GARDENING SERIES PART 1: SELECTING GARDEN LOCATION, GARDEN SIZE,  & PREPPING THE SOIL

GARDENING SERIES PART 1: SELECTING GARDEN LOCATION, GARDEN SIZE, & PREPPING THE SOIL

Selecting Your Garden Location

A successful vegetable garden needs a lot sunshine and a little afternoon shade. This requires some thought, so spend a bit of time in your yard watching the light at different times of the day. Also, pay attention to your trees and your neighbor’s trees. Watch the way the sun shades an area beneath a tree. A sunny winter spot under a deciduous tree might be completely shaded when the tree leaves are out.

Here are a few tips for choosing a good site:

1.Plant in a sunny location. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The more sunlight they receive, the greater the harvest, the bigger the veggies, and the better the taste.

2.Plant in good soil. Plants’ roots penetrate soft soil more easily, so you need nice loamy soil. Enriching your soil with compost provides needed nutrients. Proper drainage will ensure that water neither collects on top nor drains away too quickly.

3.Plant in a stable environment. You don’t want to plant in a place that’s prone to flooding during heavy rains, or in a place that tends to dry out a lot. You also don’t want to plant somewhere where strong winds could knock over your young plants or keep pollinators from doing their job.

If you don't have a spot in full sun, you can still grow leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach. And if you're in a hot-summer climate, cool-season varieties such as peas may do better in part shade.

Garden Size

One of the most common errors that beginners make is planting too much too soon—way more than anybody could ever eat or want. Start small.

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16x10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. Different vegetable plants require different amounts of space. Figure out how much space you will need for the plants. Planting vegetables in rows helps you keep track of which plants are which. Factor in extra space between the rows to allow you to walk into the garden to weed, and water it, as well as to harvest ripe vegetables.

Prepping the Soil

Before you get started, you have to remove plants and weeds (don’t forget to remove any rocks or clumps too) from the site. One easy way to do that is to cover the site with black plastic or garden fabric for several weeks until the weeds and grass have died.

An easier, cost effective way to prep your soil is to put a layer of compost on your garden plot and then lay down cardboard on top. Secure the cardboard with bricks or rocks to keep it from blowing away. This will naturally kill the grass, and weeds beneath it.

In addition, it will bring up earthworms from deep in the soil. This will create a healthy aerobic environment. Earthworms aerate the soil and improve drainage through their extensive channeling and burrowing. As earthworms feed, smaller fragments of organic matter are mineralized by microorganisms inside their gut and, upon excretion, become readily available to plants. Earthworms continually excrete these castings throughout the soil profile. There, the castings rapidly stabilize and become resistant to chemical and physical degradation. This benefits overall soil structure by helping to prevent compaction. Castings also act as storage units for nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen. Furthermore, as earthworms burrow, they secrete mucus from their bodies to aid in tunneling activity. A mucus-lined burrow typically contains a higher nutrient content than the surrounding soil. The key is to leave the cardboard down and let the worms do their work until you ready to start planting your seeds or plants.

You can also get a soil sample tested to see what your soil is missing. The soil test can be done through your county cooperative extension office. They'll lead you through the procedure: how much soil to send from which parts of the garden, and the best time to obtain samples. Expect a two-week wait for their findings, which will tell you what your soil lacks and how to amend it. However, the easiest option would be to let the earthworms do the all the work you!

In our next blog, we will talk about how to choose which vegetables to grow, and how to get them started from seeds. Starting seeds indoors gives your crops a head start on the growing season and the chance to grow in a stable, controlled environment. Vegetable choice will be determined by how long it takes for the veggies to grow from seed. For most crops, you should start seeds indoors about 6–8 weeks before your last spring frost date.

Thank you for joining us. Happy gardening and God bless!

adapted from almanac.com and bgh.com

Jan 31st 2019 QCF

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