As I have said on numerous occasions, a properly taken soil test is the only way to get a true reading of what is going on nutritionally in your ground and thus get the most accurate liming and fertilizing recommendations.
Today, I am going to share some basic gardening tips for the vegetable grower with help from an article by a former co-worker, Randy Drinkard, UGA Center for Urban Agriculture and from a UGA publication by Bob Westerfield, UGA Extension Horticulturist and David Linvill, Chatham County Extension Agent.
First, why do we garden? That may sound like a very simple question, but it can have numerous answers. An obvious answer is to produce food for consumption. Many people garden because they want to know where their food is produced. Some people want that feeling of accomplishment when they pull that first vine ripe tomato off the vine. For others, gardening in a healthy outdoor activity.
Another reason some folks garden is to have a friendly competition between friends on who can have the best garden in the neighborhood. No matter the reason, there are some simple tips that can help you have a great season.
In our opening paragraph, I mentioned soil testing. I won’t go through the procedure, but you still have time to get results before the season gets in full swing. The next tip that cannot be understated is site selection. This is a downfall of many gardens. You need to select a site that will get 8-10 hours of sunlight per day. You also need to select a site that is close to a water source for irrigation and the area also needs to be well-drained. So many gardens are planted where irrigation is near impossible. Being unable to water gardens properly can lead to a gardening disaster.
Record keeping and making a plan for your garden should be high on the list. Record keeping can helpyou document success or failure with new varieties and can help on crop rotation. Making a plan can be centered on how you want the plot to be planted and also planning on variety selection. Some people like the same varieties year after year. You can say that some varieties become family traditions.
My grandfather has always planted Better Boy tomatoes. It would not be a complete garden without them. Some folks like to plant traditional, but throw in a new variety to see how it works for them.
Do your research on your records and variety selection. Note how the new varieties work for you.
Cultivating and mulching a garden can be helpful. Gardening is work so don’t think you can vegetable garden and get great results with little effort. The larger the garden, the more work will be needed.
Cultivate or hoe the garden often to help manage weeds. According to Drinkard, you may need a diverse array of tools and equipment to help plant and maintain a garden. You may need a hoe, rake, spading fork and round nosed shovel. When you cultivate or hoe, do not go too deep after planting to avoid root injury. Cultivate when you need it. Cultivating too often can lead to soil that is being dried out too often. Mulching with straw or leaves can help conserve moisture, control weeds and reduce cultivation according to Westerfield and Linvill. Mulch layer should be 2-4 inches in depth after settling. Some people will use newspaper as a mulch. The newspaper needs to be 2-3 layers in depth around each plant and then have 3 inches of straw or compost on top of the paper. If you do use a bought product such as straw, you may want to ask if it has been treated with any herbicide when growing in the field. Some herbicide residue could stay in the straw and thus injury the plants. Finally, be prepared to water the garden in lack of rainfall. Soaker hoses or irrigation tape is suggested over sprinklers. If you use a sprinkler, irrigate early in the mornings to allow the foliage time to dry off quickly. For more information, contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.