Winter Garden Planning Tips
The charts at the top of the page provide a pictorial comparison of the average American's fresh vegetable consumption of primary commercial fresh vegetables in 1970 and 2010.
The larger number of pie slices in the second pie chart, along with its showing relatively more evenly shaped pie sizes, indicates change in the average American's fresh vegetable preferences. Compared to 1970, today's average American prefers a wider array of vegetable choices.
Today's fresh potato consumption, 20.1% of the average American's total fresh vegetable consumption, for example, reduces by half, the average 1970 average American's potato consumption, as a percent of total fresh vegetable consumption (40.9%).
Taking into account the fact that the data set omits statistics regarding consumption of specialty vegetables such as brussel sprouts and squash, it still sounds reasonable to suggest that today's average American fresh vegetable preferences reflect a broader diversity of taste, which has gradually developed over the past forty years.
Source: ERS - Vegetables and Melons Yearbook May 2011
Growing Salad Vegetables
With snow and ice on the ground in many parts of the country, winter remains the garden planning season for many. Here's a few tips.
- Using winter to plan next year's garden can be as easy as participating in a few topical breakfast, lunch or dinner conversations. Browsing seed catalogues in search of new and old varieties of favorite vegetables or flowers provides quiet company for individual consideration.
- When planning the garden, one might ask, is this the year my vegetable preferences change from bell peppers to chili peppers. How do those preferences influence my seed choices?
- Take a bird's eye view of your garden and mull over some minimally evasive disease and insect management options. Some birds are insectivores. Insects love gardens. Making your garden bird friendly by planting near their favorite spots might help control the insect population.
- Take a ground eye view of the garden and think soil, it hosts not only your garden plants, but also many of the insects and diseases that harm plants. In areas not affected by frost, physically removal all old garden plants, especially the diseased ones.
- Get your soil tested. Most local Extension Service offices and garden stores provide soil tests to help with planning which types of plants are best suited for your garden.
- Spend a few hours during the off season reviewing and updating garden records, noting any disease or insect incidents linked to particular patches of soil. For example, if you've planted vegetables in the cole family such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower or turnips, and encountered disease or insect problems, altering the planting plan for that area to include a member of the legume family such as beans or peas might prevent the re-occurrence of cole family related problems.
- Clean and sharpen garden tools so they are ready to garden when you are ready to garden.
Seed Germination Tip: Many commercial products, such as seed germination heating pads or heating stations provide gardeners who opt to use winter for indoor seed germination and seedling development prior to transplanting to the outdoor garden, with a variety of high tech tools for optimum seedling development.
More casual vegetable gardeners can use traditional soak and store the seeds in a warm and dark environment for germination purposes on many of the larger and more common garden vegetable seeds.
Beginning gardeners often focus on four basic self-pollination vegetables, beans, lettuce, peppers and tomatoes because of their ability to provide low cost, season to season consistency in the vegetable garden.
The seeds produced by most of the varieties in each vegetable category dry and store fairly easily, making winter the perfect opportunity to check on the previous season's seed crop.
Seed harvesting process varies among the vegetable groups, especially with respect to the amount of drying time necessary for producing viable seeds.
Almost all types of beans fit the self-pollinating category of vegetables. Large seed size, including pods, places beans at the long drying time end of the seed havesting spectrum. Green been pods, for example, need up to six weeks of drying time to produce brown pods hosting viable seeds. Pea pods tend to turn brown, with viable seeds after four weeks of drying.
Allowing the seed heads (flowers) of lettuce varieties to dry for two to three weeks usually provides sufficient time for the seeds to easily fall from the flowers.
Seed dying time for tomatoes and peppers moves the gardener to the other end of the dying time spectrum. Ripened seeds removed from both tomatoes and peppers can easily be harvested using a two step process.
The first step involved placing the seeds in a container of water. After a few days, the viable seeds sink to the bottom of the container.
Step two involves recovering the viable seeds and allowing them to dry for a day or two in a well ventilated area.
© 2000-2012. Patricia A. Michaels