|Every type of seed package you purchase should have instructions
that recommend one of these 3 ways of but it is not the rule. Weather
conditions that are particular to your area should also be considered.
For example, if you are growing in a warmer area that does not get
frosts often, it may be better to start all your plants outside
rather than transplanting them. Or if you are in a colder, high
altitude area, you may have to wait until after the last frost before
starting any vegetables outside. Getting advice about the weather
from other gardeners in your area is invaluble, and is probably
the best way to ensure the success of your garden.
When planning your garden it is very important to consider where
the sun will be shining and where there will be shadows. Remember
to consider the movement of the sun. Vegetables that like cooler
temperatures will do better in places where there may be more
shadows, but remember that too much shade may prevent your plants
from growing properly, or even at all. Areas that are subjected
to sun throughout the day are the places to plant vegetables like
tomatoes, peppers and other heat loving plants.
It is also very important to consider what types of vegetables
will be planted next to each other, as some types of vegetables
don't get along with other types. For example, potatoes should
not be planted next to tomatoes because they both extract large
amounts of nitrogen from the soil, and there may not be enough
nitrogen for both types of vegetables in one area. Or for example,
that peas and beans actually inject nitrogen into the soil and
may be beneficial to other vegetables that need high amounts of
nitrogen. People call these types of vegetable relationships "companion
planting". For help with companion planting in your garden,
Another thing you'll need to consider when planting your garden
is how it will be watered. If you are away frequently or have
a very inconsistent schedule, you may find that after you've planted
your garden you just can't seem to get it the water that it needs.
It is very important especially in the early stages of growing
your garden that it receives enough water. Seeds must stay at
least slightly moist in order to sprout, and freshly transplanted
seedlings often cannot tolerate the stress of insufficient water.
But as always, try not to overwater, as overwatering can prevent
your garden from growing properly, and may lead to molds, fungi
and pests that can harm the health of your garden.
It is also good to think about what vegetables you may want to
plant "successively". Sucsessive planting is when you
plant a smaller amount initialy, and then about a month later
you'll plant another small amount, and so on, so you'll have a
continuous supply, rather than having a huge amount all at once.
Vegetables such as lettuce, spinache, peas, snap beans, broccoli,
and cabbage are often planted succesively. Depending upon your
part of the world, there may be a point in the season at which
you will stop succesive planting, as the seeds or seedlings will
need sufficient time to mature before the growing season ends.
It may sound like a lot to consider, but most of all remember
that you don't need to worry too much about doing everything just
right. Most of these plants have been taking care of themselves
for the last several thousand years and have done just fine without
our help. But there are a few things to be aware of, and if you
put a little thought into it before you plant your garden, it
can be the difference between a modest harvest, or more fresh
food than you could have imagined.
One thing we learned in our first experience planting a garden
was the value of speaking to others who had done it before. If
you have the ability to do this, then definitely don't miss out
on the opportunity to get first hand information. It is often
far more helpfull than the instructions that are printed on the
back of your seed packages.
So... one of the first things you'll need to start a vegetable
garden is to find a place to put it. Fortunately for us, there
was a big backyard with a big lawn that was only producing big
water bills, and not much else. So after not much deliberation,
we decided to cut our losses and we tilled up the entire backyard.
It was quite a bit of work, but everybody helped, and the experience
was actually a lot of fun to go through. It was great to work
together with everybody on a project that would benefit us all
After tilling the yard once, we went through and pulled out the
large chunks of grass that were left from the lawn. We would pick
up the peices by hand and shake them off, removing a large portion
of the dirt from the roots. After this we threw the peices into
a corner of the yard we had designated for a composting pile,
to use the material to help fertilize next year's food.
We tilled over the yard in a couple different directions to try
to break up the grass and make the soil soft and ready for planting.
It took us about two days, with a couple of people taking turns
on the tiller. Toward the end, the tiller wasn't working so good.
So we borrowed another one which broke down before we could finish,
so we finished the job by hand with old fashioned spades. It actually
wasn't a bad way to get the job done...with a couple of people
working together we covered a lot of area really fast, and actually
did a better job than either of the tillers had done. Tilling
with the spades was very helpful around the edges, where the garden
met things such as the concrete driveway and the fences around
At the end of the job, we had prepared over 2500 square feet
in which to plant. We had begun some of our seedlings indoors
about two months before we prepared the garden. With many varieties
of vegetables, it is recommended that you plant them indoors to
get them established before you transplant them to your garden.
We started these seeds in small inexpensive plastic trays, using
potting soil mixed with soil from the backyard. We placed them
on a table by a window, but we found it neccesary to place some
grow lights over them because the light from the window was not
enough. It is easy to tell when a seedling of any type is not
recieving enough light, because they will develop long, thin stalks
that grow longer and longer as they try to reach up toward the
It's pretty easy to get lights that are suitable for growing
plants indoors. You can buy "grow" lights at just about
any wal-mart type place, but you can get better ones from garden
shops. They don't cost hardly anything to run either...we had
our lights on 24 hours a day for the first month (you can do this
when they are seedlings), and I didn't see any increase in our
power bills at all.
We bought most of our seeds from a couple different shops around
town, but we did order a few types on the web. The types we started
indoors were broccoli, red onions, roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes,
red cabbage, three types of cauliflower, brussel sprouts, serveral
types of bell peppers, japanese egg plant, kale, and four types
We had a lot of space to fill in the garden, so we had to plant
a lot of seeds. Each seed tray cost us only a dollor, and contained
48 separate cells in which to plant seeds. We had 10 or 11 of
these on a large table next to a window, over which we placed
a couple of large flouescent grow lights. Flourescent lights have
to be placed quite close to the tops of the seedlings. Something
like 3-7 inches.
I think I over watered the seeds at first. Everybody who had
prior experience told me that you should let the top of the soil
get dry before you water them again. It caused the area to stay
damp and it attracted a lot of small gnats. I'm told that these
gnats can lay eggs in the soil, and their larvae eat the roots
of your seedlings. We didn't end up having a big problem with
the, allthough they were very persistent, and didn't go away untill
the seedlings went away.
In our area, the spring of 2008 was very cold and wet late into
the year, which delayed the planting of vegatables for weeks,
but it was ok with us as we were a little bit behind in our efforts
to prepare the soil in the garden, and also to prepare the seedlings
we had started indoors to be transplanted outside.
When plants are started indoors, it is often neccesary to "harden
them" as they say. Since the young plants are not used to
the sun, they need to be gradually introduced to the outdoors
by moving them outside for what is at first a short period of
time such as a couple of hours, eventually ending up about a week
or two later with the seedlings remaining outside permanantly
and being transplanted to your vegetable garden.
I don't know for sure, but I think some of our seedling may have
died as the result of not being "hardened" well enough,
as we were in a hurry to get them in the ground once the weather
cleared up and the threat of frost was over.
The growing season had started late this year and we were anxious
to get seeds into the ground. We had seeds for Fava Beans, Spinache,
five types of lettuce, Snow Peas, Sugar snap peas, Tiger eye beans,
Scarlet emperor runner beans, Cherokee wax beans, Lima Beans,
Gold Mine beans, soybeans, Black Kabouli Garbonzo Beans, four
types of beets, 3 types of carrots, two types of potatoes, several
types of squash, and red winter rye that were all overdue to be
started directly in the soil.
All the plants that we started indoors were transplanted at about
the right stage in the weather, but we were late in planting our
cool weather vegetables like peas, carrots, beets, beans, lettuce,
and spinache. Some of these cool weather vegetables suffered as
Though not all of the things in our garden did well, most of
them did great. Among the best producers were the Cherokee wax
beans. Cherrokee Wax Beans are a small reddish colored bean that
is usually eaten as a dry bean. We planted them directly into
the garden, as is recommended with most beans. We planted only
one package containing about 70 beans, and ended up with about
one mason jar full of dried beans. To begin with, there are two
main types of beans, those that are to be eaten when they are
green and tender, called snap beans or snap peas, and those that
are to be eaten after being dried and removed from the pods, called
dry beans. I did a bit of research about beans before planting
the garden, and heard many things about the proper way to dry
out the bean pods, but I found that the best way was to just leave
them alone and let them dry out on the plant. You'll just have
to keep an eye on them so as they don't get so dried out that
the pods drop off into the soil and you lose your beans. If you
don't think you can prevent this from happening, the other way
is to pull out the plants toward the end of the season and let
them dry out in a garage or somewhre similar. I think if you can
let them dry on the plant, you'll likely get a larger yield, since
the pods often devolop at different rates, and some pods may be
already dry while others are still undeveloped and not ready for
The red cabbage did very good, and is a very cool looking plant
as well. The thick and fleshy leaves have a dusty, almost irredescent
sheen to them, with an incredible range of colors from turquoise
and blue greens, to reds and dark purples. Some cabbage heads
reached 7 inches in diameter. It was a joy to watch them grow.
You can harvest the heads at just about any point after they have
formed and hardened. Cut the head at the base. Cabbage heads can
be stored for up to 3 or 4 months in a cold refrigerator or cellar
where the temperature is between 45 degrees F. and freezing.
The Green Goliath Broccoli did quite well. We planted about 16
seedlings that we had strated indoors from seed. They seemed very
strong and grew well when they were transplanted into the garden.
They yeilded much more than we could use at once, so we learned
that it may be better to plant broccoli successively. Since we
were unable to eat as much broccoli as was being produced, many
of the broccoli heads remain on the plants much longer than they
normally would have, and near the end of the growing season many
of the heads began to "bolt", growing long and thin.
Bolting is when the plant reaches the stage in it's life-cycle
in which turns it's efforts to making flowers and seeds. We discovered
that this ultra-ripe broccoli was actually much sweeter and more
tender then the broccoli that we had harvested in the earlier
stages as is generally recommended. The broccloi was delicious
and I would recommend trying some "bolted" broccoli
anyday, just don't let it go for too long, as the little green
buds will eventually sprout into small yellow flowers.
We planted three types of carrots, among them were a type called
"purple haze". While having the traditional orange colored
centers, these carrots have dark purple coloration on the outside.
The more mature the carrot, the further inside the purple coloration
reached. They seemed to grow a little more slowly than the other
carrots we planted. All of the carrots we planted were started
from seed, directly into the garden, as is often recommended with
many root vegetables. The purple haze carrots seemed to grow much
fatter and shorter than the other carrots. Some were only 3-4
inches long, while being 1.5 inches in diameter. They seemed to
have a nice flavor, not much different than most other types of
carrots, but a little more rich.
We planted another type of carrot called "scarlett nantes".
These carrots grew very fast and seemed to do very well. These
carrots looked very cylindrical, being thick, and stubby on the
ends. Some grew as long as 8 inches and 1.5 inches in diameter.
They had a slightly different flavor than one may be used to in
a carrot. A little bit more earthy, with just a hint of a musty
The third type of carrot we planted was called "royal chantennay",
but they were planted in a part of the garden that was not well
watered by the automatic sprinkler system that we had had installed,
so the sprouts did not survive long, and we never had the chance
to sample any of these.
One thing we did learn was that it is probably better to pull
out the carrots when the soil is dry, because when the soil is
wet, they seem to be "vacuum sealed" into the earth,
and are very difficult to get out. Often the carrots will break
half-way down as you try to wrench them out of the slippery. muddy
soil, so try to pull them when the soil is dry and you'll save
yourself a lot of effort and digging for broken carrot-halves.
Carrots are often planted succesively, and can be left in the
soil into the winter, though getting them may be difficult at
We started two types of tomatoes indoors from seed. One type
being the very large Beefsteak Tomato, and the other the small,
acorn shaped roma tomato. Both grew vigorously as seedlings, but
at the time of transplanting many of them had succumbed to a fungus,
and were not looking very healthy. This was probably due to being
overwatered in the early stages of their growth, allowing the
fungus an overly wet environment in which it could establish itself.
We we concerned that tomatoes affected by fungus may not survive,
so we purchased about 12 tomato plants of varying types from a
garden shop. We planted a total of about 40 tomato plants. Though
the tomatoes affected by the fungus were a little slow to start,
all recovered and did very well. We were a little short on tomato
cages, so some plants were left without them. These plants could
not support their own weight and sprawled out over the ground,
at which point they were attacked by tomato eating snails. The
snails were quite a problem and probably destroyed 5% of the tomatos
that formed on the plants.
We started about 40 red onions indoors from seed, and actually
ended up purchasing another flat of red onions and a flat of candy
onions from a garden store. Each flat probaly had about a hundred
small onions all clustered together. You have to pull them apart
and plant them separately into your garden, about 5-8 inches apart.
Onions are very strong and it's ok to tear the roots when pulling
the clusters apart, which is about the only way you'll be able
to do so. The bulbs of the red onions didn't grow nearly as large
as those of the candy onions. Allthough the long, green onion
tops of the red onions grew over 2 feet tall, the largest bulbs
were only about 2.5 inches in diameter. In comparison the tops
of the candy onions reached only about 16-18 inches tall, but
some bulbs grew in excess of 3 inches in diameter. You can eat
both the bulbs as well as the entire top of the onion, which depending
upon who you ask, is often the best part.
We planted one package of about 40 Tiger Eye Bush Beans, which
are larger, yellow colored beans with orange swirls on them. A
very interesting looking bean, usually eaten as a dry bean. Though
called a bush bean, the plants did grow long and viny, and promtly
climbed up the sticks and poles we planted around them. Though
they seemed to grow well, they only produced a handfull of dried
We planted 2 packages of Windsor Fava Beans. We planted one patch
in a shadier area, and another in the sun. The Fava bean planted
in the shade grew 3 times as tall as the ones planted in the sun.
The Fava Beans planted in the shade produced large 6-8 inch beans
very quickly, while the ones in the sun did not. Both groups went
dormant and looked as if they might die during the hottest part
of the summer. Thier leaves curled tightly inwards indicating
that they'd had enough sun, and were trying to limit their exposure.
When temperatures relented in August, the very small Fava plants
that had suffered so much in the direct sun suddenly bounced back
and quickly began producing the same large beans, despite the
much smaller size of the plants. The Fava Beans planted in the
shade did not seem to bounce back in the same way, producing a
few medium to large bean pods. Perhaps each plant can have only
one good try at producing fruit. Fava Beans differ from most other
beans in that it is possible for them to turn rancid if not stored
properly. Generally Fava Beans are refridgerated after picking,
and used within a week or two. You can eat the beans raw, but
usually they are cooked. The pods are tough and not edible. It
is possible to dry Fava Beans for later use or to plant next year,
but I'm not too clear on how to do it right.
We planted one package containing about 40 Black Kabouli Garbanzo
Beans. I had never seen a black Garbonzo Bean before, but they
are truly black, and slightly smaller than it's more familiar
counterparts. The plants looked very different than any of the
other types of beans, so much so that they looked completely unrelated
to each other. Most of the other types of beans have broad fleshy
leaves, while the leaves of the garbanzo bean plants were very
small and delicate, the plants looking almost fern-like. Before
producing beans they developed very small lavender colored flowers,
looking almost like miniature roses. All of the Garbanzo bean
plants grew very slowly and never reached above 12-14 inches,
each one producing only a dozen or so small pods containing one
small black bean. The plants' small size may have been the result
of planting them so late in the season. It is said that Garbonzo
beans are particularly fond of cool weather, and the hot summertime
temperatures that came so suddenly at the start of that year's
growing season may have affected their productivity. As with most
of the other beans, we let the pods dry on the plants. We ended
up with only a small handfull of dried beans, but we may try again
We planted 3 types of cauliflower that came in a mixed pack of
seeds. One type produces bright purple cauliflower heads, another
type produces pale green, and the other type the traditional white.
They were started indoors and transplanted along with all the
other seedlings. They grew well and became very large, but none
of the 9 plants produced any cauliflower. We aren't sure why,
but we may try again next year.
The Bloomsberg Spinache we planted didn't do well and we yeilded
very little of it, probably because it was too hot. Many plants
such as spinache and lettuce will "bolt" when it is
too hot for them. Bolting is when the plant thinks that it's too
hot to survive, or that it is late enough in the year that it
should shift it's efforts to making flowers and seeds rather than
producing the nice parts that you want to eat. Bolting often transforms
the entire appearance of the plant. When bolting, lettuce and
spinache grow very tall very fast, producing thick stems rather
than tender leaves. Shortly after, they will develop seed clusters
at their tips, which will later turn into flowers.
The snow peas grew very fast but produced only small number of
pods, and died shortly after. We don't know why, but imagine that
it may have been due to being planted so late in the season. We
got about 3 dozen pods from about a half pack of seeds.
The soybeans didn't do too well, and again we suspect that it
may have been due to the exceptionally late and then abruptly
hot growing season we had. They were planted directly in to the
garden as rhe package recommnded. The package said that if the
weather was cold or wet, to wait untill it had dried before planting
them, but being our first attempt at growing soybeans, we are
not sure if the waether was a factor in their diminished success.
We planted two packages each conatining about 60 seeds, but only
about 10 plants emerged, and about 6 survived, giving us a couple
of handfulls of bean pods. Soybeans differ from most other beans
in that it is possible for them to turn rancid if not stored properly.
Soybeans should be refridgerated after picking, and used within
a week or two. You can eat the beans raw, or cooked. The pods
are tough and not edible. It is possible to dry soybeans for later
use or to plant next year, but I'm not too clear on how to do
We planted about 40 Gold Mine beans, which are a long, slender
and brightly yellow colored bean. They are usually easten as a
snap bean. Only 2 or 3 of them emerged, and none survived longer
than a couple of weeks due to snails. Snails were a persistent
problem for us, and they really loves eating the young tender
bean leaves. We estimate snails were responsible for the death
of about 100- 200 bean plants, consuming every last leaf, ensuring
the death of the seedling. Despite the snails, we are not sure
why so few Gold Mine Beans emerged.
The rye didn't do well, again probably due to the heat. Rye is
usually planted in the fall, and actually grows through the snow.
We had heard that it was heat tolerant and thought we'd give it
a try in the summer, but the grains it produced were too small
and too scarce to be usable.