2000 Garden Planning
2000 Garden Planning
By: Chris S. Corby
Whether you are a seasoned gardener or this is your first year to grow vegetables, take time now-before you order your seed and supplies-to plan your garden in your mind and on paper.
By sketching out your garden and deciding what crops you want to plant, you will avoid the tendency to order more seed than you need. Most gardeners are happier and more successful with a small garden than a large one. You can grow a lot of vegetables in a 10 foot x 20 foot or 20 foot x 40 foot garden. But as the size of the garden gets much larger so does the amount of time required to keep it cultivated and well cared for.
Be sure there is adequate sunlight. Most garden crops require a minimum of 6 hours of full sun per day. Providing some late afternoon shade can be beneficial, particularly as the seasons warm into June and July.
Another important consideration is to allow adequate room for each crop. With good growing conditions, tomatoes will outgrow their cages, vining crops like cucumbers and melons will take over walkways between rows. One way to help eliminate this problem without sacrificing production is to plant early maturing crops like onions, lettuce, beets, radishes between rows of later maturing, warm season crops like tomatoes and vining crops we mentioned earlier. Once the early crops have been harvested you can allow this extra space to become part of your walkways.
Also, be sure to practice good crop rotation. That means not planting the same crop or related crops in the same place year after year. This will help reduce disease and insect problems during the growing season. By putting things down on paper before you get started even those who garden in the smallest of spaces can implement a good rotation plan.
For your primary choices be sure to pick from the All-Texas Selections on page 28. These are workhorse varieties that have been tried and proven to grow well in all parts of Texas. It is okay, and downright fun, to experiment with a few new and interesting varieties that you may find in a seed catalog. Just do not let them become your mainstays until proven or you may be disappointed.
Take a survey of family members and friends to find out what they like. There is no sense in growing two rows of blackeyed peas if no one will eat them. For the most rewarding experience, concentrate on growing the most popular vegetables.
Choosing when to plant your garden crops is the next most crucial step: plant too early and you risk freeze damage, plant too late and your plants will have the opposite problem-hotter, dryer weather and increased insect pressure. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Southern peas and okra actually prefer hotter weather and are great choices to replace cool season crops in late spring. You should use the dates on pages 26-27 as a guideline. Many gardeners choose to push these dates back but are prepared to provide some measure of frost protection if the circumstances require it. Remember, these planting dates are based on average freeze dates. Actual conditions can vary from year to year and within a zone or even county. If you live in a rural area you already know that temperatures are always lower than in the city. Also, if you garden in a valley your temperatures will be lower during cold spells than at your neighbors’ gardens at higher elevations.
This is also, as we have said many times before, a good time to have a soil test done so you will know exactly what elements you need to add to your garden. Your county extension agent has soil test bags and instructions for you to use to send your samples into the soil lab. The small cost of this test is well worth it in terms of increased production and enjoyment from your garden.
If you have not already done so now is the perfect time to add organic matter to your garden. Most gardeners cannot produce enough compost to meet their needs. However, there are good sources of bulk compost available in most areas of the state. Be sure to select compost that has a clean, earthy smell. Foul smelling material is not really “compost” because it has not fully decomposed. Avoid purchasing this “almost compost” or set it aside for use later in the season. Make sure you have easy access to a water outlet. Now, before your crops are planted, is the best time to trench and lay water lines or measure for and order drip irrigation tubing and emitters. Installing an additional faucet at the other end of your garden is an easy project if you use PVC pipe, and makes watering chores a lot easier later in the season.