Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Hard times seem to be prompting many of us to plant our first garden. From the White House to your house, this may be the year to grow your own. Do you want to plant a garden this summer? If so, I think you are smart! Not sure where to start? I'm Mr. Potato Head and I'm here to help! This is the first of a series of articles that will be in the Tri-County News this spring and summer that will be designed to help you grow, cook and enjoy your own vegetables. If you have been gardening for years, some of this information may be old news. But for those of you who may be planting your first garden, it is important to begin with a little planning. Here are some tips to get you started: Where? Choose a garden site that is mostly level and gets lots of sun (8-12 hours a day). Avoid things like big shade trees, areas where kids play and your septic system drain field. It is also usually better to keep your garden out of your neighbor's yard. Figure out about how much "territory" you want to plow up. Remember, it might be best to start out small and grow the size of the garden over time. Most of us (except me) are full of ambition as we start our gardens. By the time it gets to be July, a really big garden might become too much work. Try to keep the size of your garden reasonable and it will seem more like "fun" and less like "work". Besides, we can grow lots of stuff in a small space. How? Take five minutes and draw out your garden on a piece of paper. It is best to plant most vegetables in rows. Leave enough space for you to walk between each row, about two feet usually is enough. Vine crops like melons, squash and cucumbers don't grow in rows; plan a four-foot square area for each plant of this type that you want to plant. If you want corn, remember that it will get tall. Plant the rows further apart and try to put it somewhere where it won't shade the rest of the garden. The soil should be turned over by hand with a shovel or with a tiller. It is best to break up the soil with a rake to make a smooth, clump-free seed bed. Seeds can be planted using your plan and according to the directions on the seed packet. What? You can grow the things you like if you plan for them. Start your planning with the "cool season" crops like lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and radishes. These are the seeds that can be planted as soon as the ground can be tilled. Warm-season crops like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers can be planted when the ground warms up, usually around mid to late May. It is easiest to buy "transplants" for these warm-season crops. Tender crops like melons and squash will be the last things to plant in the garden. When? You can buy your seeds now, but be careful not to buy more than you need. Soils should not be prepared for planting when too wet or too dry. If soil sticks to your shoes or shovel, it is too wet. The cool-season crops can go in first, warm-season crops need warm soil, so plan on waiting a couple of weeks to plant them. Next time: Don't have space or time for a regular garden? Think buckets, baskets, pots and barrels; container gardening might be for you. Do you have a gardening question or suggestion for Mr. Potato Head? Contact him at
. Mr. Potato Head is Stearns County Master Gardener and Kimball resident Rick Ellis.