Register with GEF for FREE to enjoy these great benefits! 

    • member only contests and raffles

    • sustainability program news and updates

    • significant discounts at GEF Institute

Note: If you have problems registering, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

JOIN GEF NOW!

Taking a GEF Institute Course? Login by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Us

Sign Up for GEF's National Green Week 2015!
Please note: Your privacy is very important to GEF. We do not share or sell any of your data.  It is with the sole purpose of providing you with relevant information that GEF will contact you.
Login/SignUp

 

new-eggplantEggplant
How to Grow:
Eggplants need consistent heat from germination to harvest, so do not place the seedlings in the ground until its temperature reaches 70 degrees. Start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before planting them. Eggplants prefer soil with a pH from 5.8 to 6.8: not too high in nitrogen. It helps to place several large, dark colored stones near the plants because they will absorb heat during the day and radiate it during the night, when it is needed.

How to Harvest:
Eggplant plants grown in northern gardens will produce between four to six fruits, and southern plants will produce twice that yield. Remove ripe eggplants with a sharp knife, taking some of the stem along with the fruit.

Considerations: 
Colorado Potato Beetles are a major pest problem. Row covers also help keep the bugs at bay.

Head Lettuce
How to Grow:
Start seedlings indoors in late winter, six to eight weeks before the last expected spring frost. Before transplanting, ease the transition to the outdoors by placing seedlings in a sheltered place outside for a few hours a day,increasing the time until they are outside the full day. In a more mild climate, the seeds can be sown directly into the garden. Head lettuce needs temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees F during the growing season. These plants are heavy feeders, benefiting from regular feedings of nitrogen, and in need of a soil pH of 6.2-6.8. Plant them in an area with full sun to partial shade.

lettuce

How to Harvest:
Head lettuce can be picked as soon as leaves are large enough to eat, firm, and well-wrapped.

Harvest early in the morning after the dew has evaporated, using a sharp knife to cut the plant from its root.

Considerations: 
Head lettuce makes an excellent companion plant for carrots, garlic, onion, and radishes.

 

Melon

Melon

How to Grow:

Melons absolutely need warm soil in order to be healthy. In northern areas, seeds must be started indoors and then planted when they are about three weeks old no sooner than two weeks after the last frost. In southern areas, melon seeds can be sown directly into the ground when the soil is warm. Water the plants until the fruit is about the size of a tennis ball; after this, they need no water at all until their harvest.

To save space in your garden, consider trellising your melons if they are vining types (most are). To do so, supply plastic mesh netting for the plants’ support.

How to Harvest:
Melons take 75 to 85 days to mature. Towards the end of the growing season, pinch off any small melons so the larger melons have the opportunity to ripen and become sweeter. Knowing when to harvest your melon is tricky because different varieties give different cues about their ripeness. To be sure, check your seed pack or plant label.

Considerations:
It is often useful to mulch melon plants with a sheet of plastic mulch to increase soil temperature and provide a barrier between the melons and the ground, which can cause rot.

onions
Onion

How to Grow:

The best setting for onions is raised beds with loose, sandy soil supplemented by a lot of compost. Start them as sets (small onions from the previous season) or as plants. Sets work fine, but plant seedlings generally produce onions of a better size and quality. Either purchase seedlings or sow the seeds indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost date. Sow them thickly in a small flat and use scissors to keep them at a 3” height. They can be planted densely in the garden, but will need to be thinned (and eaten as scallions) in order for them to reach a certain size. Weed them consistently and give them about 1” of water per week.

How to Harvest:
When their tops flop over, onions are ready to be harvested. Pull the bulb from the soil and let the entire plant dry in a well-ventilated, dark place for several weeks. Then, after the stems have withered and the onions are completely dry, they can be moved indoors to a cool, dark location for storage. Some onions store well while some cannot be stored at all; see your seed packet or the garden center that sold you the seedlings for more information on your variety.

Considerations:
The length of day determines the development of an onion bulb. For this reason, southern gardeners and northern gardeners grow different varieties of onions: short day and long day, respectively. To avoid problems with planting onions that are unsuitable for your area, you can buy plants or seeds locally, choose your seeds with care from a catalog, or buy “day-neutral” onions that will thrive almost anywhere.
 

PeasPeas:
How to Grow:

Plant peas early in the spring so they start producing before the weather gets hot. Some gardeners soak their pea seeds in water for about 12 hours before planting in order to speed germination because the seeds germinate slowly in the cold soil. You may also want to cover the planting area with clear plastic to warm it up about a week before planting the seeds. In certain areas of the country peas can also be planted for a fall harvest about two months before the first fall frost date.

Peas are either bush variety or climbing variety, both of which benefit from some kind of support system. Climbing peas, which can reach six to eight feet tall, need a good trellis. Many gardeners use string, twine, netting, or wire mesh in a grid shape with 1” squares and plant peas on both sides of this trellis.

Peas use beneficial bacteria that naturally live on their roots to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that they can use. This bacteria can also be purchased in a powdered form and added to the soil at planting time.

How to Harvest:
Peas are usually ready to eat about three weeks after they start to flower. Harvest as soon as they are plump and ripe. When they go past their peak, they become starchy. Some peas, such as snow peas and snap peas, have edible pods while garden or green peas must be shelled.

Considerations:
When growing tall plants like climbing peas or pole beans, plant them on the north end of your garden so they will not shade the other crops.

Peas are rarely bothered by insects or disease.

new-pepperPeppers
How to Grow:

First, choose which of the myriad varieties you would like to grow! Some are mild and sweet while others can burn your skin. Most gardeners buy plants from a nursery, but peppers can be grown from seed in a flat. Soil must be kept around 80 degrees during germination, a temperature that can be facilitated by keeping the seeds on top of a refrigerator or need a radiator.

Keep new transplants warm by covering them with a row cover, but remove it when the plants stat to flower in order to allow insects to pollinate the blossoms. Some bricks or dark-colored stones added around the plants helps keep them at the right temperature by absorbing heat during the day and radiating it back at night.

Peppers like well-drained soil with a little compost mixed in. Avoid adding too much nitrogen, such as fish emulsion, because this element causes peppers to produce many leaves and little fruit.

How to Harvest:
Peppers can be picked at any size – it is at the discretion of the gardener. Use scissors or a small knife to cut the fruit off the stalk without damaging the stem. Picking small early peppers will stimulate the plant to flower and produce more. Peppers left to mature will often change from green to red, yellow, orange, or even rich brown, and their flavor will be sweeter. Hot peppers will be at their hottest when left to ripen to the color red.

Considerations:
Peppers keep their flavor and consistency better than most vegetables. They can easily be frozen: simply cut them into strips, freeze them on a cookie sheet, and put them in plastic freezer bags. Thaw them later in soups, stir-fries, scrambled eggs, and enchiladas.

 

PotatoPotatoes:
How to Grow:

An ideal growing condition for potatoes consists of a raised bed with moist, well-drained soil. Because they are heavy feeders, prepare the soil before planting by adding compost and organic fertilizer.

You can start potatoes from “seed potatoes” which are similar to onion sets in that they are small versions of the plant from which a new crop can be grown. Plant seed potatoes whole, or cut into pieces that have at least two “eyes.” These can be ordered from a catalog. If preferred, one can also plant regular organic potatoes from a local market. Cut these into chunks that have at least two “eyes,” let the cut sides air dry for a few days, then plant.

For each potato, dig a hole about 5” deep, drop in the potato or potato piece, and cover with about 2” of soil. Once the plant emerges, cover it with another few inches of soil and repeat the process until the hole has been filled to soil level, after which the plant should be left to develop normally.

 

How to Harvest:
Once the plants have blossomed, you may carefully dig down and harvest some “new potatoes.” Toward the end of the growing season watch for the plants above ground to begin to wither ; this is the best time to harvest your potatoes. Dig them all up and bring them indoors before the frost.

Considerations:
Watch out for the Colorado potato beetle. If you see orange egg masses under the leaves, scrape them off and check back on a daily basis for larvae or adults. See [link] for organic pest prevention methods.

 

Pumpkin PatchPumpkin
How to Grow:

Pumpkins grow best on a trellis, where their vines and fruit can be supported, or on an outside corner of your raised bed where their foliage can grow freely over the ground without disturbing other crops. Their soil must be enhanced with compost and the weather must be warm. It takes 90 to 100 days from planting the seeds until the squash are ready to harvest, so cold-climate gardeners sometimes get an early start by starting seeds indoors about three weeks before the last spring frost. Plant two seeds per 3” pot and prune to one if they both germinate and grow successfully. Then, transplant the seedling into the garden a week or two after the last spring frost. Consider warming the soil a few days prior to planting by covering it with clear plastic.

How to Harvest:
Harvest your pumpkins in the fall before they can be damaged by frost. Before storing in a cool, dry, indoor room, first cure them in a warm, dry place for several weeks to allow their skin to toughen. Most pumpkins taste better after they have been cured and stored than they do straight from the garden!

Considerations:
Pumpkins are not always good for eating. Determine whether you want jack-o-lantern pumpkins or pie pumpkins, which have sweeter flesh.