Master Gardener: Plan now for a spring veggie garden
BY LISA KLEIN Ask a Master Gardener
Saturday, November 24, 2012
11/24/12 at 5:52 AM
Q: I want to have a vegetable garden next spring, are there steps I can take now to increase my chances at success? Kathy R., Tulsa
A: You are not alone in your quest for a bountiful veggie garden, and there are definitely preparations you should be doing now to create a healthy growing environment.
Site selection for any type of plants and especially veggies is critical to your success. You will need a spot with nearly full sun, 6 to 8 hours a day, depending upon what you are growing. You also need good drainage; avoid any low areas where water accumulates. If possible, space your garden as far from large trees as possible to avoid competition for water. It is also helpful to have easy access to your water and compost source.
The best thing you can do for your garden is proper soil preparation. If this is your first veggie garden or if you are disappointed with past results, a soil test is the best way to determine the health of your soil. Most vegetables prefer pH level in the 6.5-7.0 range, and the results of your test will tell you what amendments are necessary for your particular situation.
For improved drainage and soil consistency, you will need to incorporate organic matter into your garden. Compost, shredded leaves and manure are all beneficial amendments you can till into the soil. If you have heavy clay, these amendments aid drainage, air flow and root development. In sandy soils the organic matter helps retain water and nutrients.
Autumn and winter are perfect for turning or tilling the soil as long as the ground isn't too wet or too dry. And although there is no shortage of fallen leaves right now, there is a limit as to how much is a good thing. A 2-inch layer of organic matter is usually adequate.
In the quest for healthy soil it is important to remove any dead or diseased plant parts. Many pests and bacterial and fungal pathogens overwinter in the ground. Autumn tilling works to break down root systems that harbor certain diseases and can expose insect pests to the elements disrupting their life cycle.
Having worked your potential garden site and added sufficient organic matter, take care not to leave your bed without a winter blanket of raked-up grass clippings, fall leaves or additional organics. Leaving soil bare exposes it to nutrient loss and soil erosion.
Original Print Headline: Plan now for a spring garden
- Apply winter mulch to protect rose bush bud unions and other perennials. Wait until after several early freezes or you will give insects a good place to winter.
- Keep falling leaves off the top of your fescue to avoid damage to the foliage.
- Prune deciduous trees in the early part of winter. Prune only for structural and safety purposes.
- Leftover garden seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer until next planting season. Discard seeds over 3 years old.
A rose bush is mulched with shredded leaves. Compost, shredded leaves and manure are all beneficial amendments you can till into the soil. BILL SEVIER/Courtesy