seeds in a circle about 30” in diameter and then thinned to the strongest 5 plants. I mulched with wheat straw. As the plants grew bigger, I mulched even heavier to a depth of about 4 inches.

If I plant directly into the garden, I usually wait at least 2 weeks after the last frost. Cantaloupe doesn’t like frost or cold temperatures.  This is a heat loving plant, so the soil needs to be warm enough (about 70–75 degrees) when you plant the seed. Seeds will germinate in about 7-10 days and have the first set of true leaves within 12 to 14 days.

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Growing Red Raspberries in your garden

The fresh, crisp flavor of red raspberries is the wonderful result of growing them in your own vegetable garden. Learning as much as you can about red raspberries is one of the most important tools you can use to your advantage when it comes to producing these flavorful morsels of sweetness. They can be grown in almost any USDA Zone; however, they are not necessarily great producers in southern states. I’m currently growing them in northeast Texas. With a little effort, though, you can become the recipient of a high yielding crop for many years.

There are two different types of raspberries that can be grown in the garden. Fall bearing raspberries (considered everbearing) produce fruit twice before the cane dies back. First in the fall (autumn), and then the following year in the summertime. The plants produce large clusters of white flowers followed by the fruit. The second type is a summer-bearing plant that yields fruit on a two year old cane. There is nothing prettier that a cluster of ripe red raspberries.

There are many varieties available through mail-order catalogs and from your local nursery. Some are sold as bare root stock, while others can be purchased as planted stock locally. My preference is always to start with rooted stock, however, if the best variety for my area was only available as a bare root item, I would have no trouble purchasing this type of stock for the garden. Remember to make sure the stock you purchase is best suited to your growing region. Raspberries need a good amount of winter chill hours but also need a growing season that provides them with a slow warming in the spring.

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