“An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.”
-- Will Rogers
Do you wonder which Burpee Home Gardens plants are right for you? Are you interested in growing the vegetables you know and love? Find answers to the most frequently asked questions right here, 24/7.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Q: How do I start my vegetable garden?
A: If you’re thinking about growing your own vegetable garden, these foolproof guidelines will help take the guesswork out of your garden project.
Q: Where in my yard should I put my vegetable garden?
A: Herbs and vegetables can be grown just about anywhere the sun shines! Pick a spot that gets as much sun as possible throughout the day. Northern vegetable gardens insist on full sun – preferably eight hours each day.
Q: How much space do I need for my garden?
A: Your garden can be as small or as big as you want! If your space (or time!) is limited, start by growing vegetables in small garden beds. You’ll be amazed how much each plant can produce. If you have more room, an ideal first garden plot would be about 6 ft. x 8 ft. (1.8 m x 2.4 m). Larger plots mean more tasty rewards – but also require more time. Keep in mind that vegetables are also great in large pots or patio containers, allowing you to go vertical with trellises and decorative stakes.
Q: How much time will my vegetable garden require?
A: One of the great things about vegetable gardening is that it can be as labor intensive as you choose – it depends a lot on the size of your garden and the varieties you choose. For a small garden, plan on spending at least two hours in your garden each week watering, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting. What a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the sun!
Q: I know I need to water and fertilize my vegetable garden, but how much?
A: Most herbs and vegetables like a steady supply of moisture, but they don’t like standing in water. Water when the top inch of soil in your garden is dry. About an inch of water per week is usually plenty, provided by you or Mother Nature. For gardens in the ground, that means making sure your plants are watered once or twice a week. If you’re using a raised bed or container, you might need to water every other day.
Feeding your vegetables and herbs is important to achieve the best returns at harvest time. Organic gardeners find that adding high-quality compost when planting is all their veggies need. Most gardeners, however, will be successful with a packaged all-purpose vegetable fertilizer, following the directions on the bag or box. Be careful not to over-fertilize because that can actually reduce your yield.
Q: What about bugs and disease?
A: Although Burpee Home Gardens selects the most resistant varieties, some pests are inevitable. Keeping your garden area clean and spacing herbs and veggies as indicated on plant tags are two of the best ways to avoid trouble. Keep the area clear of weeds and remove dead fruit and foliage; this stops the spread of disease and keeps air flowing around your plants.
While some bugs are beneficial to your garden, others can really damage your plants and drastically reduce your harvest. It’s fairly easy to spot when insects or animals are chewing on your plants, but other pests and disease issues are tougher to identify. Don’t hesitate to ask your local garden center experts or veteran gardeners in your neighborhood for help controlling bugs and disease.
Q: I’ve never grown a vegetable garden. What are the best vegetables or herbs for me to start with?
A: There are many vegetables and herbs that are perfect for first-time gardeners. Tomatoes are a great choice because regular watering and feeding are just about all you need to ensure a bountiful harvest. Cucumbers fall into the same category and are excellent producers, so you don’t need to plant very many. Melons are also easy to grow and can be enjoyed in late summer with minimal effort. Peppers are a favorite of rookie gardeners – the trick with peppers is to feed them regularly for maximum fruit production. Last but not least, lettuce is excellent for beginners because it’s easy and quick to grow and takes up very little space. Herbs, in general, are beginner favorites because they grow fast and furious and require very little effort. Start with basil, mint, sage and thyme.
Your best bet is to pick veggies and herbs that you and others in your house like to eat. This will not only keep you interested in the project but also encourage your whole family to get involved.
Q: How do I pick the right tomatoes to grow for my favorite recipes?
A: The tomatoes you love come from Burpee! To make your selection easier, check out our handy chart. Whether you want to make sauce or salsa, we’re sure to have the right tomato for you.
Q: What tools will I need for my vegetable garden?
A: To get started, here’s a list of the basics:
Shovel – a round-point gardening shovel is the most versatile for digging and lifting soil
Hoe – a standard hoe with a 4- to 6-in. (10- to 15-cm) blade is best for loosening soil and weeding in the garden
Hand trowel – this will be your constant garden companion, so pick a trowel that feels good in your hand
Hose or Watering Can – choose a 5/8-in. vinyl reinforced hose with sturdy couplings and make sure it’s long enough to reach your garden OR look for a one- or two-gallon can that has a round head with lots of little holes for a soft spray that won’t damage plants
Pruner – start with a bypass hand pruner because it’s the most versatile, and be sure to try it out for comfort before purchasing
Gardening gloves – choose a quality pair of all-purpose gardening gloves with plenty of cushion and some protection against wetness
Q: I remember the Burpee seed catalog from when I was a kid and I’ve seen the seed packs in stores. Do these plants come from the same seeds?
A: A name known and trusted by generations, Burpee has been bringing the best in seeds to home gardeners since 1885. Burpee Home Gardens brings these and many more vegetable, herb and flower plants to your favorite local garden center.
Q: Can I grow vegetables in a patio container?
A: If your vegetable gardening is limited by space, an excellent option is raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers on your patio, a balcony or even a window sill. Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also perform well in pots. The best vegetables for containers include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash and parsley. Also, be sure to keep patio pots well watered, as they dry out quicker than in-ground garden beds. A trellis could be used in the container for these crops.
Q: Is mulch important for my vegetable garden?
A: Mulching is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your vegetable and herb garden. Mulch not only helps control weeds and retain moisture, but it also adds valuable organic matter and nutrients to your soil. There are many types of mulch you can use, but peat moss, compost and wood or bark chips are the most common. The ideal mulch is long-lasting and not easily washed away by rain or watering and has a loose structure allowing water to pass through quickly. How much mulch is too much mulch? A good average for most hardwood mulches is 2 inches. Any less than that and you will sacrifice weed and moisture control and risk mulch washing away during heavy rains. If you mulch much more than 2 inches deep, air flow is restricted and your vegetable plants might rot - not to mention your mulch will get moldy.
Q: I see “zones” and “hardiness zones” listed on tags and in plant descriptions. What’s a zone?
A: All Burpee Home Gardens plants are carefully selected by local growers for excellent performance in your area. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate zones; each zone is 10°F (12°C) warmer (or colder) in an average winter than the adjacent zone. If you see a hardiness zone in a catalog or plant description, chances are it refers to the USDA map. To find your USDA Hardiness Zone, check out this map.
Q: When should I plant my vegetable garden?
A: It all depends on what you want to plant. Some vegetables like colder temperatures, such as peas and spinach. Others like it warmer, such as tomatoes, melons, squash and peppers. Plant your garden in spring after the threat of frost has passed. Refer to individual variety descriptions and planting instructions for the exact timing of when to plant your Burpee Home Gardens veggies and herbs.
Q: I’m a beginning cook. What basic herbs should I start with?
A: For your first herb garden, take a tip from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are easy to grow and versatile in the kitchen. Oregano and basil are also good choices as you plant your first containers or herb garden.
Q: Do I need to stake my tomatoes?
A: Yes. The main reason for staking and supporting tomato plants is to keep plants and fruit off the ground. This reduces losses from rotting when fruit touches the soil and from sunburn when the fruit is not shaded by foliage. Various trellises, wooden tomato stakes and tomato cages are available at your favorite garden center and can be used in the ground or in patio and balcony containers. Plants are easily damaged when laden with fruit. For support, loosely tie the plants to stakes using rubber bands or stretchy cloth to allow for the expansion that comes with growing. Don't use wire twist-ties or twine which will gradually choke off or even snap the stems.
Q: Are there certain herbs and vegetables that are commonly planted together? Are there any that should not go in the same garden bed?
A: Check out our handy Companion Plant list to find out which veggies and herbs play well together and which ones don’t.
Q: Why can’t I find carrots or radishes or peas as Burpee Home Gardens plants?
A: Carrots, radishes and peas are great examples of vegetables that are very easily grown from medium or large seeds planted directly into your garden. Sowing seeds requires care and patience but you’ll quickly get better with some experience. Burpee Home Gardens removes the most challenging period (propagation from small seeds) from vegetable gardening, bringing you a wide selection of vegetable and herb plants, ready for you to finish in your own garden space.
Our sister site, www.burpee.com, has more information on vegetable and herb seeds.
Q: What is the best way to keep weeds out of my vegetable garden?
A: Weeds…unpleasant to every gardener. They’ll be your most time-consuming challenge no matter the size of your garden space. The trick is to stay on top of them, weeding as often as you water. Simply pull out emerging weeds with your hands or a small garden spade. A 2 in. layer of shredded wood mulch will help control weeds while conserving moisture for your veggies and herbs. Black plastic will also control weeds but can be difficult to use and is not enviornmentally friendly. Use extreme care with herbicides, anything that will kill a weed can also kill your plants. If you choose this method, do not apply any weed killers within two weeks of harvesting.
Q: My red sweet peppers look green. Were they labeled wrong?
A: Chances are your peppers just haven’t fully ripened yet. There isn’t really a secret or trick to ripening peppers. It’s mostly up to Mother Nature. Some gardeners find that shading pepper plants a little bit helps them change color more quickly. Some varieties continue to change color off the vine as they ripen. Keep an eye on your peppers as they ripen because you don’t want them to rot before changing color. Sweet peppers can be eaten as soon as they are full sized, no matter what color they are.
Q: It’s getting late in the season. Why don’t I have tomatoes yet?
A: In general, the first tomatoes ripen in late July and your plants are in full production by early August. How much or how little you fertilize can impact your harvest time, as well as weather conditions and overall plant health. Be patient; plants are a lot like us – they don’t have as much energy when it’s really hot. As long as your plant remains healthy from your TLC, you’ll be eating juicy tomatoes before you know it.
Q: The rabbits keep eating my vegetables. How do I keep them out?
A: Keeping hungry critters out of your garden is usually as easy as putting up some discreet fencing and a decorative scarecrow. You probably know if your yard is a playground for little creatures like rabbits and birds, and you certainly know if there are deer around. If you expect these types of visitors, protect your garden with a 2 or 3 ft. tall fence with openings smaller than 2 in. Secure your fence with light-duty stakes, making sure there are no openings at the bottom. There are hundreds of other remedies - from corncobs soaked in vinegar to fox urine. Back in the day, gardeners even used human hair, sprinkled around the garden. Ask around and you’ll probably find plenty of advice and definitely some laughs.
Q: What’s the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes?
A: Tomatoes are often referred to as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate (bush) types bear a full harvest all at once and remain shorter and bushier; determinate varieties are excellent for containers and small gardens if they are properly staked. Indeterminate varieties grow long vines that seem to bloom and produce forever (or until frost kills them.)
Q: Some of my friends tell me to grow hybrid tomatoes and others tell me to stick with heirloom varieties. What’s the difference?
A: There are more than 7500 known tomato varieties (heirloom and hybrid) and they’re all grown for their own purposes. In Burpee Home Gardens, you’ll find the best, most award-winning tried-and-true tomatoes. Hybrid tomatoes tend to be heavier producers than heirloom varieties, and home gardeners love their ruggedness and resistance to disease. Hybrid tomatoes are cross-pollinated with other varieties resulting in stronger, more vigorous plants. Heirlooms grow into more natural, sprawling plants and require plenty of space. You’ll get plenty of flavor and more unique varieties with heirlooms but risk more pests and diseases.