Horticulture News: Starting to plan your vegetable garden? Here are a few tips

By Kim Cowherd, Published:

Spring officially arrives in just over a month, March 20 to be exact.

Have you started planning your vegetable garden? Anyone can have a garden of some sort with just a little planning. Whether in the ground, raised beds, or in a container, homegrown vegetables are fun and fairly easy to produce.

Every aspiring gardener should follow seven steps to have a successful gardening season:

>Plan your garden on paper before you begin.

>Select a good gardening site that is: in full sun for at least eight hours each day, relatively level, well-drained, close to a water source and not in full shade.

>Prepare the soil properly and add fertilizer and lime according to soil test recommendations.

>Plan only as large a garden as you can easily maintain.

>Grow vegetables that will produce the maximum amount of food in the space available.

>Plant during the correct season for the crop. Choose varieties recommended for your area.

>Harvest vegetables at their proper stage of maturity. Store them promptly and properly if you do not use them immediately.

PLANNING YOUR GARDEN

A garden plan helps you grow the greatest amount of produce with the least amount of effort. To use your plan you must expect to harvest each crop as soon as it matures. Then put old plants on the compost pile and plant a new crop. This approach is called succession planting.

Grow only those vegetables that your family will eat. A well-planned and properly kept garden should produce 600 to 700 pounds of produce per 1,000 square feet and may include many different crops. Call the Extension Office and ask for Vegetable Cultivars for Kentucky Gardens (ID-133) for the latest recommendations on home vegetable varieties.

Draw a scale model of your garden space when planning where to plant. Plant perennials like asparagus, rhubarb, chives and horseradish along one side of the garden since they may produce for six to 12 years.

Tall plants such as sweet corn, tomatoes and pole beans should be planted on the north or west side of the garden where they will not shade smaller vegetable crops. However, summer lettuce should be grown in a shaded area if possible.

CHOOSING A SITE

Your garden site should provide a sunny exposure, adequate moisture and fertile soil. Because of your property’s limitations, however, you may be forced to select a less than ideal location.

As much as possible, let the following suggestions guide you in choosing your garden site:

Avoid putting the garden in a low spot, at the bottom of a hill or at the foot of a slope bordered by a solid fence. Such areas, where frost settles because of lack of air drainage, are slow to warm up in the spring. High ground will enable the vegetables to escape “borderline” freezes for an earlier start in the spring and longer harvest in the fall.

If possible, choose an area with a southern or southeastern exposure that warms up faster in the spring and receives the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the growing season.

Midsummer vegetables, other than lettuce, should not be located on the north side of a building or on a northern slope of a hillside. Plant your vegetables away from buildings, trees and other objects that would shade them. Your plants need at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day.

You can grow lettuce in the shade if you must locate part of your garden in a partially shaded area. Your garden needs water, from rainfall or other sources. However, too much water can be just as damaging as too little. Examine your garden site to see how it drains and avoid areas that stay soggy after a rain.

Avoid heavy clay soils in favor of loamy soil. Improve sandy soils by adding large amounts of organic matter. Locate your garden away from trees as much as possible. Tree roots can compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients.

Look for a site that supports lush vegetative growth, even if it is dark green, sturdy weeds. Although you can improve poor soil over a period of years, you can save much time and work if you begin with naturally rich soil.

Make sure to use contour rows or terraces for hillside gardens. Avoid windy locations.

Finally, the closer the vegetable garden is to your back door, the more you will use it. You can see when your crops are at their peaks and can take maximum advantage of their freshness. Also, keeping up with planting, weeding, watering and pest control will be easier.

For more information about vegetable gardening log on to http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf or call the Extension Office and ask for “Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky.” Contact the Franklin County Extension Office by phone, 695-9035 or email DL_CES_Franklin@Email.Edu.UKy.

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