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Suggestions To Maximize Garden Production

Hello Fellow Gardeners!

I am in the midst of the growing season of my vertical garden. Since this is really my first garden, I need some advice. I am wondering if anyone can offer any suggestions as to maximize the amount of fruit and vegetables that my garden produces. I am located in northeastern Pennsylvania...zone 4??? I am growing cucumbers (fanfare), muskmelon, tomatoes (early girl and beefsteak), bell peppers, chili peppers, and brussels sprouts. These plants are all growing in raised garden beds and/or containers which all located on my deck....facing south. I am also growing marigolds, rosemary, chives, thyme, oregano.

Any and all suggestions are welcome! I am willing to go above and beyond to have a nice garden!!!

Thanks In Advance,
Valentine

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  1. P.S. I forgot to mention that I am also growing radishes and blueberries as well!!!

    1. Follow a good fertilizing routine. You didn't mention whether you are gardening organically or not. I like fish emulsion fertilizer that can be poured over the foliage but I usually switch to a granular organic fertilizer once plants have a good start,obviously by now. Follow the instructions. I had difficulty with cucumbers in containers because a lot of rain washed nutrients out of the soil. But also, make sure your plants are getting enough water and I suspect you need to water at least once a day.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dfrostnh

        Thank you for the advice, dfrosthh!!!

        I am not so strong when it comes to knowing exactly what to do as far a fertilizing routine. I would prefer to have an organic garden simply because my toddler girl loves fruits and vegetables, and I am hoping to feed her the produce. Would happen to have any additional information which might help me???

        I have been watering and weeding and pruning, etc. my garden regularly....usually on a daily basis. I probably spend almost an hour each day!!! I am sure that it takes me longer than all you expert gardeners because I am just learning this craft.

        I have approximately 24 cucumber plants, and all but 4 are in containers. The other 4 are in large garden boxes along with 8 brussels sprouts plants. I have not really fertilized these because I am not sure what to use! So far, I have picked 10 cucmbers which have been only about 6 inches long. I picked them because it looked like they were turning yellow, and I was thinking that yellow cucmbers are not tasty. Overall, I am a disappointed with the number of cucumbers that are growing in my garden. I hope to figure out what to do next to improve my cucmber output!

        Thanks again for your help!,

        1. re: Valentine529

          It's still early in the cucumber season and don't feel bad, due to weather, my schedule and striped cucumber beetles, my cucumber plants are still seedlings. Our granddaughters love sugar snap peas and I think it's about time to plant a fall crop. Meanwhile, we have a bountiful amount of sugar snaps.

          I started serious gardening again in 2008 after a move to a home with lots of sun. Last year I learned that my garden needs an annual addition of composted manure each spring. My spinach did great without the addition but a second planted in a different location did fabulous. This year, because of weird weather (I planted only a week later than last year) my spinach was a dud. An ag guy said no one in our area had good spinach this spring. But, in the meantime, when I weed, I uncover earthworms which I see as a sign of healthy soil. Since you are growing in containers, I'm going to assume you bought soil from the store. I found my source of composted horse manure (mixed with kitchen scraps and wood ashes) on Craigslist. We live in an area where free manure is possible. Yes, there are some weed seeds but not bad. Suggest you add composted manure (even if store bought) to your boxes if you harvest one crop and start a new one. I like the lasagna method of gardening. In 2007 I started building a bed that was easily 20" tall. It compacted a lot over the winter and now in 2011 is pretty much even with the surrounding lawn. I think that's how much the vegetables took away.

          I am also learning about varieties. The cucumber variety you chose might not be a great producer. I don't think seed catalogs give us all the information. Plus the cukes sound very short, although some are that way. You will notice that some are meant to be picklers and have a warty skin while others like Burpless varieties are smooth skinned. I get my seeds from Fedco, Johnny's and Baker's Creek but I'm keeping more specific notes based on my experience. For example, last year one summer squash variety succumbed to beetles while the two other varieties survived with treatment to produce a large quantity of squash. We also love the taste of one, a striped Itaian variety.

          I thought Poona Keara was a great tasting and great producing cuke but it's white and still seems to be tender when it gets a little bigger and turns orange-ish. So far I haven't been happy with my radishes but haven't tried too hard since my husband doesn't like them.

          I've used a large glass jar (check out Target) as a pickling crock but be careful about pouring hot brine or water into it. I don't make large batches.

          Ask friends for old panty hose.

          Let your lab continue to do a good job with the chipmunks. Sorry, but we have a brazen chipmunk who hops up on the tomato cages to chomp away right in front of me. I keep hoping Mr Hawk or Mr Coyotes will introduce themselves. So far it seems like we have an understanding with the deer. I have sometimes use repellant spray but so far they have stayed away from the veggies.

      2. Get onion type net bags to support the melons and velcro strips to support the tomatoes & cukes. Radishes grow fast, but need lots of attention while growing, thinning and don't let them go too long.Let the Brussel sprouts grow past the first frost.
        Go Muhlenberg!

        4 Replies
        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Thanks for the advice, Passadumkeg!

          I grew up in Allentown, and my father graduated from Muhlenberg. I almost went there, but I ended up at Bucknell instead! BTW, I recognize you from the great advice you have posted on the PA board! I now live in Drums, PA, but I am a foodie, so I am always looking for great stuff to eat. Right now, I am a full time mom to an active toddler, so I have to satisfy my palate by cooking myself fo the most part!

          I have all the tomatoes and cucumbers staked and supported. I am actually using colored telephone wire. I am careful not to strangle the plants when using this. I am going to work on the velcro strips because that sounds better. I will look for net bags as I don't have many on hand right now. I was thinking about maybe using stockings??? I have to go buy some because I do not wear them right now!

          As far as the radishes, I planted them maybe 10 days ago in a growbox. They are spaced maybe 3 inches apart in all directions. I just keep watering them gently and weeding the box. How will I know when to thin them? I was thinking that they would be ready to pick in 30 days, but maybe I am wrong. Do you have any additional advice for me???

          Thank you for all you help and for your interesting postings!

          1. re: Valentine529

            3 inches apart is fine for radishes, don't thin any more than that. 24 plants? you must really like cucumbers. I grow mine against a chickenwire fence so they support themselves. You can grow some crops like lettuce, beetleaf, basil, radishes and some broccoli early in the spring before it is time to put in tomatoes and peppers. You can also tuck some lettuce in around the foot of taller plants like tomatoes and blueberry bushes. I am having some problems with chipmunks in my raised beds. Although they are covered, the little buggers burrow in from underneath. Next year I'm going to have to empty the beds and put hardware cloth underneath. Remember to fertilize occasionally and water the tomatoes regularly.

            1. re: DonShirer

              Thank you for all your great suggestions, Don! :)

              Yes, I do really like cucumbers, and I am hoping to try my hand at pickling them if my garden produces enough. I am currently searching for an affordable pickling crock, and I am researching the various methods of pickling and preserving garden produce.

              I am going to try to grow some lettuce in the near future. I will do as you suggested and plant the lettuce around the taller plants. I am learning so much from expert gardeners like you!

              As far as chipmunks go, I know that they can be little buggers! I have not had a problem with them, yet. This is probably because my chocolate lab LOVES to catch them. Unfortunately, my dog is very, very good at catching them. This often upsets me because the little buggers often don't make it unless I am there to save them. :(

            2. re: Valentine529

              Val, email me from my profile about your dad's class, Both my uncles went to Berg and my cousin to B-nell.

          2. I welcome the advice too. I have tons of buds on my zucchini plants, but no squash. I live in northern New Jersey, near NYC, and I am wondering if this is the effects of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Most of my plants are growing well in large containers on my deck, but they're just not producing fruit at all. I do have several decorative gourd plants thanks to an ambitious squirrel last fall (it stole the gourd off my porch and ate it in the nearby bushes scattering seeds everywhere). Both the gourds and the zucchini have tons of flowers but they just keep falling off with no fruit behind them.
            My herbs are doing beautifully - chives, mint, basil, red basil, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley are all growing faster than I can use them, My marigolds and lilies (both Asian and daylilies are looking great.
            I have a few small tomatoes on one plant and a container of scallions growing fine, but that's it. My raspberries did nothing for the first crop - I am hopeful for the fall crop unless the chipmunks get them, and they have no flowers either.
            Any suggestions to improve the outlook for the remainder of the summer would be great.
            Thanks,