A passionate and accomplished gardener, Martha's sharing her tried-and-true tips for a successful vegetable harvest, from seeds to summer's end.
Martha's vegetable garden at her home in Bedford, NY is laid out with rigorous geometry to yield maximum results and easy access. To minimize weeds and retain moisture, each row is mulched with salt hay, a grass harvested in marshes along the East Coast that contains no weed seeds.
Martha interplanted mustard greens among her cole crops such as kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. The mustard greens serve as a trap crop for flea beetles. The beetles are attracted to the mustard first, leaving the cole crops to grow undisturbed -- at least in theory.
Martha's tomato-staking method consists of white nylon twine supported by bamboo tripods. The vines are attached to the twine with trellis clips. Staking tomatoes allows for a clean, disease- and pest-free crop and even ripening of the fruit, and the clips can be reused each year.
Martha has a great idea for growing fresh, flavorful salad greens right at your backdoor: a salad table -- basically, a shallow wooden frame with a mesh bottom. Plus, with legs attached, it allows you to grow great salad greens at waist level from April through November.
Seeds saved from past gardens may be worth sowing -- but only if they pass Martha's test: Fold 10 seeds in moist paper towel, place in resealable bag, mark with date and type. Watch to see how many germinate. Multiply that number by 10 to calculate the percent of germinations. More than 70 percent is passing. If between 40 and 60 percent, sow thickly. Below 40 percent, it's best to buy fresh seed.
Set plants too close together and you'll stunt their growth. Set them too far apart and you'll create an opportunity for weeds. Martha knows that your hand is a convenient spacing device. Measure the distance from your thumb tip to your pinkie tip. Compare that figure to the recommended spacing on each plant's nursery label. Then, translate the label's inches into hand spans.
Gauging how quickly a sprinkler delivers the right amount is easy if you follow Martha's example. Set an empty, regular-size coffee can about 10 feet away from the sprinkler (or closer, if 10 feet is outside the watering zone). Turn on the tap, and monitor the time needed for the sprinkler to deposit enough water to reach 1 1/2 inches on a ruler dipped into the can (the equivalent of what your plants need). Next time, you'll know just how long to run the sprinkler.
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