Growing Vegetables in the Kitchen Garden

With the cost of produce going up annually and people looking for healthier ways to eat, home vegetable gardening is becoming ever more popular. You can grow many vegetables that are found in the grocery store, but some are kitchen garden favorites. Check out below how to grow these top 5 vegetables to grow in the kitchen garden:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Sweet peppers
  • Beans
  • Carrots

In general, growing vegetables for your home garden will require a location with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Because vegetable garden require near daily maintenance, planting yours in a convenient location close to a water source will help ensure success. Each specific vegetable has its own unique requirements for optimal growth and crop production.

Carrot Growing Basics

Carrots are hardy, cool season vegetables that are biannual and, like radishes and beets, are root vegetables. Carrots are a kitchen garden favorite, easy to grow, and have great nutritional value such as large amounts of vitamin A (in the form of carotene) vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and fiber.

Carrot Growing Conditions:

  • Full sun
  • Loose, sandy, well drained soil; carrots will not grow properly in clay or compact soil. Mix peat or compost into compact soil.
  • Soil should be tiled to at least 7-8 inches prior to planting.
  • Ideal soil pH for carrots is around 6.5.

When to Plant Carrots:

  • Carrots can be planted in the spring right after the last frost. A light frost will not damage carrots. They can also be planted in late summer giving you those delicious ÒbabyÓ carrots in early fall.
  • Staggered planting every three weeks after the first spring planting will give you multiple harvest times.

How to Plant Carrots: Depth and Spacing

  • Plant carrot seeds directly into the garden soil ? inch into the ground, 2-3 seeds per inch.
  • Each row should be about 12-18 inches apart.
  • Thin the seedlings when they are about one to two inches tall to keep about two to three inches between plantings as they grow.

Fertilizing and Caring for Carrots:

  • Ensure your carrots receive at least an inch of water per week. Keep soil consistently moist, not overly dry or wet.
  • Weed as needed but be careful to pull gently so as not to disturb the root growth.
  • You can apply a 10-30-10 fertilizer to the garden bed at a rate of 1 ? to 2 pounds per 100 square feet. This is best divided into two applications; once at planting and three to four weeks later.

Harvesting Carrots:

    • Carrots are ready to be harvested at whatever size you desire to eat them. Typically, when their root diameter reaches 3/4th inches they are ready to harvest.
    • Maturity is between 60-80 days.
    • Carrots keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or in a location that is 32 degrees with high humidity for up to 6 months.

Tomato Growing Basics:

-When you think of summer and fresh vegetables, delicious vine-ripened tomatoes are probably one of the first that come to mind. Freshly picked juicy tomatoes are almost synonymous with hot summer days. They are grown worldwide and are at the top of the most popular home garden vegetables to grow. Tomatoes are warm season vegetables that can be grown either in a traditional garden plot or in pots on your back porch of front step. Tomatoes are so popular as a home vegetable that you can find them growing in some very unique places besides a garden bed: pots, planters, tubs, wheelbarrows, childrenÕs plastic pools and even hanging upside down! Tomatoes are not only delicious they contain high levels of important vitamins such as C and A. They also contain lycopenes, a cancer-fighting agent.

* Full sun; at least six hours a day
* Fertile, well-drained soil

-When you think of summer and fresh vegetables, delicious vine-ripened tomatoes are probably one of the first that come to mind. Freshly picked juicy tomatoes are almost synonymous with hot summer days. They are grown worldwide and are at the top of the most popular home garden vegetables to grow. Tomatoes are warm season vegetables that can be grown either in a traditional garden plot or in pots on your back porch of front step. Tomatoes are so popular as a home vegetable that you can find them growing in some very unique places besides a garden bed: pots, planters, tubs, wheelbarrows, childrenÕs plastic pools and even hanging upside down off of porches! Anywhere tomato-lovers can find some full sun, you will find tomatoes! Tomatoes are not only delicious they contain high levels of important vitamins such as C and A. They also contain lycopenes, a cancer-fighting agent.
Tomatoes come in many more colors than the traditional red; you can find them in yellow, purple-black, pink and even green. Their sizes and dimensions vary nearly as much; they come in round, oblong, as small as a grape or as large as a ?
The new hybrids of tomatoes are now more resistant to diseases and pests than ever before, including the perennial verticulum wilt.
* Full sun; at least six hours a day
* Fertile, well-drained soil

Determinate or indeterminate
Tomatoes fall into one of two growth categories: determinate or indeterminate.
-Determinate tomatoes have their flower clusters develop at the very end of their shoot growth. What this means is that the tomatoes will all ripen at nearly the same time. This is an advantage if you are simply planning to can or freeze your tomatoes, but a disadvantage if you want to enjoy them fresh all season long. Determinate plants are usually smaller and are easier to grow in tight locations such as patios and porches. Sometimes they are referred to as Òpatio plantsÓ.
-Indeterminate types, in contrast, have their flower clusters grow all along the shoots of the plant; this ensures continual growth and flowering until frost. Usually indeterminate plants are larger and sprawling, so they are often staked or grown in cages for support. There are also types called Òsemi-determinateÓ that have a growth habit between indeterminate and determinate.
There are so many varieties of tomatoes to try that gardeners can become overwhelmed; more so if you want to grow your tomatoes from seed. Variety classification can be by size and shape (grape, cherry, pear et. . . ), use (slicer, paste) or length until maturity, such as early, midseason or late.
Heirloom varieties, which have been passed down from multiple generations, are becoming increasingly popular in home kitchens as well as upscale restaurants. These varieties are coveted for their superior flavor.

culture
Tomatoes are a warm-season vegetable that require full sun and steadily warm days to mature. Overly cool temperatures can halt growth and decrease yield. There are some newer varieties that show better resistance to cooler temperatures, but they are not frost-tolerant at all. Optimum temperatures for crop production fall within the range of 70-75? during the day and 65-68? at night. If temperatures remain extremely hot at night (above 80-85?) fruit production is decreased due to pollen production impairment. If temperatures remain above 85? at night there will be no more fruit set and the fruit that is there will not redden properly. When nighttime temperatures stay above 90-95? the fruit will not grow and the color will not develop properly.
Tomatoes are forgiving of many soil types, but do grow best in well-drained, fertile, light soil that is high in organic matter. They can grow in a rather wide pH level, between 5.5-7.8.
Planting
Depending on the part of the country you live in, you will either use transplants to grow tomatoes, or from seed. Northern states will need to use transplants, or begin their seeds earlier inside (about 5-6 weeks before planting). Tomatoes can be planted after all signs of frost have passed in the spring. Be selective when choosing your plants at a garden center. Do not purchase plants that are leggy, have discolored or dropping leaves, or have full blooms on them Buying a plant with full blooms on them ensures an early tomato but a much lower yield after that.
Growing beans in the home garden

Beans rank in the top five of the most popular vegetables grown in the home garden, and for good reason. There are many bean varieties available so you can probably find one to suit your taste. Green beans have many essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, vitamin A, folate, vitamin K and, of course fiber. Growing beans is fairly easy to do and once you get the hang of it, you can be harvesting and enjoying delicious beans throughout the entire season.
Types
There are two general types of beans that are grown in the home garden: bush beans and pole beans.
– Bush beans, true to their name, grow on a bushy plant close to the ground. These kinds of beans do not need to be staked or trellised, and are therefore the easiest to plant and grow. Bush beans produce a large crop. Because they grow close to the ground they are a bit more labor-intensive to harvest, dirtier and prone to a few more pests and diseases than pole beans (such as fungal disease, etc). Bush beans are the most popular type of bean for the home garden.
-Pole beans, in contrast, are a ÒvineÓ type of plant and will need to grow on a structure such as a trellis, pole or fence. Pole beans grow upward and are a bit easier to harvest, cleaner and somewhat less prone to pests and disease.
Both bush and pole beans are tasty and can produce beans throughout the season. Depending on the variety, beans generally take between 55-65 days to mature. You can plant beans every couple of weeks or so throughout spring to ensure a large and continuous crop throughout the season.
Once you have decided what bean you want to grow (or you could plant both!), follow these guidelines to ensure a good crop.

Culture
Green beans require full sun (at least 6 hours a day) organically rich and well-drained soil. Beans do not do well in cool, wet soil and will produce little crop if planted in these conditions. Fertilization is not necessary if the soil is organically rich.

Planting
Beans are a warm season vegetable and will need to be planted after all signs of frost are past and the soil is warm. Green beans are planted from seed. Make sure the seeds are fresh and not from a prior season. Do not soak the seeds; simply place them in the soil about an inch in the ground. Bush beans can be sown a little closer together than pole beans, about 2-4 inches apart in rows that are 18-24 inches apart. Pole beans should be planted about 4-6 inches apart in rows that are about 3 feet apart. You can also plant pole beans on small hills. If your soil is lacking in organic matter, you can add compost or manure to the soil. Give the seeds a good watering after planting.

Care
Beans need about an inch of water per week. If they do not receive an adequate amount through rainfall, you can supplement by hand watering. Do not overwater the plants. Keep the bean plants free of weeds, as they will compete for nutrients and water supply as well as damage their fragile root system.

Harvesting and storing
Your beans are ready to harvest when they are long, slender and crisp. Do not let the beans become overly mature (if the seeds inside the pod are bulging they are overly mature) Harvest your beans when they are dry. Picking beans when they are wet increases the risk of spreading bacterial blight. The bean plant is fragile so be careful not to break the stems as you pick the beans. Your bean plant will produce new beans if you continue to harvest the beans. If you leave mature bean pods on the plant it will decrease new bean production.
Green beans can be eaten fresh, frozen, canned or dried. If you decide to freeze your beans, you will need to blanch them prior to freezing. To learn more about blanching vegetable, go to: http://missourifamilies.org/features/foodsafetyarticles/fdsftyfeature12.htm.
IF you would like to learn how to can vegetables, go to: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09348.html.

Common Pests and Diseases
Bacterial bean blight is a common problem with beans. Signs of this disease are yellow, water-soaked spots on leaves or lesions that look like the leaves are burned. Plant only disease-free certified seeds and do not touch or harvest bean plants when they are wet. Avoid overhead watering methods. To learn more about bean blights, visit:http://www.umassvegetable.org/soil_crop_pest_mgt/disease_mgt/bean_bacterial_blight.html.
Bean mosaic disease is another common problem. This causes the bean to produce few or no pods. Signs of this disease are yellow/greenish plant leaves and irregular shaped leaves. There is no sufficient treatment for this at this time. Use disease-resistant varieties to prevent this problem.
Pests that bother beans include:
-Leaf miner
-Bean leaf beetle
-Mexican bean beetle
-Corn earworm
-Slugs
Control methods include hand-picking and disposing of pests or using organic pesticides when necessary.

Growing Carrots In The Home Garden

Carrots are hardy, cool season vegetables that are biannual and, like radishes and beets, are root vegetables. Carrots are a garden favorite, easy to grow, and have great nutritional value such as large amounts of vitamin A (in the form of carotene) vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and fiber. You can find many varieties and will more than likely discover one that suites your taste. Carrots are a versatile vegetable that can be prepared and enjoyed in many ways including fresh from the garden, cooked, steamed, boiled, baked, in deserts and even juiced! Eating carrots fresh is the best way to get all of their wonderful nutrients. They also freeze and preserve well for enjoyment year round.

Culture
Carrots require full sun (at least 6 hours a day), and loose/sandy, well-drained soil. If you already have sandy soil you are in luck because your carrots will probably grow very well with little amendment. If your soil is compact or has lots of clay in it, you can mix a moderate amount of organic matter such as compost or manure and sand into your garden. Make sure your soil is loose and tiled to at least 7-8 inches deep prior to planting.
Carrots do not like acidic soil (they do best with a pH around 6.5), but before you consider amending your soil you should have it properly tested. A soil test can be performed through your local university extension office. To find your local offices, go to: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/.

Planting
As a cool season crop carrots can be planted in early spring right after the last hard frost. A light frost will not damage carrots. They can also be planted in late summer for an early fall crop. Planting in late summer for a fall harvest will give you those wonderful small Òbaby carrotsÓ that are popular in salads and as a snack. To have a continuous crop you can plant seeds every 3 weeks after your initial planting and up until around the first week in August.
-Just before planting till the soil to at least 8-9 inches being careful to break up any clumps and lumps as these can impede the carrotÕs development.
-Carrots are planted from seed. Make sure the seed packet is fresh and not from last season and has been stored properly. Place seeds about ? inch in the ground, 2-3 seeds per inch. Rows should be about 12-18 inches apart. The seeds will take about 2 weeks to germinate. Once the seedlings are about an inch or two high thin them to prevent overcrowding. Carrots should be spaced about 2-3 inches apart as they grow.

Care
-Watering
Carrots perform best in consistently moist soil; an inch a week is an adequate amount. If they do not receive enough water through rainfall, you may supplement by hand watering. Frequent, light watering is not as effective as less frequent but deep watering that will reach root level. Inconsistent watering can cause cracks and fissures to form as carrots develop.
-Weeding needs to be done on a regular basis. Weeds will compete with nutrients, moisture and potentially damage the fragile root system. Be careful not to pull the carrot up with the weed; shallow cultivation will help prevent this. Mulching when the plants are more mature will help keep weeds under control.

Problems, Pests
-Carrots are forked: possible causes include rocks and stones in the soil, improper cultivation, poor soil preparation (large clumps left in soil) or root-knot nematodes.
-Twisting and intertwining: possible causes include over seeding and improper thinning of seedlings as they grow.
– Fine hairy roots, a bitter taste and poor color: a viral disease called aster yellows causes this.
-Carrot root flies
-Vegetable weevil
For a more detailed list of common problems, pests and diseases visit: http://www.carrotgardeningtips.com/pests_diseases.html.

Harvesting
Carrots are ready to be harvested when their roots are inches in diameter or greater. Depending on the variety, maturity usually takes between 60-80 days. Carrots can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or an area where it is 32 degrees with high humidity. Carrots will keep for about six months with proper storage. To prepare for storage, cut off the tops of the carrot about an inch above the root. Of course, carrots can also be frozen or canned for later consumption.

Varieties

The University of Illinois Extension [1,1] recommends the following varieties for your home garden:

Small, Round
Orbit (58 days to harvest, good color, few off-types, best harvested at the size of a 50 cent piece)
Thumbelina (60 days; 1992 AAS winner; round roots; good for planting in containers and in heavy, shallow or rocky soil)

Baby

-Baby Spike (52 days; 3 to 4 inch roots, 1/2 inch thick; excellent internal color; tender; holds small size well)

-Little Finger (65 days; tiny tender roots; 5 inch roots, 1/2 inch thick; golden orange, sweet and crisp)

-Minicor (55 days; slender fingerling carrots; colors early; uniform, cylindrical, blunt tip; good flavor)

-Short ‘n Sweet (68 days; rich, sweet flavor; 4 inch roots, broad at shoulder, tapered to a point; good for heavy or poor soil)

Chantenay
-Red-Cored Chantenay (70 days; heavy yield; good flavor; short, thick roots, broad at the shoulder, tapered to blunt tip)

-Royal Chantenay (70 days; broad-shouldered, tapered roots; bright orange; good for heavy or shallow soils)

Danvers
-Danvers Half-Long (75 days; uniform, 7 to 8 inch roots tapered to very blunt end; sweet, tender)

-Danvers 126 (75 days; heavier yield than Danvers; smooth roots; tops withstand heat).

Nantes
-Bolero (hybrid-70 days; 7 to 8 inch roots, uniformly thick, tapered slightly to blunt tip; superior resistance to foliage disease)

-Ingot (hybrid-70 days; 8 inch roots, 1-1/2 inches thick; indistinct core; deep orange color; strong tops; extremely sweet)

-Nantes Coreless (68 days; orange-red; small core, medium top)

-Scarlet Nantes (70 days; bright orange, slightly tapered, 6 inch roots; crisp, tender and flavorful; standard for high quality carrots)

-Sweetness (hybrid-63 days; sweet and crunchy; cylindrical, 6 inch roots, 1 inch thick)
-Touchon (70 days; interior, exterior bright orange; 7 inch roots, nearly coreless)
Imperator

-Avenger (hybrid-70 days; extra fancy; slightly blunt, tapered roots, 9 to 10 inches long)

-Gold Pak (76 days; 8 inch roots, 1-1/2 inches thick; sweet, tender, as coreless as any; good for juice)

-Imperator 58 (68 days; smooth, fine-grained, long, tapered roots; standard long, thin type)

-Legend (hybrid-65 days; high yield; smooth, uniform, 9 to 11 inch roots, 1-1/2 inches at shoulder; tolerant to cracking)

-Orlando Gold (hybrid-78 days; uniform, long, tapered shape; excellent flavor, color; 30 percent more carotene)

-Tendersweet (75 days; long, tapered roots; rich orange color; sweet, coreless)
Novelty

-Belgium White (75 days; mild flavor; long, tapered, white roots; productive, vigorous)
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Resources Cited:
1] University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow.

For further information on growing carrots visit:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg0435.html
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1606.html

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