Alfrea Farming expert - Julie / May 2017
Gardening is part science, part art, so while there are never any guarantees, this guide will get you off on the right foot.
Seed SelectionPeople often overlook the importance of growing quality seeds. There are many seed companies out there and they are not all reputable. Talk to other gardeners or farmers and find out reputable sources they trust. Below is a listing of highly recommended online seed connections.
Some of the best seed connections on-line:
When to PlantSummer crops, including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, melons, cucumbers and summer squash will be killed or severely damaged if frost occurs. In the Mid-Atlantic, Zone 7, our last frost date is April 15th. None of these summer crops should be planted until after the danger of frost ends. A quick online search will help you find out your agricultural zone and frost date. Plant your seeds at the depth suggested by the supplier and water frequently (if no rain) to get your seeds to germinate.
SunlightIf there is not enough sunlight to grow grass, there will not be enough sunlight to grow vegetables. Leafy greens can do well in shady spots, but most other crops will need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
If you plant too close together it is likely that you will reduce your overall yield. This is our recommended spacing.
- Tomatoes, Eggplant, Tomatillos:18”-24”
- Cucumbers, Summer Squash Melon:12”-24”
- Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Kale: 12”-18”
WeedingWeed before it gets weedy. At our farm we like to use a stirrup hoe when the weeds have just germinated. Do this once every week or so, approximately three times. After that your plants should be big enough to outcompete the weeds. Some weeds are ok once the plants are big enough. Irrigating: Most plants need about 1 inch of rain per week. We keep track with a rain gauge. If you think you need to water the first step is to feel the soil. Dig down an inch or so. If there is moisture then don’t water. If it’s dry go ahead and water. Even in the heat of the Summer, watering should not be needed more than once a week (unless you are growing in raised beds, which dry out much faster).
FertilizingWe recommend only using organic fertilizer and compost. Organic fertilizers will say either “NOP Compliant” or “OMRI Listed.” Anything else is likely petroleum based and will do great harm to the microorganisms in your soil. Follow guidelines on the fertilizer. At our farm we use a less is more mentality when it comes to fertilizers. Troubleshooting: Be observant. Look for eggs or worms weekly and pull them off of plants instead of using chemicals. Try to spot a problem before it’s too late to address it.
Sources for Fertilizing
Are one of the best plant organic fertilizers (just make sure the clippings are from an herbicide treated lawn).Grass clippings also serve double duty to maintain soil moisture and as weed control 2-5% Nitrogen.
Making compost from your everyday garden and kitchen wastes 1-4% Nitrogen Leaves, Vegetable Kitchen waste, fruit and vegetable fruit scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds. Check out Composting made easy.
- Cotton Seed Meal
- Alfalfa Meal
- Soybean Meal
Cross reference Alfrea blog postings:
Alfrea was built to help gardeners and landowners connect.
Your Marketplace for Land Sharing, Garden Services, and connecting you to Fresh Local food.
Our Land Sharing option helps people who want to rent a garden plot, find landowners who want their space put to productive use. By starting a garden share, you can:
- Directly address the No. 1 problem facing would-be gardeners: lack of land
- Help reduce the backlog at community gardens
- Improve food security in your community
- Cultivate new friendships with like-minded neighbors
- Fight climate change by reducing food miles and restoring carbon to the soil.
Our Market/Produce Sharing option helps people who want to find / buy / sell local produce. Think online Farmers Market, you will have the capability to Sell and Buy Fresh Seasonal Produce offered.
Our Service Sharing option helps people find and or provide Garden Services. And if you want to earn money helping others in the garden, we make finding customers easy. Alfrea's helping hands can:
- Water and weed
- Diagnose and treat pests
- Design and build new gardens
- Select and save seeds
- Till, top dress and build soil
- Build and manage compost piles
- Lift and haul heavy things
- Help with harvest and preservation
- Teach you how to improve your gardening
Our Apartment Amenity offering connects apartment communities with land and services to grow their own food. We work directly with apartment management companies and owners to design and implement garden spaces in order to differentiate their communities.
Our Corporate Wellness Gardening for your Employees. We offer multiple packages, with services including:
- Corporate campus garden design and implementation
- Ongoing garden maintenance
- Onsite and online workshops and training to engage employees
- Delivery of locally grown items from nearby farms directly to your office
- Metrics on employee usage
Alfrea can help. Would-be gardeners can find and rent a garden plot with a free membership; landowners looking to rent out space pay an affordable membership fee. Join for free today!