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Vegetable Seed Gardening Guide


ASPARAGUS
Plant 12-18 inches apart in spring or fall. Prepare a trench 8 inches deep. Spread the crowns over the soil and cover them with 2 inches of soil. Gradually fill the trench with soil as the plants grow. (If your soil is clay or heavy, you may wish to add compost.) If planting in fall, fill the trench in completely. Each spring, apply 3-5 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. Work into the soil before growth starts. Repeat application after the harvest is complete. Cut the tops back and mulch in late fall to help prevent deep freezing and sudden changes in soil temperature. Limit the first harvest to one or two cuttings by mid June of the second year. A full crop can be harvested the third year after planting, when the spears are 6-10 inches tall. (If planting 2-year crowns, you should harvest a good supply the second year.) Harvest for 6-8 weeks only, or until about the first of July in the North. When harvesting, snap off or cut spears at ground level to avoid injuring new growth.

GARLIC
Garlic is adaptable to a wide range of soil types, but prefers well-drained soil high in organic matter. Plant hardneck types in late fall. Softnecks can be planted in early spring or fall, depending on your location. Just before planting, break bulbs apart into cloves, making sure not to let the cloves dry out. Plant cloves with pointed end up at least an inch deep (2 inches for Elephant Garlic) and 4 inches apart. After planting, a layer of mulch may be added to help retain moisture and maintain soil temperature. The tops will begin to die back as garlic reaches its peak maturity. Recommended harvest time is when most, but not all, of the foliage has died back. Hang your garlic up in a cool dry place for at least 2 weeks to allow it to cure. It can then be stored in mesh bags in a dark, cool, low humidity area.

ONIONS
Sets
Plant sets as soon as the ground can be worked. One pint will plant 25 feet at 1-2 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart.
Plants
Plant in early spring, approximately 1 inch deep and 5 inches apart. Onions are ready to harvest when 3/4 of the top has fallen over. After digging, leave bulbs in the garden to cure for a few days until roots are brittle. Spread out on newspaper in a dry, dark spot for 2-3 weeks. Then remove dirt and papery skin. Cut tops 1 1/2 inches above the bulb. Store bulbs in mesh bags in a cool, airy spot. Use those with thick necks first as they are likely to be the first to spoil.
Shallots
Plant sets 1-2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. When foliage starts to wither, dig bulbs and cure 2-3 weeks before storing like onions.

POTATOES
Many varieties of potatoes produce large seed with many growth buds called eyes. In order to achieve greater yields these larger whole-seed potatoes (2 inches or more in diameter) may be cut into pieces. Be sure that each potato seed piece has at least one or two eyes, cut into sections and allow them to air dry at room temperature for 2-4 days prior to planting. Potatoes do best in well-drained, well-cultivated, rich soil. Dig a shallow trench about 4 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. Place cut seed pieces in the trench 8-10 inches apart, and cover with 3 inches of soil. Continue to mound soil about halfway up the stem of the plant as it grows. Ensure that there is enough soil over the forming potatoes so that they do not push out of the hill and get exposed to light. Keep rows weeded, but do not cultivate too deeply and irrigate weekly during dry periods. Harvest young potatoes whenever tubers are large enough to eat, usually 7-8 weeks after planting. Do not dig up the entire plant. Instead, dig carefully around the plant and remove large tubers. The smaller tubers can continue to grow. Dig for winter storage when plant tops begin to dry. Take care not to bruise the skin. Dry for 2-3 hours, then store in a cool, dark, well-ventilated spot.

RHUBARB
Plant divisions in spring, spacing plants 3 feet apart in well-drained, fertile, light soil. Rhubarb will not do well in heavy, clay soils, so amend your planting area if needed. Position crowns 3-4 inches below the soil surface (see illustration below). Water heavily, cultivate regularly and feed generously the first year. Stalks can be lightly harvested the second year. After that, they may be pulled during a 6-week period from early spring until early summer. Plants can be mowed, dug and divided in either fall or spring.

VEGETABLE PLANTS
If your vegetable seedlings arrive on a cloudy day, plant them right away. If it is hot and sunny, wait to set the plants out until late afternoon or early evening, digging to the correct depth and spacing for each. Fill the holes with water and let it soak in. This first soaking gives the roots plenty of moisture to get seedlings off to a good start. Set the plants in the holes and firm the soil around them to remove air pockets. Leave a slight depression around each plant to collect and hold moisture; water well. If temperatures still dip below freezing at night, protect newly planted seedlings by covering them with protective caps or floating row covers.


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