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Skaggs: Like your veggies? Grow your own

POSTED: May 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

If you’re a gardening novice and a vegetable lover, plan to include beans, corn, tomatoes and eggplant in your first garden.

Beans are one of the easiest things to grow in the garden — practically fool-proof. First soak the seeds overnight. The following day, plant them 5 to 6 inches apart in the garden.

Bean plants are prone to Japanese beetle infestations and to rust, a fungal disease that can be treated with fungicide. Keep a close eye on your plants for signs of these two pests.

When it’s time to harvest your first crop of beans, pick early. If left on the vine too long, they can become stringy and less desirable.

Corn can be a little more difficult. The biggest mistake gardeners make with corn is planting a single row. Corn is wind-pollinated, so it’s necessary to grow it in rows; however, four or five short rows are best so that the pollen will be blown readily from plant to plant.

Corn is a heavy feeder, and needs nutrition three to four times from planting until harvesting. It also requires a good bit of water, especially as the kernels near maturity.

If considering a bi-color selection, try either sugar and cream or ambrosia, or if you want white corn, silver queen is a tried and true white variety.

When it comes to planting tomatoes, decide why you are planting them. Tomatoes are broken down into two varieties: determinate and indeterminate.

Determinate varieties put out one large crop of tomatoes then taper off the rest of the season. These are typically used for canning.

Indeterminate tomatoes produce fruit a little bit at a time throughout the entire season. These varieties are best for topping tacos, salads and hamburgers, or the occasional tomato sandwich.

Celebrity and Rutgers are good determinate varieties, and better boy and beefmaster are popular indeterminate varieties.

To plant, grow seed indoors for six to eight weeks or use a transplant. When transplanting, pinch off the lower branches on the stem and plant as deeply as possible. This creates a strong root system. Leave room between each plant for good ventilation and to cut down on foliar diseases.

Similar to tomatoes, eggplants should not be sown directly into the soil. They are most often grown indoors initially and then transplanted into the garden.

Gardeners should be on the lookout for flea-beetles, which will riddle the leaves and suck the vigor out of the plant. The beetles can be suppressed by using insecticides.

Also, you want eggplants to grow fairly close to maturity. When they’re ready to harvest, they should be shiny and firm, denting in a little when pressed.

No matter which vegetables you choose to plant, site selection is critical. For most summer vegetables, start with a site that gets full sun. It should also be away from tree roots that may compete with your veggies for water and nutrients.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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