SUCCESS WITH SPRING VEGETABLE GARDENS Agricultural Life with Mark Currie
There's nothing better than harvesting fresh garden produce right out of a backyard garden. A successful garden harvest depends on many important steps, from the garden site itself to proper care of the plants. Here are a few tips as you get ready for this gardening season.
Site Selection: Shade trees grow larger every year and can slowly shade a once sunny garden spot. Vegetables need sun and lots of it. The more direct sun, the better the yield. Leafy vegetables, like lettuce and cabbage, and root crops such as carrots and turnips, will get by with some shade. But beans, okra, tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers, squash and other fruiting vegetables need at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sun for healthy plants and maximum yield.
Soil Preparation: The best garden soils are rich and highly organic. Unless you have been working a spot for years, constantly adding compost and other organic matter, your soil will need amending. Just prior to planting you can add rotted barnyard manure and finished compost. The soils in east Texas typically are low in some nutrients, particularly nitrogen, potassium, and sometimes calcium and magnesium. Soil tests for phosphorus usually indicate adequate levels of this element, which can be supplied to individual transplants or the seed row by banding, or with a starter solution for transplants. Soil pH is a critical factor often overlooked by many gardeners. Most vegetables grow best with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Some, like beans and beets, just won't do well at all in acid soil below pH 6.5. Poor growth and disappointing yields result from acidic soils. Our east Texas soils can be very acidic, and often require the addition of lime to raise the pH to an acceptable level. How much lime depends on your soil type and the actual pH of your soil.
Soil Test: For the best results, take the guesswork out of the picture and have your soil tested by a reputable soil testing lab. The Polk County Extension office has the information you need to submit a soil sample to a Soil Testing Lab. The report will tell you exactly what and how much, if anything, you need to add. Be sure to take several random samples from you garden spot, thoroughly mixed together, for the test. Two other very important factors in a successful garden are to plant the right varieties at the right time.
Variety Selection: For every type of vegetable there are dozens, even hundreds, of varieties to choose from. Seed catalogs entice with beautiful pictures and descriptions. But, what produces bumper crops in New York, Michigan or even Arkansas may not necessarily do well in East Texas. Find out what varieties are recommended for our specific area. The Polk County Extension office has a list of recommended varieties that should produce well under local conditions. Also, local farmers and long time gardeners are good sources of information for favorite varieties.
Good luck with your gardening. If you produce more than you and your family can use, consider participating in the local Farmers Market and sell fresh produce to the public. If things donít work out for your garden or you donít have the time or desire to garden but enjoy fresh produce, plan to shop at the Farmers Market.Their first sale day is Saturday, May 16 and will continue every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday thereafter from 7:00 a.m. until sold out. Plan to arrive early. I hope to see you there.