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1. Prepare soil, fertilize, and plant a vegetable plot of not less than 100 square feet (30.5 square meters). Grow at least six different vegetables, three from seeds and three from seedlings, through harvesting.
Preparing the soil
The first step in soil preparation is to select a suitable site for the garden. It should be clear of trees and relatively level, and it should receive full sunlight. The soil should be at least 30 cm deep.
Once the site is selected, it needs to be plowed and tilled. Plowing can be done with a plow for large (and medium-sized) plots, or with a spade for very small plots (this is heavy labor though). Plowing loosens the soil so that the plants will have easy access to the soil to a depth of 30 cm. Tilling can be accomplished with a disc for large plots or with a garden tiller for smaller plots. The purpose of tilling is to break the soil into a fine aggregate. The ideal time to till is when a dirt clod can be picked up and easily crumbled in the hand - it should not be done immediately following a rain.
It's generally a good idea to test the soil before fertilizing it so that you know what type of fertilizer to apply. Soil testing kits are available in garden centers. Once you have tested the soil and have selected an appropriate fertilizer, it can be spread over the garden with a broadcast seeder. You can do this before tilling or after.
Planting includes plant selection and placement. In general, taller plants should be planted on the side of the garden furthest from the Earth's equator. (In the Northern Hemisphere plant them on the north side. In the Southern Hemisphere plant them on the south side.) This is so they do not shade the smaller plants. Seed packets will contain data on them telling you how deep, how far apart from one another, and when to plant them in your geographic area. Seedlings can be bought from a nursery or grown from seeds indoors before the outdoor growing season begins.
For planted seeds, start by making a furrow with a hoe. The depth of the furrow should equal the desired depth of the seed. Then walk along and drop seeds in the furrow, burying them as you go. Be sure to space them as per the instructions on the seed packet. Do not pack the soil tightly over the furrow as you bury the seeds. A common practice is to place the seeds in the furrows in pairs so that if one does not come up, there's a chance the other will. If both come up, one of them must be thinned, even if they both look healthy.
For seedlings, dig a small hole for each plant so that you can bury it to the soil line. Do not remove the seedling from the container until you are ready to plug it into the hole, and avoid exposing the roots to direct sunlight. Lightly pack soil around the plant.
Once the seeds and seedling have been planted, water the garden generously. After that, you will need to make sure the garden is watered deeply and on an irregular basis. If you over-water the garden, the roots will stay near the surface where they will be susceptible to disease, and where they will do a poor job of anchoring the plant should a stiff wind arise. Watering deeply and irregularly will cause the plants send the roots deeply into the ground in search of water and other nutrients. This will also protect them from disease and strengthen the plant against the wind.
Popular plants grown from seeds include:
Popular plants grown from seedlings include:
2. List ways to control insects and/or disease in your garden. Know when and how to apply insecticides and fungicides.
When chemical pesticides were first introduced, they were used to the exclusion of all other types of pest control. This had the unfortunate effect of poisoning the environment. In the 1970's this situation was recognized, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques were introduced. Pesticides are still used, but they are a last resort.
When most people think of pests, they think of insects. In vegetable cultivation, this term should be expanded to include weeds, microorganisms, and mites. Pest control depends on the early and correct identification of the pest. The grower can use cultural mechanical, biological, or chemical controls to reduce the effect of pests. These methods all rely on constant vigilance by the grower.
Cultural Controls include the selection of disease and pest-resistant cultivars. Crop rotation is another important cultural control, as certain pests feed exclusively on one type of plant. Eliminating the plant from the environment for a year or two will disrupt that cycle. Another important control mechanism is to mulch, water, prune, and fertilize the plants correctly. A healthy plant is better able to defend itself from pests.
Mechanical Controls include covering the plants with netting or setting traps for expected (or observed) pests. Pests can also be removed with vacuums or by hand. Hoeing and cultivating around the plants will help control weeds. It is also important to remove infected plants from the crop as soon as possible so that the disease does not spread.
Many insects prefer to feed on the underside of leaves where they will be more difficult for a predator to find. These pests can be discouraged by laying aluminum foil on the ground, shiny-side-up to reflect additional sunlight to the underside of the leaves. This confuses the insects and encourages them to feed elsewhere.
Biological Controls include the introduction of natural predators. For instance, ladybug beetles feast on aphids, and poultry feed on a number of insect pests. Be careful when introducing predators though, that you do not introduce a non-native species which has no natural enemies of its own. This can - and has caused its own form of environmental damage. You can also use commercially available pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of many insects.
Chemical Controls can be used when all else fails. Selection of a pesticide and a fungicide will depend on the particular pest being combated (which his why proper identification is so important). Sprays are generally more effective than dusts, as nearly all pesticides rely on contact with the pest for their effectiveness. Read the instructions on the chemical containers carefully before using, especially noting whether the chemical is safe to use on food plants. Many times a pesticide will warn against its use for a period of time before harvesting.
3. What is mulch? How and why is it used in the garden?
Mulch is decomposed plant materials that are used as a planting bed, source of nutrients, and protective top layer that can maintain soil moisture levels and keep heat in.
4. What is hardiness? Which vegetables are considered hardy in your area?
Hardiness determines the extent to which a plant or tree can tolerate cold or heat. Normally this is measured in cold such as "plant hardiness to 27 degrees." This means that below 27 degrees the plant will begin to be effected by the cold, starting with freezing of leaves and or fruit.
In North America hardiness is classed by hardiness zone (see below). Seed packets usually have a color-coded map on the back showing these zones - and accordingly, an indication of when the seeds should be planted.
5. Do one of the following:
a. Test germination for 100 of the same kind of seeds.
Testing germination can be accomplished with a rag-doll test. Note that this is also a requirement for the Seeds - Advanced honor and the Agriculture Honor.
b. Make and use a hotbed or cold frame.
c. Prepare any three varieties of vegetables for market.
When preparing vegetables for market, consider the following attributes:
- Choose vegetables that are at their optimum ripeness.
- Bright colors are more attractive to buyers than dull colors.
- Consumers do not like vegetables that are too small or too large.
- Look for vegetables that have a "regular" shape.
- Choose vegetables that are free from injury.
- Wash and trim them before taking them to market.
d. Make and use a storage bin or pit for your vegetables.
A vegetable storage bin is a small cabinet with compartments for vegetables. They are often equipped with a wire mesh door to allow air to circulate. Some use solid doors to keep the inside of the bin dark (potatoes will sprout if exposed to light). Some have dark compartments as well as airy compartments to support different types of vegetables. You can find free plans for a combination bin online at http://www.woodworkersworkshop.com/cached_files/27838_files/