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Cass County Extension

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Seeds & Planting

Adding Fertilizer and Organic Matter Buying seeds Container Gardening
Melons & Plastic Mulch Planting Tender Vegetables Planting Tomatoes
Planting Vegetables Saving Extra Seeds Selecting a New Site
Starting Tomatoes & Peppers Working the Garden

Buying Garden Seeds

How do we know which vegetable varieties to buy?

There are several sources of information which can help you decide which varieties of seeds to buy. We, in the extension service have a list of recommended varieties. Your friends, relatives or neighbors may also be helpful in recommending varieties which have done well in their garden.

What is the difference between the bargain seeds and seeds sold by other companies?

Usually the bargain priced seeds are older varieties which may not be in demand, or possibly the seeds are on sale as a leader to get you into the store. The quality and germination rate of both groups of seeds is very similar.

How do we know if the seeds will actually grow?

Germination tests are done on each variety of seed when it is packed. Check the date on the seed packet.

Can we keep extra seeds for planting next year?

Most vegetable seeds can be kept for at least a year or more. Store extra seeds in a cool dry location. The germination rate of one year old sweet corn, onion, and parsnip seeds may be significantly reduced.

Container Gardening

Which vegetables can be successfully grown in containers?

Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container but tomatoes and peppers will produce the most fruit for a limited amount of pots.

What type of a container should be used?

Use a container which will hold at least 6-8" of soil and has drainage holes on the sides or bottom. Use a soil media that doesn't pack hard and drains well but doesn't dry out to fast.

How often must container grown plants be fertilized and watered?

Generally patio gardens require one or two waterings a day and fertilizing with a water soluble garden fertilizer once a week.

Must a patio garden be in a sunny spot?

As a general rule vegetables respond much better in sunny locations than in partial shade. Leafy vegetables will do the best in partial shade and those which produce fruit such as tomatoes and peppers do the poorest. Keep your tomato plants in the sun.

Melons: Two Weeks Earlier

What can be done to improve the chances of getting ripe melons each year?

We can follow the lead of the local commercial growers. They start the melons indoors each spring and use a clear plastic as a mulch.

When and how would melons be started indoors?

Usually melon seeds are started indoors in peat pots in early May. The plants can be moved outdoors when the danger of frost is past or earlier if they can be covered. Care must be taken not to damage the taproots when planting out.

How is clear plastic used to produce earlier melons?

Clear plastic allows the sun to heat up the soil during the day and keeps the soil warm through the night. Melons are a warm season crop and keeping the soil warm day and night speeds up maturity.

How is the clear plastic put down in the garden?

Use 3' wide rolls of 4 or 6 mil plastic. Make sure the edges and ends of the strip are buried to hold plastic in place. Holes are cut into plastic to plant the melon. After the plant is in place make sure to cover plastic around melon plant to keep the wind from getting under the plastic and damaging plants.

Planting Tomatoes

Is it safe to plant tomatoes out in the garden before Memorial Day?

Yes, but we must be prepared to cover them in case we have freezing temperatures. They are very tender and any frost will kill them.

Why do people use transplants rather than planting seeds directly into the garden?

Tomatoes are a long season crop which would be later or not ripen at all if seeded directly into the garden.

Is there anything special which can be done at planting if the tomato plants are tall and lanky?

Yes, just plant the transplants deeper. Tomatoes have the ability to form new roots along any part of the stem which is buried. Just be sure to remove leaves from stems which will be covered with soil.

Planting Vegetables

Is late April-early May too early to plant vegetables?

No, certain vegetables which will tolerate a frost can be planted at this time. These include broccoli, cabbage, onions, peas, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.

For which of these should transplants be used?

Broccoli and cabbage are planted as transplants since they are a cool season crop and do much better in the cool weather of late spring and early summer. Onions are usually planted as sets because they require a long season to develop large bulbs.

Should a starter fertilizer be used with the transplants?

Many individuals use a starter fertilizers with their tomato transplants to help get them off to a quick start. Usually starter fertilizers are nothing more than a liquid or water soluble granular fertilizer mixed in water.

Planting Tender Vegetables

Is it safe to plant the tender vegetables such as tomatoes and melons in late May?

Yes, our last average frost date is May 25th. I doubt if we'd get a frost after that date but if we do, the tender vegetables must be covered.

Which vegetables are considered tender?

Tomatoes, peppers, beans and all the vine crops are tender and will be killed by a light frost.

Saving Extra Seeds

Can vegetable seeds be kept from one year to the next?

Yes, many of the vegetable seeds can be kept for several years if stored properly. Don't keep sweet corn, onion, or parsnip seeds for use in future years. Their germination rate and viability are greatly reduced in one year.

How should seeds be stored?

Left over or extra vegetable seeds should be kept in a closed container and placed in a cool dry location.

How can we tell if saved seeds are still good?

Check the seeds germination rate by placing a few seeds between two paper towels, rolling them up and keeping them moist. Check every few days for germination. If nothing grows in a couple of weeks, the seeds most likely won't grow.

Is saving vegetable seeds from the garden a good idea?

No, as a general rule it is not advisable. Seed from hybrid plants won't produce plants identical to the original plant. Seeds from plants which cross pollinate such as sweet corn and melons will be badly mixed.

Selecting a New Site

What is the most important concern when selecting a garden site?

I can answer that with one word - Sun, good full sun. If that isn't possible remember that leafy vegetables will do the best in a partially shaded area and plants which produce fruit, such as cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes will do the poorest.

What other concerns should be considered when selecting a site for a garden?

Try to choose a spot fairly close to the house. It makes watering and caring for your garden much easier.  Don't locate it near trees and shrubs. They compete for sunlight and gobble up the available food and water.

How can sod be removed for a new garden spot?

You can remove the sod and use it in another area if you need it or just kill it with Roundup and work it into the soil once it is totally dead.

What about raised bed gardens?

They can work very good. They tend to dry out quicker, but in spring can be worked sooner than a conventional garden. Usually the soil in a raised bed garden is easier to amend and work than our normal clay soil.

Starting Tomato & Pepper Plants

When should tomato & pepper plants be started indoors?

The recommended date is about the 15th of April. This gives the plants about 6 weeks before they can be safely planted into the garden.

Why do the tomato plants get tall & leggy when started in the home?

The major problem is lack of good light. Even if the plants are kept in a south window, they only get light from one direction when the sun is shinning and much less light when cloudy or overcast. Using artificial light generally will produce good sturdy plants.

Working the Garden

How do we know when the garden soil is ready to be worked?

Just take a handful of dirt and squeeze it. If it's cold and remains a mudball when you open your hand it's too wet to work.

When should organic matter or fertilizer to the garden?

We recommend adding these materials on the garden surface either in the fall or just before working it in the spring.

What type of organic matter would help a garden?

Any organic matter such as compost, rotted manure, leaves or grass clippings can help loosen the soil in the garden. Wood ashes and bonemeal are not recommended in our area because they are salty and would be bad for our alkaline soil.

How much commercial fertilizer should be added?

We recommend that gardeners have a soil test done to know exactly how much fertilizer should be added. If you don't want to do a soil test, the average recommendation would be 2# of 5-10-5 fertilizer for each 100 sq ft of garden area.

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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