Each spring I get questions on how to start a new garden. For those of us with years of gardening experience, one probably never gave it a thought, since as a young child many of us grew up beside Mom and Dad, just doing it! Well, for those wanting to venture out and break some new sod, so to speak, here are a few pointers that may help you get off to a good start.
Locate the garden in an area that will not interfere with the home landscape. A sunny, level area away from large trees is preferable because tree roots compete for soil nutrients and water. A source of water should be accessible for periods when irrigation is necessary.
In many Kansas locations, protection from wind is desirable. Take advantage of fences, small shrubs or buildings that provide a windbreak.
Vegetables grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. Sandy loam soils are ideal for vegetables. Most home gardens, however, do not have this soil composition.
Compost or manure spread over the garden and worked in with a garden tiller will improve not only fertility but also soil tilth. Adding organic material such as manure or compost is an important practice in successful gardening.
Selecting what to grow
A wide variety of different vegetables can be grown in Kansas. Space available and individual preferences play an important part in deciding what to grow. Beans, beets, summer squash, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, radishes and turnips are well adapted for growth when space is limited.
Sweet corn, vine squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and melons require more space for growth and should be considered only if adequate space is available. Don't be afraid to experiment with unfamiliar vegetables, but plan to be able to use most of the vegetables you produce.
Most home gardeners have too much produce maturing at the same time. This is desirable if you plan to can or freeze the vegetables. For table use, it is best to stagger plantings. Plant a few radishes every four to five days instead of all at once. This will provide a steady supply of radishes of ideal maturity over a longer period of time. Also stagger plantings of lettuce, beans, sweet corn and peas.
Optimizing garden space
Spinach, lettuce, radishes, peas and green onions can be harvested early in the season. The same space is then available for late-season crops of beans, eggplant, tomatoes or potatoes. Plant lettuce, radishes or spinach between potatoes, cabbage or other cole crops. Before the potatoes or cole crops get very large, the other vegetables will have been harvested.
Select a place along one side of the garden for crops such as rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries or bush fruits. These perennials will continue to grow next year without replanting. If planted in the garden, they will be in the way during tilling operations.
Make a sketch
Draw a scale model of your garden space and plan the garden using the above information. Allow everyone involved to participate by suggesting their favorite vegetables. Make notes on the plan and save it as a reference for next year's garden. You can also use this plan when ordering seeds and plants.
Obtaining seeds and plants
In choosing varieties for the home garden, consider factors such as disease resistance, yield, maturity date, size, shape, color and flavor. Seed companies and state agricultural research stations are constantly developing and testing improved vegetable varieties and procedures.
The following sources of information are useful when choosing varieties:
* Ask your local Extension agent or the KSU Cooperative Extension Service for the publication "Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Kansas."
* Use varieties that have performed well in past years for you or other gardeners you know.
* If you plan a special use for a particular vegetable, such as freezing, exhibiting or canning, check with your local Extension agent or study your seed catalog for recommendations.
* Check with your local seed store or garden center for advice on what to plant.
If you do not have a hotbed or cold frame, you may want to buy vegetable transplants for crops that require transplanting to the garden. These can be obtained from local greenhouses or seed and garden centers. Again, make sure the varieties are what you want to produce.
Plan, then purchase the seeds and plants you want so that you will have them when you need them for your garden.
Tools and supplies
While several items are essential to raise a garden, it is not necessary to have a lot of equipment. If your friends have gardens, you might share equipment and supplies. Select supplies according to the size of garden you want.
So as you get that gardening "bug," I hope these pointers are not overwhelming. If they are, maybe you could start with a few simple plants such as a tomato or pepper that's planted within an existing shrub border, or if you really want a challenge, container gardening may be just your thing!
The Finney County Extension Office has a wealth of reference materials and I'm more than happy to answer all your questions. Stop by the office at 501 S. Ninth St., or call 272-3670.
With the finding of the dreaded Pine Wilt Disease in our area over the past two years, everyone needs to help keep this pest under control. Anyone that has a dead pine tree in the yard, landscape or shelterbelt is advised to cut them down by April 1. That is the recommended date that the dead pines be buried or burned to eliminate the immature larval stage of the Pine Sawyer Beetle that carries the disease.
In Finney County we still have a county-wide burning ban in place due to the extreme prolonged drought. However, if burying the dead trees is not possible, contact the Garden City Parks Department and obtain permission to dump the trees in the burn pile located at the southwest corner of the zoo. Parks personnel are isolating the pine trees in an area so that they can later burn them as allowed by the fire department authorities. Cutting the trees for firewood will only allow the larva to develop and become adults that will spread the disease. Adults will emerge anytime after April 1 so it's time to take proper action to protect our existing beautiful pines now.