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Getting Ahead of Your Garden

Stokes Farm Will Help You Get Growin'!

So, you’re thinking about starting a garden this year. There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own food. Here are a few tips to get you started and, hopefully, your success is within reach, as long as mother nature cooperates.

Have you been for a yearly physical? One of the most important things your doctor checks on is your blood work. It provides a baseline that can then be applied to anything else that happens going forward. Garden soil is no different; at the farm, we have our soil tested every fall. Soil is a living, breathing thing; if you want it to be healthy, you must get it tested to have baseline information. Rutgers University provides a soil testing service that you can get online for a nominal fee. It will be helpful in the future.

Soil health is a never-ending process. Starting in late autumn, remove dead plant debris from your garden beds, which will lessen the chance for pathogens to establish and negatively affect your crop next year. This is also a good time to add compost like peat moss or leaf mulch which is usually available for free from your municipal recycling center. Fall garden maintenance is essential because your garden will deplete nutrients as it grows throughout the spring and the summer. Replenishing the soil keeps it in optimal condition.

In early spring, turn over the soil with a shovel, rake, or rototiller to a depth of up to one foot. This will help it breathe and will kill some of the existing weeds.

Resist the urge to overplant. Planting seeds or seedlings too close together will not give you more harvest. It will reduce yield and promote disease. For a prolonged harvest, you need to have consistent, spaced plantings. 

Of course, once you think you have it all figured out, Mother nature says, “not so fast”!  In 2018 we had more rain than I have ever seen in all my years here. We cannot control the weather (at least not yet), so the best-laid plans--and plants--do not always work out the way Google says they will. As a farmer, I am an eternal optimist. When things fail due to rain, drought, winds, cold, heat, or deer damage, I just plow things up and start again next year. If you are unsure how to get going or have any questions, stop by Stokes Farm in Old Tappan. We would be glad to assist you.

Stokes Farm was founded in 1873 by Isaiah Stokes. Ron Binaghi is the 5th generation of his family to continue the tradition of producing fresh, local, healthy food and keeping the land in production for future generations. 


Here is a short list and planting schedule of the vegetables and flowers that grow and thrive in northern New Jersey.

April 25

Seedlings - lettuce, onions, some herbs

Seeds - arugula, parsley, peas

May 15

Seedlings - tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cukes, pickles, basil, any herb

Seeds - lettuce, dill, arugula, corn, zucchini, beans

June 10

Seedlings - Brussel sprouts, celery

Seeds - pumpkins, winter squash

June 25

Seedlings - (for fall harvest) tomato, pepper, eggplant, corn, beans, basil

Seeds - corn (last summer squash, beans, zinnias for cut flowers

July 20

Seeds - summer squash, beans, zinnias (last shot for all)

Plants - cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage

October 20 - November 10

Plant garlic cloves for next year, plant shallots for next year

I am an eternal optimist. When things fail...I just plow things up and start again next year.