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Publication: Garden Guides
Spring Vegetable Gardening

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                       March 29, 2006

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Greetings fellow green thumbs, 

This is your Garden Guides editor here. So frequently, when 
we think if gardening we think of flowers and decorative 
plants, but I think it's important to remember that vegetable 
gardening is a rewarding experience in more ways than one! 
Not only do you get a thick, beautiful garden overflowing 
with bountiful-looking plants, but all those fresh vegetables 
will make a healthful and delicious addition to your diet! 

I found a great article on planning your spring vegetable 
garden on The University of Arizona's College of Agriculture 
and Life Sciences page. I think you'll find it very useful! 

 
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Get A Jump On Spring Vegetable Gardening
by John Begeman

If your planning to plant a vegetable garden this spring, 
now is the time to decide whether to start them from seed, 
or purchase transplants.

Many gardeners like to start their plants from seed, 
because they can grow interesting and unusual varieties 
not available in the local garden stores. Mail order 
garden catalogs offer an overwhelming choice; many "tried 
and true" varieties are offered, while many others are 
brand new.

Getting a jump on spring is another important reason for 
growing plants from seed. Warm season vegetables like 
tomatoes and eggplant are much more productive in mid to 
late spring. Extended summer heat here in the desert 
stresses these plants and reduces fruit production. 
Setting them out as early as possible will extend the 
harvest period of warm season crops.

Some vegetables can be grown from seed in window sills, 
cold frames, or greenhouses for later planting out in 
the garden. These are the types that transplant easily 
and include; tomato, eggplant, onion, pepper, and okra. 

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When growing seeds in containers, use prepared potting 
soil, a seed-starting mix or peat pots. You can make your 
own seed starting mix by combining equal parts of peat 
moss, perlite, and vermiculite. You can buy them in 
separate bags at garden center and home supply stores. 
Peat pots, peat pellets, plastic cell packs, trays, egg 
cartons, and virtually clean container that will hold 
soil can be used to start seeds. Make sure the container 
has drainage holes.

Small seeds can be shattered over the soil mix and barely 
covered. Larger seeds can be planted individually or in 
groups of three and covered a little deeper. Later, the 
seedlings planted in groups of three can be thinned to 
leave the one most vigorous. When thinning seedlings, use 
a scissors to cut them off; never pull them out!

Warm soil hastens seed germination. If your starting seeds 
indoors, set them in a warm location. Special heating mats 
are available from mail order garden catalogs. They 
increase soil temperatures some 15 to 20 degrees. 

Some vegetables grown from seed cannot be easily trans-
planted. Rather that starting them in pots or flats, they 
should be sown directly in the garden. They include; bean, 
corn, cucumber, cantaloupe, pumpkin, peas, squash, and 
watermelon.

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Optimum soil temperatures for the germination of most 
vegetable variety seed is about 80 degrees. This means 
waiting to seed the garden until soil temperatures have 
at least risen into the 70 degree range. In the Tucson 
area that usually happens the end of March.

Garden soil must be prepared well prior to planting 
seeds. The soil should be tilled, and organic matter 
added. Desert compost, peat, or composted manure are all 
good types of organic matter that can be mixed with the 
soil. Till in 4 inches of organic matter into the top 12 
inches of garden soil. At the same time mix in 2 pounds 
of ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) or similar analysis 
fertilizer for every 100 square feet of garden area. 
Organic fertilizers such as fish meal, bone meal, and 
blood meal may also be used.

Rake the area to be seeded to provide a fine textured 
seed bed, free of rocks and other debris. Rake the soil 
out smoothly. Several days prior to planting water the 
soil thoroughly. This will settle the soil and provide 
a reservoir of moisture for germinating seeds.

Plant seeds at the depth and spacing called for on the 
seed packets. And after planting, keep the soil moist. 
If the soil drys during germination and establishment it 
can be fatal! 


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