Grow Your Own Veggies Program Recap

Thank you to Mike Gliddon from the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County for passing along his vegetable gardening knowledge.  Mike has been a Master Gardener for 10 years, but has been growing vegetables for over 40 years, both in the United States and England.  There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding what and where to plant.  Follow these tips to ensure a healthy plants and a bountiful harvest:

  • Where to plant
    • Fruiting vegetables need a minimum of 8 hours of sun per day
    • Root vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours of sun per day
    • Leafy vegetables need a minimum of 4 hours of sun per day
    • Make sure there is a water source nearby and no competition for sun or water from trees or shrubs
    • Make sure the ground is level, there is good drainage, and the soil is fertile
    • Beneficial to create a layout of your garden during the winter months to ensure you have enough space and are able to conserve space and grow everything you want
      • make sure to include space between and within rows as well as the planting dates, as recommended on seed packets or plant labels
  • What to plant
    • Plant what you like to eat and in the quantity you will eat
    • Go for high producers such as tomatoes, lettuce, squash
    • Difference between cold season (peas, kale) and warm season (peppers, tomatoes) vegetables
    • Stage of plant growth
      • seeds grown indoors
        • make sure to acclimate to outdoor temperatures over 2 week period before planting
        • allow for a wide variety not found in stores, but much more work
        • 16 hours of artificial light = 8 hours of sunlight
      • purchased transplants
        • have a very limited variety, but are easy
        • plant same depth as in pot, but tomatoes can be planted deeper
        • plant on cloudy day or early/late on sunny day to minimize shock
        • mark planting row with twine to ensure row is straight
      • direct seeding
        • easy to do, but take alot of early care, such as watering
        • Cover with fine soil
        • mark planting row with twine to ensure row is straight
        • label the rows
  • When to plant
    • Frost free date for Mercer County is May 8th
    • 4-6 weeks before May 8th
      • very hardy seeds such as lettuce, onion, peas
      • very hard transplants such as broccoli, cabbage, rhubarb
    • 2-4 weeks before May 8th
      • hard seeds such as beets, carrots, onion sets, radishes
      • hard transplants such as brussels sprouts, collards, horseradish
    • May 8th, weather dependant
      • not cold hardy seeds, such as soybeans, squash, corn
      • not cold hardy transplants such as tomatoes
    • 1 week + after May 8th, weather dependant
      • hot weather seeds such as cucumber, pumpkin, melon
      • hot weather transplants such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes
    • Late June/Early July
      • seeds such as broccoli, carrots, parsnip
    • Summer
      • seeds such as beans, cabbage, squash
      • transplants such as broccoli, cauliflower
  • Soil Preparation
    • Soil is the basis for successful gardening to maintaining a health soil is important
    • Add organic matter, such as compost, annually to improve the quality, including:
      • compacted clay soil
      • freely draining poor sandy soil
      • heavily cropped soil
    • Test your soil for nutrients and pH
      • pH should be between 6-6.5
    • Green manure is a great, sustainable way to enrich soil
      • For example, plant clover at the end of the season and then till it in early spring
    • Crop rotation is also important to ensure nutrients are not drained from a specific area of your garden
      • You should rotate crops by their type every year in 3 year increments
      • Cruciferous crops = cabbage broccoli, kate
      • Solanaceous crops = pepper, tomato, potato
      • Cucurbits = cucumber, squash
      • Allium = onions
      • Legumes = beans, peas
      • Root = parsnips, carrots
      • Zea = corn
  • Maintenance
    • Mulching is valuable as it helps conserve soil moisture, reduce weed growth, and reduce disease problems
    • Consistently weed, especially for young plants to ensure proper nutrient absorption
    • Thin finely sown seeds with garden scissors or shears
    • Staking and tying taller plants such as tomatoes and beans to ensure healthy growth

For more information on vegetable, general gardening, and upcoming events, please visit the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County at https://mgofmc.org/ or call their Help Line at 609-989-6853.  To browse the Fact Sheets for a variety of gardening topics, please visit https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/subcategory.php?cat=1001&sub=1001 and scroll down until you get to the sheets starting with “FS”.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Grow-Your-Own-Veggies-Presentation.pdf.

About Andrew Dauphinee

Education and learning are passions of mine. Lifelong learning is a core part of who I am and I strive to pass that desire for information on to everyone I meet. As the Instruction and Outreach Librarian, it is my goal to provide quality, informative, and relevant programming to meet the diverse needs of our patrons. Please contact me regarding programming at adauphinee@njstatelib.org.