Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Planning Time--Planning this years garden

Location, Location, Location,

Avoid planting near or under trees. Start by looking for an area or space that receives at least 6 hours of sun. 8 hours of direct sun or even more is ideal. The Summer crops or Fruit producers like squash and tomatoes need at least that much light to really perform close to their ideal yield. For Leafy crops, early spring and mid spring produce, we can get by with partial shade or 6 hours of sunlight. As we move into late spring early summer, we use the shaded portions of our property to increase the growing period for lettuces and greens, often into June.

All the books say to locate your garden in a fertile, well drained location. Here in Alabama unless you have already composted in place over the area that will be this years garden you probably have an infertile area. With our highly compacted urban soils many sites are poorly drained as well. Which is why raised beds are so useful to the gardener compared to the farmer. Try to choose a relatively level area. A south facing slope warms faster in the spring and receives a little more light each day.

An additional consideration is access to water. Try to place your garden near a water source.

One thought that is usually missed in these generic discussions is too look for what your site can grow well. If shade is an issue then you may be blessed to grow greens longer into the growing season. If shade is an issue, think in terms of shade tolerant, even shade loving, plants. Learning the “genius” of your site is a big part of understanding the puzzle. Learning to build soil whether in heavy clay or sand is actually the real challenge. Putting as many factors as possible on your side certainly makes gardening more fun, productive and ultimately less expensive.

We will improve the soil - over time. Start with a soil test for the potential area. Boxes are available at the Cooperative Extension Service office near you. You can pick up the appropriate form at the office as well or you can go to Home Soil Tests for complete instructions and save yourself a trip the Extension office.

Next comes the fun part, List your favorite vegetables. Identify the vegetables you really love to eat, or have difficulty finding in the stores. See our list for a memory prompt and ideas.

You can plan for the entire year,( recommended ) or you can plan what you are going to start with, over the next few weeks. Here's how we graph our gardens. Graphing your potential area really makes a difference in maximizing potential yield and minimizing maintenance related issues. To start out use a different sheet of graph paper for each season of the year. It will be much easier to keep up with.

Start Small. Gardening is much more enjoyable if you aren't overwhelmed. Master a small space or spaces, learn to grow a few plants really well and expand the garden a little each succeeding year until the garden is just right for you. One advantage to expanding each year is the opportunity to compost in place where next years addition will be. Building the soil in advance is a great way to improve yields.

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