Help for New Vegetable Gardeners

January 17, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

People plant vegetable gardens for many reasons – for exercise, to save money, to get outdoors, for relaxation, for better nutrition, to have control over their food supply, and to teach children.  Are you ready to plant your first vegetable garden?  Nothing matches the thrill you’ll feel the first time you eat a vegetable you’ve grown yourself!

Find a spot that gets at least six hours of sun a day.  More than six hours is even better.  You’ll need a water source and a few basic tools.  A hoe and a trowel are probably the most important.

Start small.  If this is your first garden, and you are unsure of how much time and effort it will take, the last thing you want is to find that you can’t keep up with it and become discouraged.  You can always enlarge it next year.

Choose vegetables your family likes to eat, and perhaps one that is new to you.  Seeds are easy to plant and clear instructions are found on every seed packet as to how deep and how far apart to plant the seeds as well as when to plant in relation to the last frost date.  May 10 is the average last frost date for our area.

Use your hoe to make a trench in the soil at the specified depth, lay the seeds in the trench, cover them with soil and use the flat part of the hoe to pat the soil firmly atop the seeds.  Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.

An alternative to planting seeds is to buy vegetable seedlings from the nursery.  Use a trowel to dig a hole in the soil and place the plants at the same level that they were in the nursery pots.  Gently firm the soil around each plant with your hands and water well.

If you are nervous about committing to a whole new vegetable garden, start by borrowing some space in an existing flower bed and plant a few vegetable seeds.  Or plant seeds or seedlings in containers.  Be sure to keep them well-watered as plant roots can’t search deep into the ground to find water when they are contained in a pot.

For help along the way, or to learn more before you begin, there are three books I recommend:  Wisconsin Garden Guide by Jerry Minnich, The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch, and The Big Book of Gardening Skills by the Editors of Garden Way Publishing.  These three and many more are available through the Winnefox Library System and from www.amazon.com.  You can also find help from one of the 121 UW-Extension Master Gardeners in Winnebago County, gardening magazines, your neighbors, and the internet.  Be sure that advice you get from books, magazines or the internet is coming from Midwest sources.  Plants, timing and even techniques vary tremendously depending on climate.

Fruits and vegetablesGardening techniques and tools


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