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Starter Plant Question

starter plantIf all goes well, I would like to buy all my plants from you. Here is what I am looking for: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Sun Master Tomato, and Red, Green, and Yellow Bell Peppers. If you can provide these for me, it would be great. I hate buying my starters from big box home stores. Their plants are the worst– they just don’t perform well. I have three 8 x 4 raised beds, as well as 50 x 50 yards of open garden. Last year was my first try at this, and it did not go well due to the starter plants. I mixed my own soil, so I know that I had the correct amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Iron. If you give also give me some tips on gardening that would be of great help. Thanks, Chris

Answer: We carry many varieties of broccolicauliflowersweet peppers, and tomatoes and while we don’t carry Sunmaster, there are several heat-tolerant tomato varieties included in our options.

Here are a few general garden tips to help:

Soil

  • Fertile, well drained soil is the best asset for your garden, so each planting season before you begin to add your plants supplement your soil with additional organic matter. This could be from your own compost pile or other well-composted manure or leaf mold.  Just work it into the soil. In addition, it helps to add a balanced fertilizer at the recommended rate.
  • Knowing the pH of your soil is important but also knowing what pH each plant prefers is even more important. Except for tomatoes, the plants you have listed prefer a pH rate around 6.0 – 7.0. Tomatoes prefer more on the acidic side between 5.0 -7.0 so you might want to add a soil acidifier if your soil is testing more alkaline.  Always check the recommended rate before applying. You will not be able to make a dramatic change in your soil’s pH in one season, but with your raised bed and mixed soil you should be about where you need to be.
  • Keep your garden area weed-free, as the weeds compete with your plants for nutrients from the soil and can reduce the plant growth and overall health. A great mulch option is to lay newspaper (not the coated color pages) down around the plants and in between the rows, and then put straw or mulch on top to keep it in place. This not only suppresses the weeds; it also keeps the roots cool and helps to hold in the moisture.

Water

  • Water can be tricky, depending on your location. Mulching will help, as will adding a drip irrigation system. They do not need to be fancy but getting the water right to the root system of the plants is the most efficient and effective method of watering. You can add timers to make it a little more automated.
  • In dry spells make sure plants receive at least an inch or more of water a week. Over-watering is as detrimental as under-watering, and each plant has specific needs. Do some research on what each one prefers. Plant those with similar requirements close together to help with watering chores.
  • Do not water in the late evening, as this can encourage mildews and other diseases. Early morning is always the best.
  • Plants get their oxygen from the soil and if it is constantly soggy they cannot take it in.

Plants and Pests

  • If you order plants from us we do everything we can to protect them and ensure they arrive safely.  You should unpack them as soon as possible and set them out in a sheltered location for a few days to acclimate to your environment and conditions, making sure they stay evenly moist.
  • All plants have different maturity dates (the time from blossom to harvest). Make sure you keep a list of these so you will know when you can begin harvesting. Also some shorter-seasoned plants can have a second planting, so you’ll want to leave some space to add these in.
  • About spacing, don’t over-crowd. This can lead to pest and disease problems. It’s really very easy to think those tiny seedlings look lost in the big garden but remember, they do get bigger, and some very big. Check the labeling for plant spacing suggestions so you’ll get the fruits of your labor.
  • If your tomatoes are indeterminate varieties, be sure to have a plan for support of them. These are the ones that keep on growing and growing
  • Buy disease- and pest-resistant varieties. All garden plants are susceptible to various pests and problems. Read up on what to watch for with each variety.
  • Get a reference book on “good bugs / bad bugs” and don’t kill the ones working for you. You might want to also do some research on companion planting as an organic method of pest control.
  • Plants are like people. They have distinct likes and dislikes, so getting to know what each one likes will ensure the best harvest.
  • At the end of the season, add disease-free plant material to your compost bin so you recycle it next spring right back into your garden. If you used newspaper and mulch, these can be turned into the beds along with chopped-up leaves for added organic matter.

These should get you started.  Remember your local food pantry for any extra harvest you cannot use!  Most are very excited to receive such gifts.

Happy Gardening! Karen

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