The budding gardener must face a dizzying array of decisions: what to plant? How much? Where?
So if you’ve been eyeing that spot in your yard — or maybe you don’t even have one — the Herald-Leader has given you tips on how to grow your garden this spring and summer, from experts at the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Office.
How to plant a vegetable garden
To start growing your garden, the basic steps should be as follows, according to the UK guide Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky.
1. Make a plan before you start gardening. Get out a piece of paper and pencil and make a sketch of your garden. There are also tons of free tools available online, but the most important thing is to get an idea of what you are growing and where it is in your garden.
If you’re planting directly in the ground, a 10-by-10-foot (100 square-foot) garden is a manageable size for beginners, according to Almanac.com. You should choose three to five of your favorite vegetables and buy three to five plants of each.
If planting in a raised bed, a 4ft by 4ft or 4ft by 8ft plot is a good starter size. Almanac.com also has a raised bed guide that covers the benefits of raised beds, how to build one, and what type of soil to fill it with.
The UK Cooperative Extension recommends planting perennials – like rhubarb, chives and horseradish – on one side of the garden as they can produce for up to 12 years.
Tall plants like corn, tomatoes, and runner beans should be planted on the north or west side of the garden where they won’t shade smaller crops. However, summer lettuce should be grown in a partially shaded area if possible.
A note on the organic route: you can also choose to avoid using toxic and stubborn pesticides and replenish the life of the soil in your garden with organic growing practices. It requires you to be mindful and work toward that goal.
You will rely on simple practices such as B. Regularly scouting your garden for pest or disease problems and carefully monitoring the life of your soil using things like compost, crop rotation and cover crops.
Be sure to read the UK Cooperative Extension’s guide to ‘Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky’ for organic gardening alternatives scattered throughout.
2. Choose the right spot for your garden. UK’s Cooperative Extension Services recommends avoiding the following pitfalls:
In general, choose a spot that gets full sun for at least eight hours each day, relatively level, well-drained, near a water source, dries quickly from morning dew, and is close to your home. You are more likely to tend your garden if you can see it from your home.
Avoid planting the garden in a low spot, at the bottom of a hill or at the bottom of a slope bordered by a permanent fence.
If possible, choose a location with south or south-east exposure.
Plant your vegetables away from buildings, trees, and other objects that would shade them.
Skips places that are too windy.
Inspect the site to look for drainage problems and avoid areas that remain wet for too long after a rain.
Look for soil that encourages lush plant growth, even when covered in dark green hardy weeds – just be sure to plant away from trees as their roots can compete with your veggies. In general, look for loamy soils or clays.
Remember, the closer your yard is to your back door, the more likely you are to keep it. You can see when your harvest has peaked and make the most of its freshness. Planting, weeding, watering and pest control also become easier.
3. Prepare your soil properly. Few places will have everything, but vegetable crops are tolerant of varying soil conditions and still produce fairly well, according to UK Extension Services.
It is better to think of land management as a long-term endeavor, often spanning several years. Because of this, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what you’re working with. The worse the soil, the longer it will take you to get good results and the more likely you will become discouraged and give up altogether.
Your first step should be to take a soil sample and have it tested at your local UK Co-op Extension Office.
To take a soil sample, take a spade and stick it 7 inches into the ground and throw the soil aside. Then take another 1 inch slab of soil from the back of the hole at the full depth of the hole. Remove all of the soil except for the central 1 to 2 inch wide core. You then place this core sample in a clean bucket.
Repeat this process in different spots to get a good sample of the soil composition in your garden. Get about 2 cups of soil.
You should then mix the composite sample well and place it on some paper to dry at room temperature for about two days. After that, it can be taken to the extension office for testing.
Check prices with your local UK Cooperative Extension office but they are usually fairly cheap. For example, the Fayette County office charges a $7 fee for a routine test.
The cost of the soil test, which varies with the number of elements tested, will pay you back many times over through savings on fertilizers and the production of high yields and quality products, according to the cooperative expansion.
Once you have the results, they’ll help you with your next steps—including whether you might need to improve the soil quality with some fertilizer or compost if you’re going the organic route.
This story was originally published March 22, 2022 3:05 p.m.