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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for ' Vegetable gardening'

PAL Questions: 11 - Garden Tools: 9 - Recommended Websites: 2

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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Potatoes

PAL Question:

I would like to know how to grow potatoes; how/where best to plant, type of soil, sun/shade requirements, how to tend them, how much fertilizer, when to harvest. I would really like a step-by-step process.

View Answer:

I recommend the book, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon (Sasquatch Books, 2007, 6th edition).

The author says it is important to maintain loose soil around the forming tubers so they can expand well. He recommends planting when all danger of frost is past. Your main crop should go in between May 15 and June 1. Plant the seeds in rows 4 feet apart, dropping seeds one foot apart in the row. Your soil should be open, fertile, and moist below the growing row, and very loose, airy and dryish above and around the forming tubers. Cover seed just barely with well-tilled fertile soil, and then gradually hill up a mixture of soil, compost, and decaying vegetation over the growing vines. This cover should remain loose until harvest time. The ideal planting spot is where fava beans have overwintered and been tilled in shallowly. At planting time, sprinkle complete organic fertilizer in a foot-wide band down each future row. Broadcast a half-inch layer of compost over the row.

Seed potatoes should be free of viruses, which means you should purchase certified seeds. The best are "single drops," small potatoes of about 2 ounces each.

When vines appear, they begin rapid growth. When they are 4 inches high, hill them up by using a hoe and scraping a little soil up around the vines. Repeat this process weekly for the first 2 months, and by midsummer you will have continuous mounds about one foot high and 18 inches wide. Vines will begin to fall across the mounds. Now just handpull any weeds, and avoid disturbing the soil.

Varieties recommended are Yellow Finns, Nooksack Cascadian, Red Gold, Caribe, and Kennebec.

Here is some additional growing information from University of California at Santa Cruz's Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Season Spring
Date 2006-08-11
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Keywords: Trifolium, Pisum, Vicia, Cover crops, Grain, Garden fertilizers, Legumes, Vegetable gardening, Compost

PAL Question:

We plan to put in a vegetable garden next spring where we now have grass. It is a great sunny spot that we think would work well for this. The question is, after we cut out the sod this fall, someone has suggested we plant rye grass for the winter, is this a good solution? If not, what do we do to the soil this winter? (We plan to bring in some top soil after we take out the sod).

View Answer:

There are several approaches that you can use to get your new garden ready. One is from Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon. He recommends removing the grass, covering it with no more than 1/2 inch of completely rotted compost or 1 inch of raw ruminant manure, and spread agricultural lime at 50 pounds per 1,000 square foot. Do this in early October. Then scatter small-seeded fava bean seed at 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Rototill no more than 2 inches deep and relax until May. In late May you rototill deeply and or spade in the overwintered garden area. Then you can plant.

Another information source, Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, recommends using an annual winter cover crop to improve the soil. It suggests using 85% legume and 15% grain for maximum nitrogen fixation. For the legume, you can use Field peas, Crimson clover, Fava beans or vetch. For the grain you can use cereal rye, winter wheat, spelt or barley. Most of these are applied at about 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Again you would rototill or turn under the cover crop in late April or May.

Solomon's method will provide a better total approach. You also should consider having your soil tested to find out what is missing and what your pH level is.

Season Spring
Date 2008-03-27
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Corn

PAL Question:

Can you tell me some varieties of corn that do well here? I would like to do an early and a midseason variety. Which ones do you like the best?

View Answer:

I consulted Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon's, and he says the thing to look for is the number of heat units (HU) required for the corn to reach maturity. Early corn needs about 1,300 HU, later types need over 2,200. We need to choose varieties on the lower end of the HU scale. (Seed catalogs for commercial growers typically have this information, while retail catalogs may not. If you look at a Northwest catalog, such as Territorial Seeds in Oregon, the maturity dates will be closer to our own.)

Solomon lists 'Earlivee' as an early sweet corn variety. In general, he seems to prefer hybrid varieties to open-pollinated, because they may have low yields and less than optimum eating quality, although 'Hooker's Sweet Indian' is one that Territorial carries and which he thinks is worthwhile. He recommends 'Jubilee' as a main season hybrid choice, but says, "It will just barely mature in warmer microclimates around Puget Sound." He recommends choosing small-eared and richly flavored varieties like 'Seneca,' and his final word is that he would grow early corn as the main crop in our area.

The New Twelve Month Gardener: A West Coast Guide has a longer list of recommended varieties, but less detail about their particular requirements and merits: 'Golden Jubilee,' 'Seneca Horizon,' 'Sugar Dots,' 'Bodacious,' 'Chief Ouray,' 'Miracle,' 'Sugar Buns,' 'Jubilee Super Sweet,' 'Seneca Appaloosa,' and 'Golden Bantam.'

Season All Season
Date 2006-12-12
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Container gardening

PAL Question:

My question is about the ceramic pots that you see in nurseries and places in the area. The pots are glazed on the outside, and unglazed on the inside, and they are made in China and Vietnam. Are these pots safe for planting vegetables and herbs? Or, are there materials in the interiors of the pots that could leach into the soil and make the vegetables and herbs unsafe to eat?

View Answer:

Some ceramic glazes do contain toxic materials, such as lead and cadmium. Washington State Department of Health has information on preventing lead poisoning, and on testing for lead.

State of Oregon's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program includes information on sources of lead exposure, including pottery.

California Department of Health has several pages on toxins in pottery.

Excerpt:

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets standards at the national level for the amount of lead that can pass out of, or 'leach,' from dishes. Tableware with lead levels greater than these standards cannot legally be sold in the U.S. The FDA regulations cover only tableware that is imported or that is brought into the state for sale. The standards apply only to items that are used for foods and beverages. They do not apply to pieces that either cannot hold liquids or are not intended to hold liquids, such as salt shakers, cookie jars, butter dishes, etc. See the table below for the FDA standards for lead in ceramicware.

Decorative ceramics
The FDA has labeling rules for ornamental or decorative ceramics that are not intended for food use. These items must either (1) be permanently labeled with a logo or statement that they are unsuitable for food use, or (2) be made incapable of holding liquid. If an item is clearly intended for food use, such as a bean pot, labeling it is not sufficient, however. It must be made unusable, for example, by having a hole drilled through any surface that could hold liquid."

My co-worker tells me that some retail stores are good about informing customers if pots are unsafe for food use. This document from Clemson University Extension (although its focus is cookware) suggests that you not use pottery which does not bear the label, "Safe for Food Use:"

If a pot has been fired at a high temperature (something you cannot easily ascertain by looking at it), my thought would be that there would be less likelihood of toxic material from the glaze leaching inward, but if the clay itself comes from a source which is full of contaminants, there may be a risk apart from the glaze. If you are at all concerned about using these pots for growing food, my advice would be not to do it. There are other ways of growing food in containers, such as untreated wood boxes or barrels. See links here for general information on growing vegetables in containers:

Vegetable Gardening in Containers from Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Container Vegetable Gardening from Ohio State University.

Season All Season
Date 2007-06-02
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Pesticides and the environment, Pesticides

PAL Question:

How soon I can plant my edibles after I've used weed and feed?

View Answer:

Do you know which weed and feed product was used? That would help in determining the chemical's half life (persistence) in the soil. Regardless of which chemical was used, my recommendation would be not to plant any edibles in a site which has been treated with weed and feed, but to find another location for your food plants (such as containers made of safe materials, or raised beds with a barrier between the bed and the chemically treated area of the garden).

Local garden writer Ann Lovejoy has discussed weed-and-feed products in her column. Here is a link.

Here is what retired Washington State University Extension agent Mary Robson had to say on this subject in one of her columns no longer available on-line:

Just one note of caution-be careful with all chemicals. Many pesticides ordinarily used in gardens are not allowed on edibles. An example is Lawn Weed and Feed which will harm any broadleaf plant whether lettuce or marigold or petunia. It's probably safest to keep pesticides out of the garden if you plan to eat the produce.

From Washington Toxics Coalition:

The Hazards of Weed and Feed

"Weed and feed is a mixture of lawn fertilizer with weed killer, usually 2,4-D and related compounds. The problem with weed and feed is that it is designed to be applied to the entire lawn regardless of whether or not weeds are actually present. This encourages over use. For example, if 30% of your lawn is covered in weeds, 70% of a weed and feed application will be wasted, since the herbicides have no residual action. Since many people do not realize that weed and feed is a pesticide, they may be less inclined to read an follow label instructions. For example, did you know that it is illegal to apply weed and feed more than twice per year on the same site?

"The herbicides in most weed and feed products are mobile in soils and are widely found as pollutants in local streams, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition, 2,4-D is neurotoxic and may be a carcinogen according to some studies.

"Weed control should be practiced only as needed, not every time you fertilize. Mechanical controls are preferable to protect health and the environment. If chemical controls are used, spot treatment should be utilized to minimize product use and resultant risks from direct exposure and track-in to the home on shoes and feet."

Here are links to information on some common weed-and-feed type products and their hazards:

From the Pesticide Action Network North America

From the Journal of Pesticide Reform

Season All Season
Date 2008-02-07
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Keywords: Solanum tuberosum, Vegetable varieties, Vegetable gardening

PAL Question:

I would like to plant a second crop of potatoes in July. Could I use potatoes dug from my first crop this year or should I try to find seed potatoes?

View Answer:

You can plant mid-season and late potatoes this month, but there are particular varieties that are best suited to planting at this time. This is one reason not to plant the potatoes you just dug (which are an earlier variety).

Here are links to additional information:

From the University of Illinois Extension.

Growing Potatoes in the Home Garden from UC Santa Cruz.

Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades (Sasquatch Books, 2000) says that because of the large number of viruses which can affect potatoes, you should not carry over your seed (replant). It is safest to use certified virus-free planting seed. He says that your crop might be fine the first time you replant your own potatoes, but they will become increasingly susceptible to viruses.

Season Summer
Date 2007-07-18
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Keywords: Cucurbita, Square foot gardening, Rubus, Vegetable gardening

PAL Question:

We've bought some butternut squash starts, and from what I've read online, they require a lot of space. This will be my first time growing them. We have 4' x 6' x 1' raised beds, and I'm wondering if one bed will be big enough to plant 1 butternut squash start. Also, I've read that they require staking? Is this true? What should we do with the other 2 starts that we got if we don't have room for them in our raised beds? Try planting them directly into the ground? I'd hate to throw them out...

We also bought a raspberry plant, and I've read that they should have 14-18" for their roots. Again, our raised beds are only 1 foot deep. Would we be better off digging a hole in the ground?

View Answer:

There is conflicting information in different sources about the amount of space butternut squash needs. Most sources say (as Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide does) the gardener should allow 18-24 inches between plants, which would mean you could plant all 6 starts in one 4' by 6' raised bed. Steve Solomon, however, says in Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades that winter squashes require much more space, so that you could only plant two in your 4' by 6' bed.

Staking winter squash can be done to save space. There is a pretty good description of how to do it in Mel Bartholomew's book, Square Foot Gardening. Basically, the vines are planted 4 feet apart in a trench prepared with "large-mesh wire fencing" on 6-foot posts, and twined through the fencing as they grow. He says the stems are strong enough to support the heavy squashes. The technique is also mentioned in Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Matthew Biggs, Jekka McVicar, and Bob Flowerdew.

As for your raspberry, it will grow faster and better with deep, rich soil. However, raspberries have a tendency to spread by underground runners, so it is often a good idea to contain them in some way. Depending on what is under your raised beds (i.e., soil, sand, concrete) you may wish to plant them there despite the shallow depth, or dig/mound up within the raised bed to improve the soil depth, or plant the raspberry elsewhere.

Season All Season
Date 2008-04-30
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Shade gardening

PAL Question:

I have set up four-by-eight-foot raised vegetable beds in the only available spot in my backyard (here in the Pacific Northwest). In winter, the house casts its shadow over the entire bed area. With the progress of the seasons, the shadow recedes and leaves the beds entirely in the sun only by approximately mid-May. Similarly, the house shadow again begins to encroach on the bed area by the beginning of August.

What can I grow with this ultrashort growing season? What vegetables, if any, are likely to succeed here?

View Answer:

It sounds like you have about 75 days of well-lit growing season.The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide by Carl Elliott and Rob Peterson (Seattle, WA: Seattle Tilth, 1998) lists several varieties of vegetables come to harvest within 75 days in our area, and here's what I see:

  • carrots
  • swiss chard
  • cress
  • kohlrabi
  • lamb's quarters
  • lettuce (if picked young)
  • arugula
  • spinach
  • summer squash
  • turnips

In 10 Terrific Vegetables, produced by the National Gardening Association, the author suggests that vegetable gardens require at least 6 hours of sun per day (South Burlington, Vt. : National Gardening Association, 2002). Some fast-maturing vegetable varieties listed include 'Green Comet' Broccoli (40 days) 'Packman' broccoli (53 days), Kentucky Wonder beans (60 days), Romano beans (75 days), basil (70days), 'Amsterdam' and 'Nantes' carrots (60 days), 'Sugarsnap' peas (62 days--and they should be planted earlier, before the soil warms), 'North Star' red pepper (60 days), 'Melody,' 'Space,' 'Tyee,' and 'Bloomsdale Longstanding' spinach (all under 45 days), 'Sun Gold' tomato (57 days).

In general, you can find the number of days to maturity listed on the back of seed packets, so you can check if the varieties you want will ripen in time. Another quick-harvest vegetable is the radish, which can be ready to eat in just a few weeks. I've also had some luck with potatoes in less-sunny locations, although they do take a fair amount of space.

You might also consider growing raspberries, which don't need sun quite as much as vegetables, in one of your beds.

Season All Season
Date 2008-06-11
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Keywords: Parking strips, City gardening, Vegetable gardening

PAL Question:

I want to plant my parking strip for a vegetable garden. Do I need a permit from the city? And if so where do I get a permit?

View Answer:

You do not need a Street Use permit for gardening activities in the planting strip. The City of Seattle revised its guidelines for parking strip gardening in 2009. Client Assistance Memo (CAM) #2305 provides the details.

Linden Mead, a Seattle Department of Transportation arborist, addresses one of the concerns I would have about planting edible crops next to a street:
"Although the list may not be exhaustive, and gardeners are encouraged to be creative, they do need to follow some parameters. Plants grown within the area equal to or less than 30 feet from an intersection may not exceed 24" (2 feet) in height at maturity. This is so that visibility is adequately maintained (cars and pedestrians visible to each other). When a planting strip is 5 feet wide or less, plants may not exceed 36" (3 feet) in height at maturity. This is to help assure pedestrian safety/visibility as well as to maintain pedestrian walkways and the roadway clear of overgrowth which may impede travel on the right-of-way. With wider strips, it is possible to put in scattered, taller plants, if planted in the middle of the strip.
"There are also regulations about 'hardscape' - which may include planting beds in the strip. Raised beds may be constructed from timber but rocks or bricks that are easily moved (read here 'picked up and thrown') are not allowed. Permits are also required to plant, prune or remove trees."

Seattle Department of Transportation has specific information about growing food in the planting or parking strip. There are some concerns as well as a few restrictions, described here:
"SDOT prohibits fruit trees because of the slipping hazard for pedestrians from fallen fruit. For some residents, it's their only sunny area to grow vegetables. But the planting strip is a public space, part of the public right-of-way, so it's hard to control what pets or people do there. It can be harder to reach with water, and there may be concerns with the soil." It is also a good idea to test the soil for contaminants before planting edible crops.

Season All Season
Date 2009-03-12
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Roof gardening, Container gardening

PAL Question:

I'd like to plant a vegetable garden on my roof. It will be in a feed trough about 8 feet long, and 2 feet wide and deep. I'm wondering what I can add to lessen the weight of the container (so it won't just be filled with potting soil and compost). Also, any recommendations for which vegetables to grow would be great--things which are fairly easy and don't have enormous roots!

View Answer:

To lighten the load of your container, a lightweight organic material like hazelnut shells might make a good bottom layer. You could use perlite, but that may actually be heavier than the nut shells. Here is information about sources of hazelnut shells:
Oregon Hazelnuts (a website of hazelnut growers) (lists several sources)
A Washington State source, often found at local farmers' markets, is Holmquist Hazelnuts.

The book The Edible Container Garden: Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces by Michael Guerra (Simon & Schuster, 2000) has a section on rooftop containers, and recommends (after you've consulted a structural engineer) using lightweight, well-draining compost, and setting your container(s) on timbers to help with drainage. According to the book, the best candidates for containers are potatoes, chard, lettuce, radishes, shallots, bush tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, dwarf carrots, dwarf beets, mustard and Asian greens, and runner beans. More difficult are cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, parsnips and other deep-rooted vegetables.

The following links may be of interest:
University of Maryland Cooperative Extension
Oregon State University Extension
Article about the Reading International Roof Garden (Britain) from The Guardian by Emma Cooper (and another article by this author in Permaculture Magazine #53).

Season All Season
Date 2009-05-02
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Allium

PAL Question:

How far apart should I plant my shallot starts?

View Answer:

According to Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades (Sasquatch Books, 2007), plant them 3 to 4 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Other sources suggest you can make the rows as close together as 12 inches, and the plants as far apart as 6 inches.

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture has a useful page about shallots which recommends 4 to 6 inches between plants.

Season All Season
Date 2009-05-02
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Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Nuts, Fruit--Care and maintenance, Edible landscaping

Garden Tool: Here is a short list of good books for both the arm-chair kitchen gardener and for those who like to get their hands dirty:

  • The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95) has lots of photos and diagrams with well organized, concise text.
  • Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider (William Morrow, $60.00) has "500 recipes and 275 photographs" focusing on the history of vegetables and how to use them in the kitchen. It has no growing information, however.
  • The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books, $25.00) introduces the idea of planting fruits and vegetables all around the garden.
  • Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik (Metamorphic Press, available used online and at the Miller Library) is a classic resource thick with practical details on everything from energy-conserving landscaping and soil preparation to drip irrigation for fruit trees.
  • How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons (Ten Speed Press, $17.95) is an old classic which has just been revised and reissued.
  • The Cook and the Gardener: a Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Country-side by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton, $32.50) is a delightful book divided into seasons with diary-like entries about living, gardening and cooking on a French farm.

    Season: Spring
    Date: 2007-04-03
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    Keywords: Heirloom varieties, Vegetable varieties, Vegetable gardening

    Garden Tool: A new magazine is available dedicated to antique treasures from the garden. The Heirloom Gardener is published four times per year for a mere $12.00. Articles in the winter 2004 issue range from a history of the Brandywine tomato, renovating neglected pome trees (apples and pears) to a profile on an heirloom vegetable farmer. Color photos and illustrations contribute to the thoughtful, informative articles. To subscribe call 1-866-OLD-SEED, or send a check to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, 2278 Baker Creek Rd, Mansfield, MO 65704, or subscribe online at www.rareseeds.com

    Season: All Season
    Date: 2006-02-28
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    Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Planting, Almanacs

    Garden Tool: To find out which days in the lunar month are most favorable for planting root crops turn to the Old Farmer's Almanac online at www.almanac.com The website is a condensed version of the printed edition with all the weather information a gardener could ever want, plus folksy gardening tips, frost dates and a manure guide. Check out the Growing Vegetables Chart to determine when to start seeds indoors or in the ground, when to fertilize and when to water through the growing season.

    Season: All Season
    Date: 2007-04-03
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    Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Permaculture, Sustainable agriculture

    Garden Tool: Advanced vegetable gardeners who want go to the next level of self reliance will enjoy the attractive book by John Seymour, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It (Dorling Kindersley, 2003, $30.00). This very practical book gives "how-to" instructions for a wide range of traditional living skills. How to raise (and butcher) poultry and rabbits, how to grow grain crops, how to make a methane digester to create energy and how to spin flax are just a few examples. The author's intention is to encourage readers to question how truly satisfying the modern life is compared to an honest day's work on the homestead. But even urban dwellers will find ideas for making their own food and craft products. The simple life has gone digital, too. For articles and ideas on living a self-sufficient life, go online to Self-Sufficient Living, www.homestead.org/, and www.littlecountryvillage.com.

    Season: All Season
    Date: 2007-04-10
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    Keywords: Lactuca, Brassica oleracea (Acephala group), Brassica oleracea (Capitata group), Vegetable seedlings, Reference books, Spinacia oleracea, Winter gardening, Vegetable gardening

    Garden Tool:

    While vegetable gardeners are inundated with zucchinis and other summer produce it can be hard to imagine the winter garden. But July is the time to plant seeds for fall and winter crops of cabbage, Asian greens, collard greens, spinach and lettuce. Transplants should go in the ground in mid August. Perennial and biennial flowers can also be started from seed right now. For an excellent list of what plants to sow throughout the year check out The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide produced by Seattle Tilth. It is available for $12.50, including tax and shipping. Call 633-0451 or go online to order a copy.

    Season: Summer
    Date: 2007-03-05
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    Keywords: Plant and garden societies, Vegetable gardening

    Garden Tool: Gardeners who grow their own food have united from across the globe to form Kitchen Gardeners International. Their mission reads: "to celebrate home-grown, home-cooked foods in their many international forms and their role in building a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system." In support of the mission this group organizes International Kitchen Garden Day, sends out a monthly e-newsletter and publishes a frequently updated website with videos and articles on issues surrounding food security.

    Season: Summer
    Date: 2007-03-05
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    Keywords: Vegetable gardening

    Garden Tool:

    Just as the spring planted vegetables are starting to really take off we're told we must start planning for the fall garden. The problem is where to fit all these new starts. The answer is inter-cropping! For example, sow deep-rooted carrots with shallow rooted beans. Read more suggestions from Texas A & M.

    Season: Summer
    Date: 2007-05-17
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    Keywords: Vegetable gardening

    Garden Tool:

    After your first summer water bill arrives, you might want to reconsider what plants you reward with this precious commodity. Give newly planted trees and shrubs first priority because your investment in water now will pay off for years to come. Next in line should be the vegetables, but some are thirstier than others. Don't withhold water from cucumbers, celery or squash, or you may be disappointed with yield and flavor. Here is a watering guidance for commonly grown vegetables.

    Season: Summer
    Date: 2007-05-17
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    Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Fruit--Care and maintenance, Chickens

    Garden Tool: Kitchen Garden from Great Britain is the only magazine devoted to growing fruits and vegetables. The glossy monthly magazine includes growing tips from readers, articles on growing techniques and new cultivars, plus a monthly feature on small-scale chicken rearing. Subscribe for a mere $73.00 dollars a year at their website, or read it for free at the Miller Library.

    Season: All Season
    Date: 2003-03-05
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December 12 2014 11:33:49