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Vegetable Gardening in Maryland
By Tom Heath
This is an overview of some key aspects of raising your own vegetables in Maryland—particularly in Eastern Maryland.To a great extent, it will be a list of hints.That’s what interests most gardeners and prospective gardeners.
First of all, don’t plant too early.When seeds are put in cold ground, they take longer to germinate.When seeds sit in the ground so long before germinating, they can rot or get diseased in the meantime.For example, bean seeds in 60 degree soil can take about 16 days to germinate while in 77 degree soil they may take as little as a week.I tend to plant bean seeds in the soil when it is 70 degrees.Note that 70 degrees is the temperature of the soil, not the air.
When plants such as tomato or pepper are put in the garden when the soil and/or air temperatures are too cool, the plants struggle and don’t develop as they should.Typically, later plantings done at the right time catch up and even surpass the earlier plantings.
Second, pick suitable varieties.Because Eastern Maryland is humid, diseases can flourish, particularly among tomato plants.Some seed catalogues will list the disease resistance and tolerance of each variety of tomato.For example, Territorial Seed Company www.territorialseed.com provides a key listing 10 diseases.Each tomato variety listed in that catalogue then uses the designations from the key to note which diseases the variety is resistant to.
Next, save seeds.Usually, the number of seeds in a packet exceeds the amount the typical gardener will use in one year.A packet of lettuce seeds can have hundreds of seeds.Even a tomato packet will have more than you need in one year.Territorial Seed Co. lists usual seed life for different vegetables.For example, lettuce and tomato seed life is given as three years.So save your excess seeds at least into the next year, if not longer.Onion seed life is given as only one year, so it’s a bit risky to save those seeds and expect good germination.I save my seeds in plastic zip-locks in the refrigerator.
Tom Heath is a Calvert County Master Gardener and has been raising vegetables in Southern Maryland for 35 years. For more information on local vegetable gardening, visit the University of Maryland Extension website http://growit.umd.edu/.
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