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Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Buena Vista Garden, by Yarddawg

More Veggies for Boovies

Vegetable gardens once more before moving on. Last week it was for potheads. This week more conventional vegetable gardens.

Successful vegetable gardens are not accidental. They are the results of planning, constant care, and the will to make things grow.

Growing your own vegetables is the IN thing right. So what is the expected shelf life of the latest trend fad? I have little doubt it will decline in a year or two as new gardeners learn some difficult and expensive gardening lessons. Why? I see many small plots in the area located in the same place year after year. I also see other plots popping up with varying degrees of success. Let’s go over some of the basics of a vegetable garden:

1. Plan, Plan Plan, and preferably in the fall or winter before the spring in which you plant the garden.

2. Soil Tests – The percentage of folks that actually do a soil test is actually pretty low and the benefits are high because knowing exactly how much lime and other nutrients should be added as opposed to guesstimating especially with the tight red clay soils predominate in this area. Soil should be tested annually and the results strictly applied. This can save both time and money.

3. Crop rotation – Many urban homeowners simply don’t have the space to properly rotate crops. Consequently pests and plant diseases eventually build up and these problems decrease vegetable growing success. More plants yielding less equals, a high cost, lower quality, and greater frustration. For those with limited space, there are alternatives such as planting in containers or intensive gardening which includes raised bed and square foot gardening.

4. Seeds & Transplants – A good way to save money is to grow your own seeds. A good way to spend a lot of money on seed is to buy the cheapest seed possible and many people invariably will resort to bargain hunting. A seed “deal” is frequently a bad deal due to low germination rates. You really do get what you pay for. The same applies to transplants. Only healthy, disease free, insect free, transplants should be purchased.

5. Use common sense – If you are a first time vegetable grower or have had difficulties in the past, start out with a realistic and manageable size. In other words, think small. Do not overwhelm yourself by over planting.

Are you a willy, nilly, gardener? AKA, an impulse gardener. Do you sometimes see something and decide to plant that something even though it might be a month or more too late, or too early, to plant that something? I know I have. With failure assured do you throw up your hands and just give up and plead the tried and (un)true brown thumb claim? Well, there is no such thing as a brown thumb. The difference is knowledge.

For those offended and with injured pride, please allow me a few questions.

(1) Do you know if you have a site in full, all day sun?
(2) Is the site located near a water source? Are you willing or able to make sure your garden receives at least one inch of water per week?
(3) Are you willing or able to pull weeds on a hot, muggy day in the middle of summer?
(4A) Are you willing to treat insect or disease ravaged plants with pesticides or fungicides?
Or (4B) Are you will to treat insects with organic pesticides or, better yet, pull them off and squish the varmints?
(5) Are you willing to destroy and properly dispose heavily diseased plants?
(6) Do you have a back-up plan for ripening vegetables while away on vacation?

NOTE: Many summer vegetables have a nasty habit of requiring harvesting from early July - August or beyond.

If you answered no to most or all of these questions you might want to re-consider vegetable gardening and frequent some of the local farmers markets instead.

If you still accept this mission, knowledge is available from North Carolina Cooperative Extension by reading and applying the basics of Home Vegetable Gardening. And remember an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer is just a phone call away for residents. The number is 336.703.2850.

Local garden note: The Tanglewood Arboretum Plant Sale is this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, April 8-10, 2010. Buy your vegetable transplants here and save money on high quality plants. This annual event is the major fundraiser for the Tanglewood Arboretum. Educational classes are offered free of charge to the public on each day of the sale. Go meet a Forsyth County Master Gardener. In fact the Gardens at Tanglewood are maintained by Master Gardener Volunteers. Yarddawg will be working there Friday.
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