Planning and more planning. Not much else we can do about the vegetable garden yet, beside plan and dream about it. I am dreaming of armloads of fresh basil heading to the kitchen to be tossed about on linguine with freshly chopped tomatoes!
Planning can be difficult, especially for newer gardeners. Increase your success rate by starting with only a few things. A home garden is generally not that large — yet we try to squeeze in some of everything. Some veggies are more difficult to grow or take up lots of room. Those are best purchased instead at your local farmers market, like sweet corn, and vine crop fruits like melons, pumpkins and squashes.
To grow and cultivate sweet corn and vine crops correctly, they take lots of space. Even the smallest patch of sweet corn should be at least a 10-foot by 10-foot square for correct wind pollination to occur, even so, you will likely be disappointed in your measly harvest.
What provides the most per square foot and has the least troubles? Drum roll please … I say the pepper! In all of my growing years, I have yet to see disease or virus issues on my pepper plants. Peppers will gladly produce volumes of fruits for you — given water, some fertilizer and fertile soil to grow in.
Many kinds of vegetables can be successfully grown in the home garden. The single biggest issue all the vegetables will have in common — competition with weeds. Weeds grow at a much faster rate than our desired plants and can quickly take over. Be pro-active and hoe in the garden before you see weeds — this disturbs the germinating seeds in the soil before they emerge. Weeds will compete for moisture, nutrients and space as they quickly take over garden.
Besides the weed factor, here are some of the most common issues with veggie plants in our region. If you know to expect these issues, you won’t feel like a failed gardener, we are all dealing with these issues in our own back yards.
Tomatoes: more disease and virus issues than insect problems.
Lettuce, spinach and greens: feasting rabbits, hot weather sending it into seed quickly and flea beetles.
Green beans: foliar diseases, Mexican bean beetles and white fly (in random years).
Sweet corn: Northern Root Worm Corn Beetle (NRCB), Corn ear worm, sap/picnic beetles and raccoons.
Potatoes: Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB), potato scab — a soil borne disease can be associated with horse manure; no cure, you got it, you got it.
Onion: they can be simple to grow too, but you only get one bulb per plant.
Carrots, beets, turnips: generally have few problems besides rabbits.
Broccoli and cauliflower: cabbage looper damage, rabbit damage, and cut worms.
Peas: hot weather can quickly and permanently halt production, and rabbits love them.
Melons, cucumbers and squashes: prone to many foliar diseases and chomping by the cucumber beetle, sap sucking from the squash bug, and vine burrowing by the squash vine borer.
So, let’s examine the expectations of one single pumpkin plant, struggling in a spot too small.
It’s roots are being fed on by the larvae of the cuke beetle, the adult cuke beetle is chewing on the leaves & stems and spreading disease in its mouth parts, the squash bugs are in herds sucking the juices out of the plants leaves, the NRCB is chewing on the skin of the pumpkin, the picnic beetle is drilling into any little hole in the fruits left by others to feed, the squash vine borer is boring a tunnel through the plants vines, then we are disappointed we didn’t get 10 pumpkins per plant … what?
A warmer winter like we are having so far, except for this week, is also good for the insect population that is wintering over in your passive compost heap or garden soil. The majority of our regional insect pests survive the winter here. Prolonged periods of frigid temps are more likely to freeze some of them out like the cutworms. When we have warmer than usual springs, look for aphids and white flies to blow in on the southern winds. Definitely not a bonus of an early or warmer spring.
The indoor winter markets for the Mankato Farmer’s Market are in full swing! The market is located at Bomgaars Supply on Adams Street by Hilltop Hy-Vee, and the market area is located inside the store at the west end. The Farmer’s Market is held every 1st and 3rd Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, through March. Stop by and shop our awesome vendors! Updates and information can be found on our Facebook page — Mankato Farmer’s Market. The next market is Saturday, January 20th.