4 January 2023
If you are tired of paying outrageous prices for vegetables and have decided to grow your own this summer, winter is the best time to plan out your garden.
Location, Location, Location
Vegetables and herbs take full or near full sun, with at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Some leafy greens may not need as much. Best areas have well drained soil with a minimum of slope and near a water supply.
With this in mind, decide how much of your yard you want to devote to growing food. It also depends on how much time you have or want to spend, how many people you want to feed, soil conditions, and what you want to grow. For perspective, draw a scale model or, on a relatively decent day, stake out the space with pegs and string to see how much room you will need.
Seed catalogs are all out by now. You will be enticed by the full color spreads and delicious descriptors. However, choose plants that do well in your growing area. The Cornell website (https://yates.cce.cornell.edu/) is a good place to start since their information is research based rather than what Grandpa always said and the plants should do well in your local area. Chose for varieties that are disease resistant, high yields, and maturity dates.
Select what you want to plant and class by growing seasons. Cool-season vegetables such as radishes, peas, onions, cabbage, etc. can be planted early spring and then again in the fall as they can withstand some frost. These will do best in temperatures of 70 or lower. Warm-season vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, pepper, eggplant, etc. are planted after the soil has warmed up and the danger of frost is over. This is when the average daily temperatures are between 70 and 90.
Perennials are best when planted at one side or the end of the plot; early, hardy vegetables planted together, and those that need similar cultivating group together. All of this will make your work easier. Keep the spacings appropriate to the size of the plant at maturity.
Create a spreadsheet or chart based on dates and the time to sprouting for the seeds that you will start indoors. Similarly, you can track time to move them outdoors and then number of days or weeks to maturity and harvest. An electronic version is good so that you can sort and re-sort based on what you are looking for.
Before you dig
Depending on your location, check with Dig Safe to be sure you won’t be running into any pipes or wires. They should be buried fairly deep, but then some roots go down pretty far.
Have your soil tested to know the amount of acid or alkalai (salt) and which your potential veggies will like the best. When you know what is lacking, you can adjust the soil accordingly and have better quality produce.
Irrigation is one of the keys to a successful garden. Many people think that after the plants are in the ground, nature will take care of things. That is great unless it is a particularly dry spell, which does happen. The best way to water your plants is through trickle or drip irrigation. Just place a soaker hose carefully around the plants. This will give you a more even watering and gets the moisture directly to the roots where it is needed. You will lose less of this resource to evaporation and it uses very low pressure. All of this is beneficial to the environment.
Tips and Tricks
When fertilizing (and you should) read the instructions every time and measure so that you are applying the recommended amounts at the proper time. The best is organic matter from your compost pile. Wash and clean tools and sprayers after every use.
Mulch will conserve moisture and will help control weeds.
Only control garden pests. Overuse of insecticides will kill beneficial insects as well as the harmful ones. Many bugs are pollinators that we want to encourage. Store remaining product safely.
Keep appropriate spacing between your plants and don’t overwater. Keep on top of weeds while they are few and small. Only use preparations or chemicals specifically designed for gardens and edibles.
Whether you have gardened all your life or just a novice, planning in advance gives you a greate chance of success and a bountiful harvest with extra to share. So, sit back with a beverage of your choice and start your plan.