Amanda Bradshaw Contributing columnist
February 17, 2014
Often people love the thought of gardening and enjoying fresh vegetables fresh from the ground but lose motivation when they start thinking about where to start. All good events and programs start with planning. Some of us are more natural planners than others, but none the less some type of planning needs to be done in order to prevent veggie chaos. For example, the wedding of the season that is a hit with the bride, the groom, and the guest took many hours of planning. A garden is no different. Planning a garden has many benefits and is a great task to tackle in the cold months when the garden is not yet ready to start tilling. Planning will allow you the opportunity to also take full advantage of the space available and the multiple growing seasons. Planning is a great place to put the garden investigators (aka the youth of the household) to work at.
So let’s get started…below are 5 great tips to consider when your planning begins.
Location, location, location
Many factors go into deciding a location. Will your garden be in containers, raised beds, traditional rows, on a rooftop or in an old tub discovered at the flea market? When deciding a location, consider these 2 thoughts:
1. Is the location easily accessible and a place your family passes frequently? 2. Is there a water source near by?
If a garden is in a location that is too far to walk or not frequented, garden care is not likely to happen as needed. Also, during the hot summer months, watering will need to happen frequently and lugging buckets of water to and fro will tend to diminish the motivation to garden.
Another item to consider would be the amount of sunshine the area receives in a day at the proposed location. At least 6 hours of sunlight is needed for a successful vegetable garden. If you are not sure how much sunlight a potential gardening space is receiving during the day, send those garden investigators out with journals in tow to be sun investigators one Saturday. This will build skills in reading time, charting, and exploratory thinking.
Knowing the average temperature of the potential garden area during different months throughout the year is critical to proper germination of seeds. Certain veggies can only be grown during warm months and others only during the colder months. Understanding the temperature will help you plan when to plant certain varieties of veggies to ensure vigorous growth. Once again, not sure of the temperatures throughout the year, bring in those garden investigators once again (aka spare kids running through the house that need a mission). The garden investigators can set out to do research and learn all about climate zones during the 4 seasons for your neighborhood via the World Wide Web. Also, they can use the research to build comparison and contrast charts as to what the reality of the temperature actually is versus the forecasted temperature. Too many skills to be listed will be taught in this particular area so go ahead and start working on this today.
Soil Consideration is a Must
Is your soil sandy, full of clay particles, loamy or a mix? Not sure, you will need to know this before any gardening begins. Roots need lots of room to spread and grow and some soils aren’t conducive to such growth. A soil test can reveal what nutrients need to be added or neutralized in order to have buckets full of produce weeks later. Visit the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office to receive a soil sample box. Once you get your box, follow the directions given with the soil test, return to the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office and in a few weeks the results will be headed your way. Once again, this is screaming for attention from those wee garden investigators. Kids love dirt and will happily do the “dirty” work for you in helping to dig up samples.
Affordable and Reliable Seed/Plant Source
Be sure to decide early in the planning if your family will be using seeds or small plants. Part of this decision should be considered on the proximity of your home versus the proximity of the local hardware. Seeds will store for some months in the fridge and can be used more readily. Small plants must have a new home prepared and ready for them when purchased. This decision will also be determined by what your actual budget for the garden will be and how quickly (for me..how much patience I have before I want to see veggies) you are needing veggies. Does your family plan to grow for multiple seasons? If so, small plants help to reduce the growing time needed and thus reducing the amount of land that will be used. I think I hear those garden investigators stumbling through the house again…Yes, they are perfect for helping to plant seeds and plants. They will love the idea of both because both varieties offer adventure and care giving.
What does your family eat?
This of course should be a consideration when planning your garden buffet. Plant the things you know they will eat. For example, if your family doesn’t eat squash, it might not be the best idea to plant 20 hills of squash because come about the first week in July….well let’s just say your bounty will be plenty. The garden is a great place to help introduce new foods, so feel free to quarantine off a small area just for such experiments. Garden investigators should use their investigating talents and keep journals on the progress of such experimental growing challenges. In the end, they will definitely be more apt to at least try these new varieties than they would have if it had been purchased in the grocery store.
Reminder: 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.
(Editor’s Note: Amanda Bradshaw is an Extension Agent with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Service.)