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In your own backyard | Finding the essence of a veggie garden

It's time again for the annual planting of the vegetable garden.
— image credit: File photo

“The essence of a real garden is the insignificance of the garden itself; the soul of the real garden lies in the perfect prosperity of the plants of which it is the home.”

-Reginald Farrer 1914

Once again it is time again to plan the planting of the vegetable garden. First are all the old standbys like carrots, peas, beans, squash, corn, potatoes, and tomatoes; then it is always fun to try something new, even if it’s only one crop.

My artichoke, (a new plant for me last year) with heavy mulching survived the winter so I shall be graced with its silvery giant thistle looks and peculiar fruit once again. I’ll even add a couple more plants. Some bright marigolds will look nice clustered around them.

If you haven’t tried before, cantaloupes, melons and watermelons are possible and rewarding. You will never fail to impress family and friends with your green thumb and gardening skills. The first secret to success in this endeavor is planting early maturers. This means they must ripen in 70 to 85 days; anything longer in our climate is iffy. Plant your seeds at the beginning of May (my mom’s birthday was the 12th so I do it then) into peat or some other pot that is capable of being planted right into the ground. Melons don’t take to transplanting well. Place your pots somewhere the soil will stay warm. (If you use an electrical propagating mat remove plants when true leaves form). Start the hardening process at the beginning of June (start by leaving them out a few hours, working your way up to all day and then overnight). This is usually about a two-week procedure. If you’re buying bedding plants, do this at the beginning of June and follow the hardening off procedure as if you had raised them from seed. For best results plant seedlings into raised beds prepared with humus and well aged manure. Make sure you water them well before and after planting. Slice and cut into peat pots so roots are able to expand. If you’re using your own recycled paper pots this is especially important, as roots are often not strong enough to break through on their own. Mulch well!

Eggplants I will try again this year. They too must be planted early, going into the ground by June. This year I’ll take the advice of the seed companies and use a row cover (as well as mulch) to speed the growth process by increasing the heat.

Peas grow faster if you soak them overnight or wrap them in damp toweling for a few days until the coatings crack, before planting them.

Trivia: Hot chili peppers can produce a mild “high." Probably to counteract the burning sensation, the brain releases chemicals called endorphines, which give you a sensation of well-being.

Questions or comments? Contact columnist Pam Tempelmayr at

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