an array of harvested vegetables

It's planting season! Now is the time to get your vegetables planted. Here at Al's, we want to help ensure a successful harvest in the future, so here is a basic guide for what you need to know about growing the most popular veggies at home.

Beans

  • Water: Keep evenly moist in well-drained soil.
  • Light: Full Sun (6-8 hours)
  • Fertilizer: Dress with compost or vegetable fertilizer midway through the season.
  • Plant: Plant 4-6” apart. Don’t plant too early. Beans tend to rot in wet and cold weather.
  • Harvest: Start picking beans as soon as they reach a desired size. Continue to harvest as plants continue to produce more beans. If left too long, beans have a tendency to get tough.

Cabbage

  • Water: Even watering throughout the season helps prevent cabbage heads from splitting.
  • Light: Full Sun or Partial Shade
  • Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer with a higher level of nitrogen (N) to promote leafy growth.
  • Plant: Plant 2-3’ apart, depending on varieties. Cabbage can handle a light frost, so plant 2-3 weeks before last frost.
  • Harvest: Harvest cabbage as soon as the heads reach a desired size and they are firm to the touch.

Corn

  • Water: Keep evenly watered, especially when the plants are first getting established.
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Fertilizer: Corn is a nutrient hog. Additional dressings of a well-balanced fertilizer every couple of weeks are needed to keep corn growing strong.
  • Plant: Plant 8-10” apart in blocks rather than one or two rows. This will increase pollination yielding more ears of corn.
  • Harvest: Pick corn when the silk at the top of the ears are turning brown. To ensure picking ripe corn, pull the husk back and make sure the kernels are plump and full.

Cucumber

  • Water: Keep consistently moist, watering more often as fruit sets. Uneven watering can cause cucumbers to have a bitter taste.
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Fertilizer: Cucumbers are heavy feeders so use a well balanced vegetable fertilizer to ensure an ample supply of nutrients.
  • Plant: Plant 4-6” apart once the soil temperatures are consistently around 70°. Cucumbers will climb a trellis if planted next to one, saving space and allowing cucumbers to grow straight.
  • Harvest: Harvest cucumbers once they are to size. Use a knife to cut the stem from the plant. Continue to harvest any cucumbers as soon as they are ready to promote more fruit on the plants.

Eggplant

  • Water: Keep evenly moist in well-drained soil.
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer with a higher level of potassium (K) to promote flower and fruit set.
  • Plant: 12-18” apart. Eggplant needs warmth, so planting in containers or raised beds will jump start its growth.
  • Harvest: Eggplants should have shiny skin and be firm to the touch. Use a knife to cut the fruit off the plant instead of pulling, which can damage the stems. Also, harvest fruit before they are fully grown to encourage the plant to produce more eggplants.

Kale

  • Water: Keep evenly moist in well-drained soil.
  • Light: Full Sun or Partial Shade
  • Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer with a higher level of nitrogen (N) to promote leafy growth.
  • Plant: Plant 12-24” apart.
  • Harvest: Harvest kale leaves as soon as they are large enough to use.

Lettuce

  • Water: Keep evenly moist in well-drained soil to prevent bolting.
  • Light: Full Sun or Partial Shade
  • Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer with a higher level of nitrogen (N) to promote leafy growth.
  • Plant: Plant 6” apart, in successive groups. Lettuce can handle light frosts so planting early in the season shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Harvest: Pick leaves as soon as they are large enough to use. If harvesting the whole head, cut the base with a knife at the dirt level. Plant successively if harvesting heads to ensure an even supply of lettuce throughout the spring.

Onions

  • Water: Onions need an even supply of water throughout the season in order to swell in size. For a more pungent flavor, stress the onion a little before harvest by cutting back on water.
  • Light: Full Sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight).
  • Fertilizer: Onions are self-sufficient, but applying a fertilizer high in phosphorous (P) every 3-4 weeks will encourage root and bulb growth.
  • Plant: Plant onions starts or sets in rows spaced according to how large the finished onion will be.
  • Harvest: Onions are ready to harvest when their tops begin to turn brown and fall over and the skin feels papery to the touch. Loosen the onions from the dirt with a spade or fork and lift out. Allow the onions to rest in a cool, dry place with good air circulation to allow them to cure for better storage.

Peas

  • Water: Keep evenly moist in well-drained soil.
  • Light: Partial Shade or Full Sun (with cooler temperatures)
  • Fertilizer: Dress with compost or vegetable fertilizer midway through the season.
  • Plant: Plant 4-6” apart next to a fence or trellis.
  • Harvest: Start picking peas when they reach a good size and the pods start to expand. To increase the length of your pea season, plant successively every 1-2 weeks.

Peppers

  • Water: Peppers originate from arid regions and can handle hot, dry conditions so water evenly to get the plant established, and then keep the soil on the dry side.
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Fertilizer: Plant pepper starts with about ½ to ¾ cup garden lime for general plant health and to prevent blossom end rot. A well-rounded fertilizer with higher levels of potassium will supply plants with needed nutrients and stimulate fruit growth.
  • Plant: Plant 12-18” apart, depending on the size of the variety, or in containers. Keep the soil warm by putting down landscape fabric. This will help peppers earlier in the season.
  • Harvest: Harvest peppers as soon as they reach a usable size. Peppers are usually the most flavorful when they start turning from green to red, yellow, or orange.

Squash/Pumpkins

  • Water: Most varieties will need an ample supply of water in well-drained soil.
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Fertilizer: Typically, squash are heavy feeders so dressing with a well-rounded fertilizer every 3 weeks will ensure the plants have enough nutrients for fruit production.
  • Plant: Space accordingly for the variety. Most squash are vining plants and need plenty of room to grow, so make sure to pay attention to the spacing requirements. Also, growing times tend to be longer (for winter squash) so laying landscape fabric may help speed growth a little.
  • Harvest: For summer varieties (zucchini, yellow squash), pick as soon as fruits are to size. Continue harvesting to encourage more growth. For winter varieties, harvest any fruits around first frost for winter storage. Use a knife to cut fruits off, rather than pulling on the vines, to minimize damage to the plant.

Tomatoes

  • Water: Tomatoes need consistent water to get established and to grow to full size. After that, stress the plant by cutting down on the amount of water to encourage fruit set (not recommended if planting in containers).
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Fertilizer: Plant each tomato start with about ½ to ¾ cup garden lime for general plant health and to prevent blossom end rot. A well-rounded fertilizer with higher levels of potassium will supply plants with needed nutrients and stimulate fruit growth.
  • Plant: Plant 18-24” apart, depending on the size of the variety, or in containers.
  • Harvest: Ripe tomatoes should be firm, but yielding to the touch. They should also break away from the plant easily. If you have to tug on them, they aren’t quite ready.