Successful Gardening Tips

Emily Sandall, Penn State Community Garden President 2019

Building good, fertile soil may be the most important determinant of success!

  • Add other organic amendments if needed.  i.e. worm castings, fish emulsion, coffee grounds.

  • During the growing season, side-dress with more compost and take extra care of the planting hole.

  • Apply a nice layer of straw to reduce weeds and conserve moisture, especially around your crops.

Choose the right varieties for your plot

  • Avoid plants like pumpkin, which get huge and will overgrow your garden.

  • Choose smaller (bush) varieties of squash and cucumber.  Choose small, determinant tomato varieties, dwarf popcorn. Try not to invade on other’s plots.

  • When buying transplants, pick healthy vigorous plants.  Avoid pale pot-bound plants.  The tallest plants may not be the best.

Garden throughout the growing season – plant a spring, summer, and fall crop.

  • In spring plant frost-tolerant crops like radish, broccoli, onions, peas, and lettuce.

  • Sow lettuce and leafy greens weekly for an extended harvest period.

  • Start your summer crops from seed inside on a windowsill or cold frame.

  • After the risk of frost (~May 15th) plant heat-loving summer crops like tomato, eggplant, pepper, beans, and squash.

  • For a fall crop plant broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, in August and harvest in October.  Lettuce, radish and greens can be grown throughout the fall also.

Mix your plantings to maximize use of space

  • Intercrop your vegetables with flowers and herbs for a highly functional plot

  • Plant basil, lettuce, and shade-tolerant crops under tomatoes and taller crops.

  • Grow beans, peas, melons, and tomatoes vertically to save space.

  • Intercropping reduces pest damage, choke out weeds and is pleasing to the eye.

Be prepared to cope with insect and disease problems

  • Without the use of pesticides, some insect and disease damage is unavoidable.  Accept it as natural.

  • Avoid disease and insect problems by planting a diverse garden/ resistant varieties.

  • Scout your crops for pests regularly to catch problems early!

  • Handpick, shake off, or squirt off insects with a jet of water.

  • Use soft pesticides like Safer Soap, compost teas, detergent & alcohol or vinegar m

Enjoy the experience, take notes of what works, trade plants/seeds with friends!