Question: What does starting a new vegetable garden involve?
Answer: Many people choose to garden because homegrown fresh vegetables exceed supermarket quality in taste, quality of produce, and freshness. Many gardeners grow vegetables they enjoy, but are hard to find in the supermarket industry.
There are several key factors to consider before starting a garden. The first consideration is site selection. For beginners, you should start small and over time expand your garden based on the needed amount of produce for your family and/or friends. An area of 25 square feet is adequate for beginner gardeners with an average size family.
When selecting your garden site keep in mind sunlight considerations. All vegetables need sunlight, with some needing more than others. Vegetable gardens should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, however, 8 to 10 hours is ideal. Evaluate your property for shade from structures and plant material, such as shade trees and large shrubs that would shade areas of the property. Try to pick a location that offers direct sunlight during the morning and mid-day time frames because this will help dry the leaf surfaces of plants, which over time may develop disease problems if they are damp during hot, humid nights.
Next, try to have the garden site near the house. The closer it is to the house, the more likely it will be used and monitored for dryness, weeds, insects, and disease issues. As you harvest, you won’t have to carry the produce very far.
How is the soil in the area you are considering? Is it fertile, easy to till, loose, well-drained, and loamy type of soil? These are the ideal soil conditions. However, you don’t necessarily need to have ideal soil conditions because soil can be improved by amending it. For example, clay and sandy soil types can be improved by adding organic matter, such as compost. It doesn’t hurt to take soil samples and have it analyzed by North Carolina Department of Agriculture Agronomic Services, which is free of charge. All you have to do is bring your soil by our office, complete the form and we will get the sample to NCDA Soil Lab in Raleigh.
Water is another consideration to keep in mind whether it is rain or irrigation. Garden sites need a minimum of 1 inch of water per week, especially if the soil is dry. Choose a garden site that is near a spigot or some other type of water source.
Good air drainage is a necessity for successful gardening. Low spots should be avoided because those areas warm up slower in the spring than open areas. You are more likely to have higher concentrations of frost in these areas due to the cold air not being able to drain away. Vegetable gardens on high ground increases the chances of plants escaping light freezes, encourages early start in the spring, and expands harvest time during the fall.
Always remember to research plants before making purchases to ensure they will thrive in your area. Taking a little time to do so can prevent you from making unnecessary purchases. Visit the link below for more information about vegetable gardening. It also includes a chart of vegetable varieties and planting and harvesting dates. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag-06.html.
Reminder: A new program for 2012 is the “Sampson County Friends of Horticulture.” This program offers monthly “How To” Horticultural Seminars. Please call (910) 592-7161 for more information. Please turn your radio to WCLN 1170AM every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon (that’s lunch time) and listen to the Sampson County Ag Minute segment, which is brought to you by the Sampson County Extension Agricultural Agents. Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at sampson.ces.ncsu.edu for any questions you may have.