How to Harden off Seedlings

Before I can transplant all of the plants I started indoors or plants bought in the garden center, I will have to harden them off.  Hardening off plants is basically acclimating plants that are started indoors to the outside weather.  It allows your plants to get used to the sun, wind, rain, etc. gradually–kind of like slowly allowing your kids to experience some of life’s harsh realities {only plants won’t eat all of your food and make your house smell like dirty socks}.

I usually harden off my plants for about seven to 10 days, but some people shoot for closer to two weeks. About a week before you plan to harden off your plants, you need to stop fertilizing them {if you use fertilizer} and scale back on the water.

Start the process by leaving plants in a shady spot outside for a couple hours–but make sure to bring them in at night {my favorite spot is my front porch or on the North side of house}.  Each day, gradually increase the amount of time you leave your plants outdoors, as well as how much direct sunlight they are exposed to. The sun can burn the leaves crispy if exposed to full sun right away.  After about 7 to 10 days, your plants should be ready to stay out all day and all  night {make sure to check temperature requirements for each plant to make sure it is staying warm enough at night}.

Once you have hardened off your plants, you can transplant them into the garden.  If possible, try to transplant them on a cloudy day and water them in well.

http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/how-to-harden-off-seedlings/

When is the best time to plant your veggie garden here in Kenosha?


There are many schools of thought regarding planting times. I do not like to take risks with planting. My advice is wait until all danger of frost (temps in 30's) is gone. Plant after we have 2 weeks of steady daytime temps in the 70's. The soil needs to warm up for plants to grow. If the temp drops into freezing cover plants with a sheet overnite.


How to Plant a Garden


Choosing Vegetables for the Garden


At first, when deciding what to plant in a garden with vegetables, it's best to start small. Many gardeners get a little too excited at the beginning of the season and plant more than they need -- and end up wasting food and feeling overwhelmed by their garden.

So first, take a look at how much your family will eat when you think about how to plan a vegetable garden. Keep in mind that vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing throughout the season -- so you may not need many plants to serve your needs. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn, produce only once. You may need to plant more of these.


When choosing seed look at the back of the package and note the size of the plant and how long it takes to grow.


Layout your garden on paper. This helps by making sure you have plenty of room and avoids buying more seed than you need.


Here in Wisconsin your will need to buy some vegetables in starter plants or start them your self indoors. These plants take a long time to grow so they are started in March or April indoors.

Tomato

Pepper

Herbs

Onion sets

Cabbage

Cauliflower


Supplies- seed and row stake/tag


Digging your Garden


Loosen your soil before you plant a garden with vegetables. You can either use a tiller or dig by hand with shovel or a hoe.

The Down to Earth Community Garden allows only organic gardening methods.


Once the soil has been loosened, spread out soil amendments (such as compost) and work them into the soil. This is the best method for organic gardening. Avoid stepping on freshly tilled soil as much as possible. Otherwise, you'll be compacting the soil and undoing all your hard work.

When you're done digging, smooth the surface with a rake, then water thoroughly. Allow the bed to rest for several days before you plant.


Planting


Row Cropping

This is probably what comes to mind when you think of what to plant in a garden with vegetables: You place plants single file in rows, with a walking path between each row.

Row cropping works best for large vegetable gardens, and it makes it easier to use mechanical equipment such as tillers to battle weeds.

The downside of row cropping is that you don't get as many vegetables in a small space, as much of the soil is used for footpaths rather than vegetable plants.

Row cropping isn't as visually interesting, either.

Here's a hint: Allow at least 18 inches between your rows so you have plenty of room to work between them. And as you sketch out your plan, place taller vegetables at the north side of the garden. This includes naturally tall plants -- like tomatoes -- and plants that can be grown on vertical supports -- including snap peas, cucumbers, and pole beans.


Intensive Cropping (good for 4'x8' plots)


This type of planting a garden with vegetables means using in wide bands, generally 1-4 feet across and as long as you like. Intensive cropping reduces the amount of area needed for paths, but the closer spacing of the plants usually means you have to weed by hand.

Because of the handwork required, when thinking how to plan a vegetable garden with rows remember: It is important not to make the bands wider than you can comfortably reach.

Intensive cropping also allows you to design your vegetable garden, making it a good choice, for example, if you want to grow vegetables in your front yard. It's a great solution for mixing vegetables with ornamentals, as well.

A specialized version of intensive cropping is the "square-foot method." This system divides the garden into small beds (typically 4x4 feet), that are further subdivided into 1-foot squares. Each 1-foot square is planted with one, four, nine, or 16 plants, depending on the size of the plant when it matures.

It also makes sense to leave some areas of the garden unplanted at first. This allows you to plant a second crop to harvest later in the season. Lettuce, radishes, green onions, carrots, and bush beans are commonly planted several times during the season.


Caring and Feeding


Most vegetables like a steady supply of moisture, but not so much that they are standing in water. About an inch of water per week is usually sufficient, provided by you if Mother Nature fails to come through. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. For in-ground crops, that may mean watering once or twice a week; raised beds drain faster and may require watering every other day.

Weeds compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients, so it's important to keep them to a minimum. Use a hoe or hand fork to lightly stir (cultivate) the top inch of soil regularly to discourage weed seedlings. A mulch of clean straw, compost, or plastic can keep weeds at bay around larger plants like tomatoes.

Fertilizing your crops is critical to maximizing yields. Organic gardeners often find that digging in high quality compost at planting time is all their vegetables need. 

By using vining crops like pole beans and snap peas when planting a garden with vegetables, you can make use of vertical space in the garden and boost yield per square foot.


Harvesting


This is what it's all about, so don't be shy about picking your produce! Many vegetables can be harvested at several stages. Leaf lettuce, for example, can be picked as young as you like; snip some leaves and it will continue to grow and produce. Summer squash (zucchini) and cucumber can be harvested when the fruit is just a few inches long, or it can be allowed to grow to full size. The general rule: If it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Give it a try. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.


Reference-

"Better Homes and Garden"

www.bhg.com/gardening/vegetable/vegetables/planning-your-first-vegetable-garden/


Local Sourcing:


Kenosha Harbor Outdoor Market

Kenosha's own farmers market!


Happy Mouth Organics

Organic spices, herbs and teas



Easiest Vegetables to Grow


Lettuce and Spinach
Lettuce and spinach are great because they grow quickly, and  you can harvest the outside leaves while it’s growing. It does best with cooler temperatures, and can tolerate shade. Unlike some vegetables, everyone knows how to eat lettuce.  

Plant directly in ground.

Green Beans
Once they emerge from the soil and develop four true leaves, not much bothers bush beans. They don’t tolerate freezing temperatures, and will mature mid-summer. These are delicious raw (with Ranch dip!) or steamed (with butter).

Plant directly in ground.

Green Onions
Growing onions for storage can be full of misadventures, but it’s almost impossible to mess up green onions. Plant sets or transplants (not seeds) purchased at a local nursery or home and garden store. They can tolerate cool weather, but will continue to grow during warmer temperatures. Green onions are great in salads, stir fry, soups, and more!

Buy in onion sets from garden center.

Snap or Snow Peas
In my opinion, there is nothing better than fresh peas! The snap and snow varieties allow you to eat the shell, so you get more bang for your buck. Plant these early, as soon as you can work the soil. It’s best if they have a trellis for support. Again, peas are great in soups and stir fry, in salads or with dip. Harvest when young and tender.

Plant directly in ground. Needs trellis.

Zucchini or Summer Squash
Let’s face it, zucchini grows like a weed. I think one plant is more than enough for a family of four. The problem with zucchini is not growing it–it is the most fool-proof of all vegetables. The real challenge is finding enough recipes to eat it all! Try zucchini quiche, Ratatouille, brownies, and patties in addition to the standard bread. Warning- these plants are 3-4 wide, but one plant produces a repeat crop until fall.

Plant directly in ground or buy from garden center. Yellow Crook Neck is my favorite squash. Harvest when fruit is small and tender.

1 plant for 4x8 plot.

Size 3'-4' wide

Tomatoes
I put tomatoes toward the end because they are not the easiest to grow, but I consider them an essential element of any garden. Your success is greater if you try growing grape or cherry varieties. Tomatoes cannot tolerate cold temperatures AT ALL, in fact the night time temps must be warm enough or it won’t flower or set fruit. Be careful not to use too much fertilizer, or you’ll have large, leafy plants and no tomatoes!

Harvest when red.

2 plants for 4x8 plot.

Size 3'x3'. Needs tomato cage or stakes.

Choose a variety based on how you want to eat them–cherry, slicing, salad, paste. I love them in salads, cooked with basil on pasta, in fresh salsa, YUM!

Cucumbers
Cucumbers are relatively easy to grow, but they take up a lot of space. You can let them sprawl, and then hunt for your harvest, or trellis them. The secret to cukes is to keep them in full sun, but give the roots some shade. Harvest and use them on sandwiches, salads, or plain with salt or rice vinegar. Harvest when small and tender.

Plant directly in ground or buy plant.

Bush type for smaller plots. 

Needs trellis or poles for vines.

Radishes
Last but not least, I include radishes. Radishes are easy to grow and don’t take long between planting and harvest. These are great crops for kids to plant. They grow fast and are really a beautiful plant. Plant heirloom radishes for different colors and shapes.

Plant directly in ground.

Down to Earth Community Gardens