Square-foot gardening

Of the few books Iíd like to carry into the shift, one that stands out is ďSquare Foot Gardening,Ē by Mel Bartholomew. Published in 1981 by the Rodale Press (Emmaus, Pennsylvania, USA), the book was a companion to Bartholomewís television series on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the United States. In conceiving and writing this book, itís hard to imagine Bartholomew not receiving an assist from higher-density entities, for the information appears that valuable in terms of producing more with less. He writes with an empowering style that promotes our understanding of gardening, not just our memorization of principles and techniques. The book should be available from the usual on-line suppliers.

A former engineer, Bartholomew notes that when in comes to agriculture and home gardening, most academic research and experimentation is geared toward the needs of commercial farmers, where out of practicality you grow in long rows. But in a home garden, it's much more practical -- and productive -- to grow in grids of 4 feet by 4 feet (1.2 square meters). In the time since this book was written, Bartholomew's techniques may have been challenged in some circles, but his are the ones I will try. With so much gardening information available, we have to use our intuition as to the few best sources to consult, and my nose says to try "Square Foot Gardening".

Let's take a stab at listing most of the key points made in the book. Some will not be applicable in a post-shift situation, others are so obvious that they might insult the intelligence of an experienced gardener. Also, I may have expressed some points inaccurately, and if I did, let me know. In addition, I am fully aware that neither this book nor probably any other gardening book addresses the problem of how to provide enough light in a post-shift world. Finally, those points that bear directly and positively toward post-shift growing are highlighted in blue:

  • Using the square-foot system, you give up the long rows of the traditional garden. You virtually eliminate thinning, you save tremendous amounts of seed, and you save lots of time, working about one hour per 4'x4' grid.
  • Each of your 4'x4' grids produces an average of 126 plants per year. Each grid is divided into 16 units of 1'x1', in which you can grow a different crop.
  • The average square-foot garden for a family of four takes up 160 square feet. A conventional garden for a family of four goes 800.
  • Overplanting is one of the biggest causes of frustration and failure. But in a square-foot garden, instead of planting most of your seed packet, you plant only one or two seeds per alloted plant space. Planting an entire packet and then thinning takes twice as long as the single-seed method. In addition, the single-seed method produces a stronger crop that matures earlier. Have many seeds are contained in a common packet? For cabbage it's 560; carrots 1,550; lettuce 1,975. With proper handling and storage, 80% of these will sprout. What a waste.
  • Coated (pelleted) seeds provide poorer germination rates and uncertain storage times.
  • One reason humus is so important is that it holds moisture without causing the soil to be soggy.
  • Staggered planting reduces the chances that pests and disease will wipe out an entire crop. It also produces a more desirable, gradual harvest.
  • Each time you harvest in a square-foot garden you add compost and fertilizer (and screen for rocks!). Youíre improving your soil constantly, all year long.
  • Natural pest deterrents include marigolds, onions, garlic, nasturtiums (for aphids), and chives.
  • Forget about complicated rotational plans. Play the odds, which are in your favor.
  • You plant just one pepper to a 1'x1' square, but around the edges you can mix in small fast-growers such as radishes, scallions, leaf lettuce, and Japanese turnips.
  • To give a square-foot garden one inch of water a week takes 95 gallons, compared to 500 in a traditional garden. It also takes only 20 minutes, compared to 90 the other way.
  • You can line the ground with aluminum mulch which will reflect the light back onto the plant, and it will confuse some pests such as aphids. You can also line a fence with aluminum (especially the north side) to reflect back some sunlight.
  • In general, leaf and root vegetables donít require as much sun as do fruit and seed crops.
  • Fertilize each square when itís replanted with a new crop, adding humus and/or other organic materials each time.
  • As a fertilizer, wood ash is a good source of potassium, but contains no nitrogen.
  • You want loose, friable soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. 'Friable' is a common term in gardening books, and you can define it as meaning "easily crumbled."
  • If drainage is a problem, you can dig ditches spaced every two feet beneath the bed so the water can run off. Roots need the air from the spaces between the soil, therefore these air spaces canít get waterlogged.
  • My thought: Maybe we can always be growing seedlings, ready to plant whenever an outdoor crop is ready to harvest.
  • Root vegetables and members of the cabbage family are cool-weather crops for spring/fall planting.
  • When planning your garden, first assign space for your vertical growers such as tomatoes. Then assign space for your summer crops. These tend to be slow-growers. Third, assign the leftover space for the cool weather plants.
  • When it comes to root crops such as beets, carrots, and radishes, none of these transplant well.
  • Growing seedlings in a window sill is recommended only for the experienced gardener. Otherwise, provide flourescent lighting.
  • Lettuce will need some protection from the hot summer sun.
  • You can't eat everything at once, so stagger the harvest. For example, plant a new square of carrots every month.
  • Or you can plant half of a 1'x1' square one week, and half the next. Or you can plant two different crops in the same square. Or you can ďtuck inĒ quick growers like radishes with a slow grower.
  • Once planted, it takes about three hours a week to maintain a six-block garden.
  • Soak your bean seeds a few hours before planting.
  • Match the heights of your flowers to the heights of the vegetables growing next to them.
  • August is the proper planting month for fall crops. The longer, cooler nights are conducive to the rapid growth of new plants.
  • You can plant two seeds in their final spacing, eventually weeding out the weaker plant.
  • Form a shallow dish in the soil around the plant to make watering easier.
  • Instead of dividing each 4'x4' block into 16 squares, you divide them into fours (2'x2ís), as the author does in his own home garden.
  • Choose the smaller-growing varieties of each plant when you have the choice. For instance, buy a Jersey or Acre variety of cabbage instead of Danish, which takes up a lot of space. Itís better to grow smaller heads and produce a staggered harvest.
  • Zucchini takes up a lot of space -- maybe two-thirds of a 4'x4' block. However, it tends to be prolific.
  • Use a bucket of sun-warmed water to keep new seeds moist.
  • With vertical growing, your yield per square foot is doubled. Your trellises need to be at least six feet high.
  • Next to the trellis, dig a trench one foot wide and one foot deep. This will hold water better. Allow the soil to warm up by waiting about a month before laying down mulch in the trench.
  • Most gardeners donít water long enough to do much good. They only get to the top six inches. It takes several hours for water to get down to a depth of 18 inches.
  • Tests show that the soil temperature under black plastic mulch is not adequately raised, as previously thought. Use clear plastic.
  • Most vertical crops are heavy feeders, meaning they can use fertilizer more often.
  • With tomatoes, cut the suckers and youíll have better and faster fruit. You can stick the suckers in vermiculite or water and theyíll produce more tomatoes.
  • Prune the side vines of cucumber plants so theyíre not more than 12 to 15 inches long. The same goes for summer squash at six to 12 inches. The squash will produce much more this way.
  • With pole beans, plant a double row of seeds three inches apart in each square. Before planting, soak the seeks for one to four hours in tepid water. Cover with a tunnel formed out of chicken wire so the birds and rabbits donít get them. Pole beans produce their harvest over a longer period of time than do bush beans.
  • In case the term was throwing you off, muskmelons include honeydews and cantaloupe.
  • In spring, plastic covering warms up soil, and as a result, seeds sprout faster. The covering will also keep some insects from laying their eggs in the soil. It can also protect new seeds from wind, chilly rain, and birds. If the weather is warm, leave the top off.
  • With protection, some crops such as kale will grow all winter.
  • With protection, salad crops will stay healthy several weeks after the first frost. Root crops will stay harvestable right up until the snow flies.
  • Sunshields on cages, such as cheese cloth, can help cool-weather plants such as lettuce thrive in summer without bolting to seed. Also, there are varieties of lettuce that are slow to bolt in summer.
  • You can build a sun box instead of buying a cold frame. Make it with 2x4ís and cover with a storm door or plastic. (Post-shift, maybe we can use car windows.) You can bank it with soil, leaves, moss, etc. for insulation. Add large stones to the soil to trap more heat during the day
  • If using a trellis (or vertical frame) -- and it's strongly recommended -- let the strings hang from the top, and then connect them to a cross-string which runs across the bottom. Netting might work a little easier.
  • Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers tend to be difficult to start from seed and take a long time to grow into plants that are large enough to set out
  • Other summer crops that have large seeds (squash, cucumbers, melons) are easy to start. Radishes and beans also sprout fast and easily.
  • Seeds for leafy, heading vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) can be started indoors or out, but you must get them in by the early spring.
  • Root vegetables are traditionally started in the ground.
  • You tend to get better seeds through mail-order than through a nursery.
  • Keep your seeds away from any moisture and humidity.
  • Even cool-weather crops prefer warm temperatures to germinate and begin to grow.
  • Always try to pre-soak seeds that are big enough to handle easily.
  • When planting with vermiculite, seed depth is a little less important.
  • Margarine containers filled with vermiculite make great seed starters.
  • You donít need light for sprouting. Light doesnít become important until the seed sends a shoot above ground, after the root has begun to grow. Place the container (with holes in the bottom) in just a puddle of water so the vermiculite just gets enough to stay moist.
  • Transplanting gives plants more time to grow and it saves space. With transplants you turn your garden into a place for maturation of crops, rather than a nursery for seedlings. This way you increase the productivity of the garden.
  • You can start seeds in just 1% of the space required by a mature plant, and seedlings take up just 10%.
  • The larger the plant, the larger the time setback from each transplanting, due to shock.
  • Beans, squash and cucumbers sprout and grow rapidly. Peppers and eggplant take a long time. Large seeds generally sprout faster and grow quicker. Root crops do not transplant well.
  • Transplant seedlings when the first set of true leaves appears, or as soon as you can handle the plants without breaking them. The older the seedling becomes, the more shock it will suffer when transplanted.
  • The best soil media for transplants is the stuff sold in stores. Moisten it the night before. Water your seedlings the night before, and then allow to drain.
  • When transplanting, donít let the wind or sun get to the roots -- theyíll die immediately. Transplant in the shade. If the roots are long, trim them with a scissors, rather than bashing them into the hole in the soil. The root should be about twice as long as the stem. Place the containers in a shallow pan of warm water, two inches deep. After 10 to 15 minutes when the soil has absorbed the water, put them in the shade to drain -- for a day or two. Donít re-use the vermiculite -- throw it into the garden.
  • When transplanting into the garden, if the soil is rough, you can replace a trowel-full of garden soil with potting soil. Transplant in late afternoon or evening. Support the transplants on the bottom to avoid damaging stems and leaves. Put up a sun shade -- always. Water the square plot and the transplant the night before moving it. Plant in a saucer-shaped depression to help retain water -- about one inch. This helps develop a smaller, more compact root system, allowing more plants to be grown closer together. You wonít be wetting the spaces in between the saucers, thus cutting down on weeds and reducing water consumption by up to 90%.
  • Give the transplants shade until they can stand on their own without wilting during the day. (Usually two or three days.)
  • Follow the traditional principles of hardening off your transplants.
  • Roots donít actually grow in the soil. They grow in the air spaces within the soil.
  • When there is a shortage of moisture, plants tend to flower and go to seed.
  • If you have a choice, water your plants in the morning from a margarine container or something like that, taken from a bucket of sun-warmed water.
  • Studies have shown that carrots grown in a weeded area produce ten times as much as in an unweeded area.
  • If you plant strictly in your designated spots, youíll better tell the difference between weeds and the plants you want.
  • To get rid of cabbage worms, squish the worm, then get rid of the leaf or cut out the bad portion.
  • Cut worms got their name because they cut down stems. With a pencil, dig in toward the root, and find that worm.
  • You should always have at least six varieties of lettuce growing.
  • If you harvest most spring vegetables when they are half grown, you canít go wrong.
  • Peas will continue blossoming and producing new fruit throughout the season.
  • Broccoli will produce edible side shoots after the large center head has been cut.
  • Remember, only the finest restaurants serve small, young vegetables.
  • When you pick vegetables young, you get better quality, and the plant keeps producing. If you wait too long, it goes to seed. Even if you donít use them, donít leave them on the plants to mature.
  • Most of the vitamins lie just below the skin of the vegetable.
  • Unlike most leafy greens, Swiss chard and New Zealand spinach are two leaf crops that do grow well in the summer.
  • Most people in the USA can grow for six months. Simple math says that if you extend this by three months (six weeks in spring, six in fall), you've got a 50% increase in productivity.
  • Instead of warm weather crops, itís simpler and less costly to grow cool-weather crops for an extended season.
  • In the fall, plants grow slowly but surely.
  • The hot-weather group of plants are tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, squash, corn, beans, and melons.
  • All the rest are cool-weather crops: Root vegetables, leaf crops, head types, and the hard-to-classify plants -- peas, celery, and kohlrabi.
  • Your earliest planting can occur four to six weeks before the last anticipated frost date. You'll grow these in a sun box, and they can include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, and spinach.
  • You can try growing cool-weather plants in the summer if you provide lots of shade (maybe behind the north side of a trellis). Use extra humus and water and a thick mulch. In seed catalogs, look for terms like ďlong standing,Ē ďslow to boltĒ and ďheat resistant.Ē
  • If all the summer crop is growing in one spot, itís easier to protect from frost.
  • To protect vine plants from frost, cut the strings, lay the plants in a trench, and cover with a plastic tunnel. The tunnel can be molded out of wire-reinforced plastic. Line the ground with dry straw beforehand.
  • You can group plants in your garden according to weather requirements.
  • Regarding a sun box and protection in winter:

    • Lettuce can survive some frosts
    • Spinach, especially Winter Bloomsdale, will hold up through several freezes.
    • Kale loves all the snow and ice you can give it.
    • Carrots can freeze in the ground without any harm.
    • Most of the cool-weather crops will continue growing a little bit in winter.
    • You can insulate the outside edge of the box and keep it near your structure for additional heat. Shelter it from winds. Get it maximum light.
    • Youíll be harvesting every leaf as itís ready.
    • You can plant closer than the normal spacing.
    • On extra-cold nights you can cover the box with a quilt or tarp.
    • Pre-sprout indoors, transplant to individual containers when young, and then harden off before placing into the sun box.

  • Storage: Handle the fruit as little as possible -- like an egg. Donít pile them all together; lay them out separately. Donít wash them. For root crops, donít cut off the bottom, and leave at least an inch on the top. For others, leave as much of the stem on as you can.
  • Root crops plus cabbage and cauliflower like to be stored in cold & moist conditions. 35 to 45 degrees-F is a good storage temperature.
  • Onions, pumpkins and winter squash like to be stored cool and dry.
  • Organic matter such as humus is always decomposing, so always replenish your soil after harvesting something.
  • Over the winter, cover the soil with a 3-inch layer of hay, pine boughs, leaves, or similar material.
  • As you harvest fall crops, you can sow in some winter rye grass. It looks nice, and it adds organic material. It's a time-honored practice. In the spring, you turn the grass under to help increase the nitrogen content of your soil.
  • Keep an iron file on hand to sharpen your spade. You'll notice how professional nursery workers carry one in their back pocket.
  • Leaf and root crops grow better indoors under lights than do sun-loving and warm-weather vegetables such as tomatoes and beans. Under lights, try to choose plants that will all grow to the same height.
  • If you're creating a patio garden, use soil rich in organic matter, vermiculite, and peat moss. Donít use garden soil or potting soil.
  • You can erect a trellis (vertical support) almost anywhere.
  • Get this or other books for charts on when to seed, transplant, etc.

Bartholomew concludes the book by including specific information for some of the most popular types of garden vegetables. For deciding which plants to consider for a post-shift situation, perhaps we should look for descriptions such as:

    - Easy to grow
    - Ease of germination
    - Shade tolerant
    - Short harvest time
    - Productive
    - Space efficient
    - Disease resistant
    - Frost-hardy, with a possibility of winter growth
    - Nutritious
    - Stores well

Bush and pole beans: Easy to grow, productive, do not transplant well. Plant them right after the last spring frost. Pole beans provide a small steady harvest all summer and fall. Bush varieties provide the main crop all at once, and then a small crop about two weeks later, so additional plantings are required for a continuous harvest. Need full sun. Seeds sprout in five to ten days. Donít allow pods to bulge with seeds or the plant will stop producing. Do not store well. Contain vitamins A, B, C + calcium and iron. Harvests up to first fall frost.

Beets: Easy to grow. Greens and roots are edible. Relatively free from pests and disease. Hardy to both spring and fall frosts. Do not transplant well. Can plant outdoors about three weeks before last spring frost. Two to four sprouts will come from each seed cluster. After about one inch tall, cut off all but the strongest plant in each space. Plant a new crop every three weeks, except in the hottest part of the summer. Last harvest about two weeks after first fall frost. Can take partial shade. Is a heavy feeder. If harvesting leaves, donít take more than one or two from each plant. Start pulling when roots are about the size of a ping pong ball, and continue pulling until full size. Rich in iron and B vitamins. Relatively disease free. Wonít grow much after the first fall frost, but they keep well in the ground.

Broccoli: Partially frost-hardy. Start indoor seeds 12 weeks before last frost. Can plant outdoors about five weeks before. Doesnít grow well in heat. Long seed-to-harvest time (16 weeks). Can harvest until about a month after first fall frost. Needs full sun. Move to full sunlight as soon as first seedling shoots appear. Not great for seeding outdoors. Heavy feeder. Contains vitamins A, B, C, + calcium, phosphorous, iron. Rinse and soak well to help remove green cabbage worm. You can eat the stem and leaves. But if you eat the leaves, youíll produce fewer side-shoots for a second harvest.

Cabbage: Spring/fall, frost hardy. Seed indoors beginning 12 weeks before last frost. Takes a lot of room; is prone to pests. Lots of vitamin C. Needs full sun. For fall, seed indoors about 16 weeks before first frost. Move to full sunlight as soon as first shoots appear. Donít let transplants get too large before planting them out. Season is too short to seed directly in the garden for spring. For fall, would take up too much valuable space. After the head is formed, cut back on watering or it will grow too fast and split. Heavy feeder. Cut away any extra-large bottom leaves if yellowed. If you cover the entire plant with a thick layer of loose hay you can extend the growing season several weeks in the fall. If the heads start splitting itís best to harvest and store them.

Carrots: Frost-hardy, can grow in winter with adequate protection. As a root crop, does not transplant well, so donít seed indoors. Plant a new crop every two to four weeks. Earliest outdoor planting is about three weeks before last frost. Easy to grow, but seeds are small. Plant one or two in each space. Since you have to plant close to the surface, add protection from birds. Need constant moisture until almost mature. Light feeder. Donít peel them, as most of the vitamins are in the skin or close to the surface. Rich in vitamins A, B1, thiamine, and calcium. Virtually disease free. Cover the tops with mulch or compost to prevent that part from turning greenish brown.

Cauliflower: Semi-frost-hardy. Start seeds indoors about 10 weeks before last frost. Transplant about four weeks before. Like to mature in the fall. The purple variety is more heat-tolerant, but its growing time can take up to 19 weeks. Treat gingerly when transplanting. Doesnít like to seed outdoors. For fall, transplant about nine weeks before first frost. Heavy feeder. Protect the head of white varieties from exposure to the sun.

Swiss chard: Frost-hardy, can grow in winter with protection. Leaves are vitamin-rich. Shade tolerant, keeps producing for months. Does well in almost any soil. For spring, can seed indoors about seven weeks before last frost. Move to full sunlight as soon as first shoots appear. Transplant about three weeks before last spring frost. Pre-soak seeds before planting outdoors -- will sprout in two to three weeks. Like all leaf crops, needs lots of water for luxurious leaf growth. Cut off any yellow or overgrown outer leaves. Harvest when outer leaves (stalk and all) are 6 to 9 inches tall, cutting off each outer stem at the plant base with a sharp knife. You can harvest every week. Leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. The stem is also edible. In the fall, will withstand several frosts even when unprotected. Mulch with loose hay for harvesting right into the winter in most climates. Free of most diseases.

Corn: Frost-tender. An easy-to-grow crop, but don't seed it indoors as it does not transplant well. Plant a new crop every two to four weeks. Not pest-resistant, low yield per plant, takes a lot of space, long growing season. Heavy feeder that needs full sun. Donít cut out the side suckers, as you should with tomatoes.

Cucumbers: Frost-tender, easy to grow, the vines will tolerate some shade. In spring, you can start indoor seeds about a week before last frost. When seeding outdoors, pre-soak the seeds. You can transplant about a week after last frost. Can harvest right up until first fall frost. Have the highest water content of any vegetable, so water generously. Heavy feeder, watch out for beetles. To harvest, cut the stem connecting the fruit to the vine -- donít pull it off. Keep picking; donít let any get yellow or extra large. Plant two crops: one in late spring, and the other two months later.

Eggplant: Frost-tender, easy to grow, produces a large harvest. Long maturity time; seeds must be started indoors about seven weeks before last spring frost. Transplant about two weeks after; will produce up until first fall frost. Needs full sun, lots of heat, and constant moisture. Heavy feeder. Cut the fruit from the bush with clippers, and watch out for sharp spines. Edible almost any time after the fruit turns dark and glossy (about six inches), and donít let them get too large. Fruit will bruise if not handled carefully. Plants can be supported by wire cages. Donít follow up with other plants in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.

Lettuce: Frost-hardy. Basically a spring/fall crop. You might be able to grow it in summer, and some varieties may grow in winter -- with protection in either off-season. Fast growing; productive for the space used. Can start indoor seeds up to seven weeks before last frost, transplanting about four weeks before. The loose-head or bibb type is faster-growing than the solid-head type usually found in markets. Leaf lettuce is the best choice for home gardens, and it grows fast too. As with all leafy vegetables, the stronger the light, the higher the vitamin C content will be. When transplanting, move plants into the garden anytime until they are half grown. Harvest the spring crop up until about five weeks after the last frost. In the fall, you can start seedlings about eight weeks before the first frost and harvest until about three weeks after. Transplants seem to bolt to seed more easily. Heavy feeder. Provide shade covers in summer. The root system is shallow, so stay on top of the weeds. As usual, when itís good roots vs. bad weeds, the weeds usually win in the competition for available resources. To harvest, you can start cutting outer leaves when the plant is half grown. This increases the overall productivity of your lettuce yield. As with most other plants, try not to water the leaves, which can spread fungus among-us. If you wait until the lettuce are full-size youíll have to harvest them all at once before they go to seed. For maximum nutritional value, itís best to harvest almost daily. Contains vitamins A and B, plus calcium and iron (especially the dark green outer leaves). Donít transplant too deep, lest the bottom leaves come in contact with the soil.

Muskmelons: Frost-tender, these include cantaloupe and honeydew. You can seed them about two weeks after the last spring frost. Long growth time, not space-efficient, best when grown vertically. Does not transplant well. As harvest time approaches, pinch out the smaller ones so the growth is directed into the larger ones. You can pick it when it develops a strong melon odor. Can be held to the trellis with a sling.

Onions: Frost-hardy. Grow in spring-summer, but not in fall. Can start seedlings about 10 weeks before last frost, transplanting about four weeks before. Or you can plant seeds about four weeks before. Easy to grow. There are many varieties, and they can be grown from seeds, plants, or sets. Will tolerate some shade. Before transplanting, cut down the top and roots so theyíre both about two inches each. When tops start to fall over, withhold watering. As it grows, you can create a little space around the bulb so it has more room to grow in the soil. Resistant to most diseases.

Parsley: Frost-hardy, itís a nutritional, high-yielding herb. Pest and disease free. Can take partial shade. Seed indoors about 12 weeks before last frost, and transplant about five weeks out. Tougher for seeds to germinate outdoors. Seeds are slow to germinate; sprouts form in 10 to 15 days. Soak the seeds in lukewarm water about 24 hours before planting. Heavy feeder. Mulch heavily for continual harvest in winter. As soon as plant gets three or four inches tall you can harvest outer leaves. Very high in vitamins A and C.

Peas: Frost-hardy, do not transplant well nor grow well in summer. You can plant about five weeks before the last spring frost, and again about 10 weeks before the first fall frost. The sugar snap variety is the productive one, and you eat the entire pod, making the harvest about ten times as productive as regular peas. Keep water off the vines which are trained up a vertical frame; mulch as the weather gets warm. Rich in vitamins A, B1, C, plus phosphorus and iron. Pick them before they turn brown, or else the vine will stop producing. They donít attract pests. The quality of the fall crop doesnít compare with the spring.

Peppers: Sensitive to frost, they have a good space-to-output ratio. Easy to grow, they are practically disease and pest free. You can start seeds indoors about seven weeks before the last spring frost, and transplant about two weeks after. You can pot them as soon as theyíre big enough (about 1 to 3 weeks). The season is too short to start them from seed outdoors. Theyíll produce for several weeks before the first fall frost. Stems and branches are brittle, so be careful when harvesting. Cut them off, donít pull them. For longer storage, leave about 1Ē of stem on the pepper. High in vitamins A and C. Few diseases. Many varieties.

Radishes: Frost hardy, they do not transplant well. Plant three weeks before last frost, and then you can plant a new crop every couple weeks. The last fall planting goes in about 4 weeks before first frost. Spring radishes mature in 3 to 4 weeks. Fall radishes (called winter radishes) take 6 to 8 weeks to grow and are excellent for storage. The plant can make it through the summer if you give them lots of shade, water, and thick mulch. Winter varieties need two months to mature, so thatís how soon you set them out before the first fall frost. Once harvested, long-fall varieties can be stored in damp peat moss, once the tops are removed.

Spinach: Very frost hardy. Does not transplant well nor grow well in summer. You can plant about 5 weeks before last spring frost, and then again 8 weeks before first fall frost. Can be difficult to grow. Grows fast and is fairly productive. Some varieties will make it through the winter in milder climates. Heavy feeder. To harvest, cut outer leaves as needed. High in vitamins A, B1, C, plus iron. No diseases. A summer substitute is New Zealand spinach, which isnít really a spinach. Grow the New Zealand-type vertically.

Summer squash: Frost-tender, grows fast and easy, takes up a lot of space, but is very productive. Each bush-type, such as zucchini, takes up a 3íx3í space. Vine-types take 1íx16Ē. Best to start seeds outdoors. If you transplant, do it carefully, and do it on the last frost date. You can start seeds indoors two weeks before. Heavy feeder. Harvest when the blossoms start to wilt and the fruits are 6 to 9 inches long. Sometimes you have to harvest three times a week. Cut the fruit stem but not the main vine or leaf stems. High in vitamins A, B1, and C.

Winter squash:Pumpkin may be the most popular variety. Frost-tender. Grow two plants per 1í x 4í trench dug next to the vine support. Stores easily. Not recommended to start seeds indoors. Plant two weeks after the last spring frost. Will produce for several weeks until fall frost. Heavy feeder. Leave at least two inches of stem on when cutting the fruit. Cure it from the sun for a few days, protecting it at night.

Tomatoes: Frost-tender. Many varieties. You can seed indoors about 6 weeks before last frost, at which time you can transplant. The season is too short to start seeds outdoors. Will produce through the first fall frost. Cover the vine-type until theyíre about 18 inches tall. Heavy feeder. Prune off suckers, plus lower dead or yellow leaves. Add mulch as the season gets hotter. Tomatoes must be in perfect condition to store properly. Better if stored in the dark than in a sunny spot. Donít smoke around them, and if you do, wash your hands first. You can transmit a virus present in the tobacco.
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