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Flowerdale Nursery & Landscaping
Heirloom Vegetables


What are Heirloom Vegetables Plants?

Heirloom vegetables plants are vegetables plants that are bred or hybridized by humans to take on certain desired characteristics. Heiloom Vegetables may be bred to take on a different color, shape, taste, & use. Heirloom vegetable plants area also usually part of regional or cultural food & cuisine. Heirloom plant varieties have been around for at least 50 years or more. Any vegetables plant that is a hybrid is not a heirloom.

Planning an Heirloom Garden

All productive edible gardens start with a good location,

·        Exposure: a site protected from strong winds & in the full sun for at least 4 hours a day.

·        Soil: choose a site with good drainage & if possible without large rocks.

·        Water: there should be an adequate supply of water nearby.

·        Access: make sure the site is easily accessible & is large enough to maneuver in. Allow enough space to accommodate footpaths.

What type of garden are you going to have?

·        Traditional row & furrow agriculture works best in larger gardens.

·        Space saving methods like “Square Foot Gardening” are better suited to most urban farmers.

·        Augmenting existing landscapes (sneaking edibles in with your landscape) for form & function.

What are you going to grow?

·        Grow what you will eat (if you can).

·        Don’t plant more food than you need.

·        Grow only varieties that do well in your area (ask your local nurseryman).

·        Maximize space. Mix vegetables with fruit trees, edible flowers, & herbs.

Soil Preparation for Heirloom Vegetables

 Edibles in general need a rich deep soil with adequate soil nutrients.  The more organic matter (compost) you add to your soil the less fertilizer you need, & the healthier your soil & plants will be.

Compost is key, it improves the following in garden soils.

·        It improves the water holding capacity making clay soil better drained & sandy soil hold more water.

·        It improves the nutrition of the soil by feeding soil organisms which make nutrients like nitrogen available to plants.

·        It improves the soils texture making it softer & more workable.

·        Organic material (compost) is the principal source of Nitrogen (N) in the soil. N does not normally come from the soil substrate, so adding organic material is like adding N to your soil.

Add compost in a 4’’ to 8’’ thick layer & dig in once a year (best done in the fall or winter). This replaces the organic matter that has been depleted in the soil during the previous growing season. To improve drainage further in heavy clay soils the addition of Pumice or Perlite may aid in loosening the soil.

Plant Selection for Heirloom vegetables

Plant selection is an extremely important thing to consider in an edible garden. Choosing the correct varieties can increase your yield though out the growing season & reduce your work load.

·        Choose only varieties that have been developed or are proven to do well in your area (ask your nurseryman).

·        Choose different varieties to strategically harvest the same crop at different times of year.

·        Choose varieties for specific uses, quality, quantity, flavors, or nostalgia (heirlooms).

Fertilizing for Heirloom vegetables

Most edibles benefit from added nutrition.

         Fertilize bi monthly with a conventional fertilizer or organic bled fertilizers.

         Use an all purpose fertilizer with all three nutrient ratios being the same (example: 10 10 10).

         All plants in containers need fertilizer more often to grow healthy.

         For container grown plants use a liquid all purpose fertilizer with the same nutrient ratio every other month.

         The more you fertilize the more water the plants need. Over fertilizing leads to inefficient water use. Grow your plants lean & mean. They will perform better in the long run.

Pest Control for Heirloom vegetables

Edibles are prime targets for pests. The following are the most common offenders; aphids, mealy bugs, ants, snails, grasshoppers, rabbits & gophers.

         Establish a threshold for a low pest population level. Monitor the pests in your garden frequently.

         Eradicate infestations or pest populations out of control manually at first.

         Use pesticides as last resort for problem situations.

         Attract beneficial insects, bats & birds.

Aim for prevention.

         Keep a clean garden, remove dead leaves, twigs, fruits, etc.

         To prevent introducing new pests to your garden quarantine new plants, inspect their leaves, stems, & roots.

         Use only pesticides listed for vegetables!

Organic pesticides of relatively low toxicity are best recommended on use in home gardens (we are what we eat).


Weed control for Heirloom Vegetables

Remove weeds often & as soon as they are spotted. Manual pulling often works better than chemical sprays.

         Intensive weed removal in spring & fall before weeds set seed helps control the weed population the following season.

         Use mulches, when used properly can reduce weeds.

         Never use plastic weed barriers it is not healthy for soil. Use landscape fabric allows for gas & water exchange.

         Pre emergent herbicides work well, however if your growing form seed avoid using these herbicides.

         Avoid over watering.

         Check irrigation for leaks & incorrect sprinkler spray paths.

Disease Control for Heiloom vegetables

Most plants grown correctly have few disease problems.

         Chose the right plant for the right location.

         Know when plants are dormant. They generally need much less water when dormant.

         Do not crowd plants too close together.

         Keep tools clean & sharp.

Many diseases are caused by improper growing conditions which stress plants.

         Over watering is the #1 cause of plant death besides lack of water!

         Avoid incorrect harvesting, or harvesting at the wrong time of year.

         Support plants with stakes to hold up the fruit laden stems & to keep fruit off the ground.

If your plant becomes infected with a disease it is best to remove & destroy the plant as soon as the detection is noticed. The gardener is limited to what can be applied safely to edibles for disease control.

Planting Hierloom vegetables

There are basically two seasons for edible growing in most of

Southern California.

1.   Warm season (Summer - Fall)- runs from June till October

·        Plants that are warm season growers should be planted in the spring.

2.   Cool season (Winter – Spring)- runs from November till May

·        Plants that are cool season growers should be planted in the fall.

* Note, with some crops a “bonus” seasons exists, between warm & cool seasons (usually midsummer or mid winter).

Many herbs, fruits, nuts, berries, are best planted in the fall.

Mechanically the planting process is easy,

·        Dig a hole in the prepared earth & plant your plant to the same depth it was in the container.

·        Backfill with the remaining earth.

·        Fertilize & water deeply.

·        Plant in cool to pleasant weather in the evening or the morning.

·        Only loosen roots that are noticeably matted & crowed.

Crop Rotation

There are two reasons crop rotations are strongly recommended for a productive vegetable garden.

1.   Reduce the buildup of crop specific pests & diseases.

·        Pests & diseases can stay behind in soil or organic material to re-infect their host plants the following growing season.

·        One must take care to avoid planting vegetables even in the same family in the same places every year. Plants in the same family are usually prone to the same problems.

·        Plant crops in blocks & move their position around the garden every season.

·        One year (two is best) is the absolute minimum amount of time needed before you can re plant.

2.   Increasing soil fertility & your overall yield by planting cover crops & companion plants in rotation (or in unison).

·        Certain plants increase nitrogen in soils, these plants are Legumes. Vegetables in this group of plants include beans, peas, & chickpeas.

·        These plants increase the available N in soil.

·        Plant Legumes one season ahead of N hungry crops like corn or spinach.

·        Make sure to till in the leaf, stem, & root litter of the Legume crop into the soil. The N is locked up in the plants tissues & will be released during their decomposition.

·        This can be done “In Place” by planting Legume crops with other crops that can absorb the extra N given off by these plants. A good example is the three sisters. Where N hungry corn is planted with beans which provide N, & receives support in return. The squash pulls up mineral nutrients from deep in the soil from its tap root which will enrich the soil when the growing season is over.

·        Inter planting with a variety of different plants makes for a healthier garden. The more variety you have the less pests & diseases you will have.

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