Grow Vegetables at Home or on Your Small Farm

This long excerpt from "Grow It!" provides detailed information about soil nutrients, location, fertilizers, pH balance, planting times, plant spacing, and other factors that will affect your plants when you grow vegetables.

| May/June 1973

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    The book from which this bounty of information about growing vegetables originates.
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    Cold frames made from old basement windows provide a safe place to sprout seeds when you start to grow vegetables.
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    This heavy paper collar, stapled together, protects young transplant from cutworms. Cover entirely with straw mulch until all danger of frost is past or, if there is no danger of frost, for two days to keep plant from getting too much sun while it settles in.
  • Grow It - plastic cloche garden
    Modified cloche gardening using plastic sheeting weighted down with rock.
  • Grow It - potato plant
    The various parts of a potato plant.

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  • Grow It - plastic cloche garden
  • Grow It - potato plant

Special Note: All material here reprinted from Grow It! copyright 1972 by Richard W. Langer. The title of this excerpted chapter is "Vegetables." 

A plant is like a self-willed man,
out of whom we can obtain all which we desire,
if we will only treat him his own way

For the small farmer, no single crop, area for area, will yield as much as the vegetable garden. When James Norman Hall was living in Tahiti, there was a shortage of familiar fruits and vegetables, and what few there were, were motley. The papayas and mangoes tasted great, but occasionally he longed for a good lettuce and tomato sandwich. Or so the story goes. He had a friend of his send him a large package of assorted superseeds to plant. Hall was busy with his writing, however; his garden suffered from neglect, and eventually expired from total insect devastation. He gave the remaining seeds to some Chinese friends, thinking that perhaps they could at least salvage a few vegetables for their family. Five months later, after carefully tending their new garden, his friends returned a huge basket of vegetables to him. Two years later he was still getting a basket a week — and the industrious farmers were supplying almost all the fresh vegetables to the town of Papeete. And that's more or less the story of any vegetable patch. Good seed and good care give superabundance.

How big you want your garden to be depends not only on how much vegetables are part of your diet, but which ones as well. The yield of tomatoes, say, is much greater than that for sweet corn occupying the same amount of ground. A one-hundred-by-one-hundred-foot garden should yield an ample supply for four plus guests. To help you plan your garden, the approximate yield per hundred-foot row is given for each vegetable in this chapter.

Garden Location: If you keep chickens, the likeliest spot for your vegetable garden is someplace where you can fence off half the area for a chicken yard and plant on the other half. The next year, rotate so that what was the chicken yard becomes the vegetable garden, and vice versa. The double yard makes for healthier chickens and gives you pre-fertilized soil to work with as well.

The garden should be on well-drained soil, preferably a gentle slope to the south if you have one. Sloping assures drainage, and southern hills warm up the best during cool springs and autumns, giving the plants on them extra growing strength. The difference between flat land and a sunny southern slope can mean as much as a two-months-longer growing season. But don't forget to follow the contour of the hill with your rows, or erosion will eventually wipe out the benefits of the site. Also, the tallest plants should be located at the northern end of the garden. A couple of rows of high sweet corn along the south side, for instance, could shade a large portion of your garden for most of the day. Your vegetables will want sun, every bit of it they can get, so if you can't give them a slope exposed to the south, make sure the garden is at at least away from tall trees and in the open.


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