5th Grade Science Garden Project
Developing a Plan
A good cover crop sets the stage for a healthy vegetable garden. Good choices include plants that add nutrients to the soil as they decompose Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for healthy plant growth. Cover crops that add nitrogen include beans and legumes, alfalfa sod, buckwheat, grain rye or sudangrass. If you plan to grow vegetables that require partial shade, consider a tall crop, such as corn or sunflowers, to block sunlight from short plants. Other crops that set the stage for a healthy garden and should be planted with your summer garden vegetables include those that have allelopathic properties, such as cucumbers, oats and sunflowers. These plants reduce and suppress weed growth, thereby reducing overall garden maintenance.
Why Companion Planting?
Companion planting is a practice that has been utilized for thousands of years. Although it is based more on trial and error than science, companion planting tells us which plants thrive when planted in close proximity to one another and which ones do not. When planted in the same garden space of planting beds, bad companion stunt the growth or even have a poisonous effect on their neighbors. At the same time, other plant combinations improve growth and flavor, in addition to attracting beneficial insects to you garden.
Combinations that Thrive
As you begin planting vegetables through your garden space, you need to follow companion planting rules for combinations that thrive, to achieve the healthiest crops. Companion planting tells us that combinations such as cabbage and dill, basil and tomatoes, onions and lettuce, and bush beans and sunflowers produce excellent results. Cabbage increases the health and vitality of dill, while basil improves the growth, health and taste of tomatoes while also deterring flies and mosquitoes. Onions keep slugs away from your lettuce plants. Tall sunflowers shade bush beans, which prefer partial shade. You can also add soybeans to your vegetable garden; they thrive with almost any garden vegetable.
Combinations to Avoid
Some combinations reduce the growth and health of your garden plants when planted in the same space. Companion planting tells us that cabbage, fennel and potatoes do not do well when planted with tomatoes. Onions harm the flavor an growth of asparagus, beans and peas. Cucumber flavor is negatively affected when they are planted close to strong smelling herbs. Cucumbers also do not do well when planted near potatoes. Do not place carrots next to dill or celery, as carrots release a substance that inhibits dill and celery growth.
Borders and Helpers
As you plan your vegetable garden, create a protective border that keeps critters and harmful insects away from your crops. Wormwood is an effective border plant for keeping animals away, as are marigolds. Additionally marigolds eliminate nematodes in the soil, because they produce a substance that is toxic to the pests. To ward off other harmful insects that cause damage to vegetables, plant herbs such as chives, catnip, basil, tansy or mint. These mask the smells that attract insects. Garlic and onions are also effective for deterring garden pests. However you do not want your vegetable garden to be completely avoid of insects. Some bugs act as helpers in the garden. To attract helper insects, plant flowers, dill, parsley, coriander, carrots, or parsnips.
One of the fastest growing vegetables are radishes. Most varieties will be ready for harvest in just 25 to 30 days after planting.
While it can take 6 months for onion bulbs to mature, the green onion stalks can be harvested after just 3 or 4 weeks. You can also grow onion microgreens and have baby onion greens in two to three weeks.
Leaf lettuce such as Romaine can begin to be harvested about 30 days after planting. Cut the leaves once they reach at least 3 inches.
Baby carrots can be harvested after about 30 days. Other carrot varieties may take between 50 to 80 days to mature.
Spinach is ready in as little s 4 to 6 weeks after planting.
Kale and other Leafy Greens
Kane, mustard greens and watercress are just a few delicious, super healthy greens that are fast growers. Most take about 50 to 65 days to mature, but baby leaves can be picked as early as 25 days.
Snow peas take only about 10 days to germinate an dare ready to harvest in about 60 days.
Most varieties of bush beans are ready to harvest withing 40 to 65 days from planting.
Turnip roots are ready for harvest after about 60 days, however the highly edible leaves can be harvested in only 40 days.
Most varieties of cucumbers can be harvested about 50 to 70 days after planting.
Many varieties of squash, including zucchini, are usually ready after about 70 days. For best flavor, harvest squash when they are still small.