Building a better vegetable garden
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Building a better vegetable garden

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Garden irrigation

In this homemade garden irritation system, PVC pipe was drilled at 12-inch intervals and fitted with a hose. Cattle panels were later attached to the posts and a series of plant ties supported the growing tomato plants.

Spring is a wonderful time of the year. After a long, cold winter, it is always so wonderful to be able to get outside again and start working in our gardens. And there is nothing like fresh produce from your own garden during the summer months.

Garden location

Make sure that the soil is dry before you work the garden or plant any vegetables. Planting into mud can compact the soil and disrupt the growth of plants. If you don’t have the space or can’t dig up the lawn for a traditional garden or are unable to work on the ground, you can use a raised bed or even garden in containers. If you do either of these non-traditional methods, use potting soil rather than digging up soil from the backyard due to nutrient values, compaction, and water draining issues.

Locate your garden where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. The majority of the sunlight hours should be in the afternoon when the sun is more intense. Also, choose a location that is near a water supply and is easily accessible for you to get to often.

Plants

When choosing what to plant in your garden, think about the things that you and your family enjoy eating most and plant that. If you are new to gardening, don’t take on too much the first year. Also, be sure to space your plants correctly. Understanding how big plants get can help plan out the garden space to make sure everything doesn’t run together. Messy gardens are hard to maintain and diseases can spread faster in these environments where the plants are too close together. The seed packet or plant tag will tell you how far apart to space your plants — be sure to stick with the recommended spacing.

Cool season crops such as peas, potatoes, carrots, radish, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, and spinach can be planted in March-April, depending on what you plan to plant. Warm season crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, corn and beans should be planted in early May, or after our last frost of the spring.

Plants such as carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach, corn and beans should be planted as seed straight into the garden. Plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant from transplants that were started early in a greenhouse or in your home. Plants including zucchini, squash, melons, and cucumbers can be planted either as seed or as transplants.

Plant care

Gardens need about 1 inch of water per week for best growth. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are the best options to reduce diseases, but overhead irrigation can be used. If watering through overhead irrigation, it is best to water early in the day, to allow the garden enough time for the leaves to dry out before nightfall.

Vegetable gardens should be mulched in some way to manage weeds. Grass clippings make a good mulch as long as the lawn hasn’t been treated with any herbicides. If grass isn’t available or isn’t an option for you, you can use straw, newspaper, or wood chip mulch on the garden as well. Preemergence herbicides such as Preen can be used as long as it is labeled for use in the garden around your plants. Don’t apply preen around your seeded plants until they have emerged.

Plants like beans and peas will need a trellis to grow properly and tomato plants and other tall, bushy plants should be grown in a cage to keep them from falling over. Vining crops, such as cucumbers, can be grown on a trellis if desired. This will keep the plants up with good airflow to help reduce disease and it will make harvest much easier.

Nicole Stoner is the Gage County Horticulture Extension Educator. She can be contacted at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, or by visiting the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu. Like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture, or follow her on Twitter @Nikki_Stoner.

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