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Victory Gardening 2.0 – Planting Outdoors

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This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members.

Congratulations on your decision to start your own Victory Garden 2.0!
Now it’s time for planting your garden outdoors!

In our last blog, we talked about how to plan your garden, including starting from seed. Now it’s time to think about or begin, planting your garden outdoors. Remember, two very important steps in gardening are

1. Knowing your growing zone and
2. Knowing your last frost date.

The following tips are all from James H. Burdett’s Victory Garden Manual, published in 1943. Mr. Burdett was the founder of the National Garden Bureau in 1920 and today, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of NGB, his advice and tips are still extremely useful.

Planting Your Victory Garden 2.0 Outdoors

1. We talked a little about soil in the first blog post. It’s a complex topic but the easiest way in today’s world (these things weren’t available in 1943!) is to purchase prepared potting mix. So before planting, make sure you have prepped your soil or bought new. Then you are ready to begin planting. Your local garden centers will have some great choices of different soils.

2. Cool-season vegetables typically have shorter crop times and thus produce edibles earlier. So, consider starting your garden by direct-sowing lettuce, radishes, peas, etc. if the temperatures are still cool in your area. Some seeds are very tiny so take care to avoid planting too many. That is wasteful and will result in more work as you’ll need to thin your plantings later as they grow and crowd each other out. Follow the recommended sowing dates on the seed package.

3. For best results, it is recommended that vegetables be planted a specific distance apart and to a certain depth for optimal produce productions. Look for this information on seed packets, in catalogs, on websites, and on tags. Also, find the recommendation if the plants should be planted in rows (tomatoes and peppers) or in mounds (squash and cucumbers).

4. For transplants, follow recommended planting dates based on your last frost date. Rushing your planting could mean that a late frost will kill your baby transplants or that the transplants will simply sit in too-cool soil until it warms up. Handle transplants gently, don’t compress the soil and, in most cases, plant to the same depth as it was in the original container. One exception is tomatoes and peppers: they can be planted deeper which is helpful if the transplants are tall and leggy at planting time. Bury peppers a bit deeper than the root ball to encourage additional root growth that will make them sturdier. It is recommended to bury tomatoes so that a full 2/3 of the plant is underground. Tomatoes have the ability to sprout additional roots along the buried stem that is great to keep the plant upright and to survive the hot summer days.

5. Using trellises and other supports for vining crops (vertical gardening) allows you to grow more vegetables in a smaller space since they will grow up, not out. There are many products that your local garden centers carry to help you. Be creative with string and some garden stakes.

6. Don’t plant too close together. Overcrowding is one of the most common mistakes gardeners make. Overcrowding results in less airflow which then leads to disease. It can also result in smaller sized plants and smaller and less produce since these plants can’t get enough nutrients. Remember, sometimes more isn’t better when it comes to planting too many plants in a small area.

7. Tradition says vegetables should be planted in rows from north to south. This is so that one row won’t shade out the other. Even if not planting in rows, keep this in mind for raised beds and containers so that shorter plants are situated to the south and larger plants are to the north of those plants.

8. Fertilizer is a vital component in most gardens. You can incorporate a slow-release fertilizer into the soil at the beginning of the season and/or apply periodically throughout the growing season. (Many prepared soil mixes already include a slow-release fertilizer which makes this much easier!) The specifics on how much and how often depend on a large number of variables. We suggest asking your local extension office, garden retailer for specific recommendations based on your needs.

9. Watering is of course very important in your garden. The success of your time and effort will depend on proper watering. But, don’t stress. It takes some trial and error but with these articles, you will soon be an expert.

10. Lastly: To mulch or not to mulch? This is a personal choice but using mulch around your vegetable plants has many benefits. Ask your local garden center about which mulch they recommend

Now it’s time to get out and start your outdoor planting for your Victory Garden 2.0!

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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