Disease Proof

Beginning Gardening Tips

Spring is arriving, which means it’s time for planning and preparing gardens. With the rebirth of healthy eating, many want to grow their own vegetables. However, there's a science and an art to it so I’ve asked 85-year-old master gardener, Robert Taylor, to share a few tips with us. He earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue University’s Agricultural and Horticultural programs; and has spent most of his life successfully growing all varieties of plants, and professionally teaching and helping others do the same. Welcome to Disease Proof, Mr. Taylor.    


What’s the first thing to consider when starting a garden?

Make sure the location is sunny, and the top soil is highly organic without pollutants such as mercury and lead. Most every county in the US has a County Extension Office directed by the agricultural university of that state. For a nominal fee, soil samples can be taken to them for testing and recommendations. 

Urban and suburban developments have a lot of clay soil, so most likely black top soil will need to be purchased. Many landscaping companies can haul truckloads of garden soil for a fraction of the cost of bagged soils bought from stores. However, if space is limited, and soil is poor quality, it's best to grow plants in containers filled with bags of potting soil.


What’s next?  

At the county extension office you can also pick up a garden planning guide, because it’s important to plan your garden before purchasing seeds and/or seedlings. You can purchase packs of seeds from most any store, including grocery stores. However, I highly recommend buying seeds from reputable garden catalogues such as Burpees, Gurneys, or Henry Fields. Seeds from nurseries are the best as they have been tested and dated for quality germination. To help avoid diseases such as tomato wilt and cucumber wilt, select hybrid seeds that are disease-resistant. They cost a bit more, but are worth the investment. Now is the time to be placing orders for seeds. 

A new product this year from several catalogues is a seed starting kit. Each kit includes a cell growing tray, humidity dome, water reservoir tray, and 55 grow plugs. This combination allows each seedling to take in the proper amount of water for healthy root development and uniform germination of the seeds. This is a great tool for beginning gardeners.


In a few weeks, after seedlings are started, Mr. Taylor will discuss tilling, gardening tools, when to plant outdoors, spacing, staking, composting, and controlling insects, diseases and fungus. Also, if you enjoy the aesthetic beauty of flower beds, you can grow vegetables right along with flowers that require full sun. Some gorgeous combinations are spring lettuces and pansies, tomatoes and marigolds, peppers, Swiss chard, kale, and eggplants. 

Enjoy your gardening endeavors!  


image credits: chiotsrun.com; coopext.colostate.edu

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Sarah - March 25, 2010 10:48 AM

I just wanted to add that if growing from organic seed or using heirlooms are important to you, there are reputable seed resources out there as well. Try Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org), Baker Creek Heirlooms (www.rareseeds.com), or Seeds of Change (www.seedsofchange.com). These companies are all passionate about sustainability and preserving seed lines. I grow fruits and vegetables for farmers markets in North Iowa, and have had wonderful expereinces with all of these vendors. Happy gardening!

Karen Harris - March 25, 2010 1:43 PM

I've been growing veggies on my lanai in EarthBoxes. (kale, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes) With an EarthBox anyone can garden anywhere. Looking forward to planting some lettuce starts this weekend.

nora manwiller - March 25, 2010 3:57 PM

Thanks for the tips. I look forward to reading more.

Elisa Rodriguez - March 25, 2010 5:09 PM

These are great ideas everyone. I've been wanting to start a garden on my deck. Thank you!

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