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Landenberg, Pennsylvania, United States
Based in Landenberg, PA PLG offers Landscape Installation and Maintenance to Southern Chester County and Northern Delaware

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Kitchen Garden

            A kitchen garden is an amazing way to supplement your trips to the supermarket by supplying fresh, local produce.  The local and organic food movement is becoming more and more visible; what is more local than your backyard!  Families with children will create an amazing learning opportunity by teaching (and showing) their children where food comes from, and the amazing process of life.  A garden of about 300 square feet can keep a family of four in fresh vegetables and fruit for an entire summer though, I would recommend going smaller for your first season.  If planned correctly the spare fruits and vegetables can be canned or frozen for the winter months.  If you do not have space for a garden of that size, then Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Swiss Chard, and Carrots can be grown in pots.  My wife and I grew an amazing variety of produce on our back deck during college. 
            It is very important to plan your garden for maximum yield by choosing what you want to grow and what your family eats a lot of.  My grandparents had a garden every year for as long as they were able.  They avoided the initial plowing by hiring a local man with a tractor and plow to work their soil for a very reasonable rate.  Once this was done, they could pick out rocks and sow seed.  Your garden plot should be placed in an area that gets good sun throughout the day.  Avoid areas with large trees because of roots.  Sketching out your garden is a good idea.  An easy scale to work with is 1”=1’ (you can use a regular ruler if you do not possess a scale).  It is important to think about plant space requirements and to make sure you leave space between rows to walk.  Make sure during your planning that taller plants, such as corn, do not shade out other crops that require more sun. 
Research the plants that you are growing to learn about crop yields, space requirements, and whether they can frozen or need to be eaten right away.  I would also recommend researching disease resistant varieties and which crops do well with little work in your area.  The perfect garden soil is loamy and rich.  The key to soil improvement is working organic material into your soil.  A soil test (available from your local County Extension Office) is highly recommended.  A soil test costs anywhere from nine dollars to 30 dollars and will tell you what your soil’s pH, composition, and make up is.  Knowing your region’s frost dates because this helps determining the grow season’s length.  Southeastern Pennsylvania’s is about 200-300 days. 
Taking care of your garden is very important for crop growth and quality.  Take a walk through your garden every day with an eye for diseases, wilting, weeds, and to pick your crops.  Water whenever the soil becomes powdery and dry.  Make sure you water deep and thoroughly.  I also recommend mulching your garden.  Mulch insulates plant’s roots and replaces organic material to the soil.  Leaves, hay, grass clippings, saw dust, or wood chips are all suitable materials to use as mulch in the garden.  For disease problems I recommend purchasing a vegetable disease guide.  It is important to decide whether you want to try to deal with disease problems organically or with a chemical.  There are many organic products available to deal with pests and diseases.    
Hints and Tips for a Quality Garden:
1.     Choose disease resistant plant varieties
2.     Inspect seedling for diseases before you purchase.
3.     Pull and dispose of diseased plants. DO NOT compost.
4.     Rotate crops every year to prevent soil depletion and soil born diseases.
5.     Weed often.
6.     Do not work in your garden after a rainstorm.  Plants can be more fragile, the soil will be soft and muddy, and the roots can be trampled.
7.     Compost healthy plants at the end of their life.
            Crops to Consider:
·       Crops for Early Spring Planting:
o   Broccoli, Cabbage, Lettuce, Onion, and Radish
·       Crops for Mid- Spring Planting:
o   Cauliflower, Beets, Carrots, Swiss Chard, Beans, Corn, and Early Potatoes
·       Crops for Early Summer:
o   Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Lima Beans, Melons, Okra (bread and lightly fry in oil, to enjoy a true Southern Delicacy), Pumpkins, Squash, and Winter Potatoes
·       Crops for Summer into Fall:
o   Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Lettuce, and Radish
o   Plant in early August: Cabbage, Cauliflower
o   Lettuce, Spinach, Turnip

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