Starting a vegetable garden

Jerry Vitalis

Gardeners are planting and transplanting, and the Chisago County Master Gardeners have been helping prepare gardeners all spring. Our Spring Class Series and the Garden Expo were the most attended ever. We had individual classes and events where we met gardeners and shared information. Then we had our plant distribution in North Branch, where we sent gardeners on their way to plant the items they had ordered.
When gardeners are together they are always sharing what works or went wrong in their own gardens. Among the group are always those who plan on starting a garden for the first time, so I hope some of these tips will help. Plan your garden in a well-drained, sunny area away from trees or shrubs. Even if they won’t shade your garden, the roots will draw the moisture from the plants.
Even if you have started your garden, have your soil tested, so you have a baseline on the nutrients in the soil. One of the things I have done right is have a daily garden log and record everything. I have done this for years, and I am amazed at how often I refer to my logs. Some of us don’t have much choice the type of soil we have, but we do have a choice as to what we do with the soil. I have a heavy clay loam, so its more of a challenge to keep the soil workable and keep it from packing down, especially for small seeds. I need to remember not to work the soil when it’s very wet, or I will be dealing with lumpy and packed soil all summer. Clay loam will hold the moisture quite well, while sandy soil needs watering more often.
Once the soil is prepared there are certain crops that can be planted much earlier than others. Cool season crops like lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and onions can be planted after the soil is prepared.
Some warm-season crops are started indoors and then transplanted outside later. I never transplant tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers outdoors until the last days of May or the first of June, depending on the spring. Even then, have some type of individual cover ready, in case we get a late frost. Cucumbers, pumpkins, and watermelons can be seeded earlier by placing something over the soil a week before planting. This warms the soil and helps those crops germinate more quickly. Keep the cover on until the plants emerge and are growing vigorously.
Warm season crops need a long growing season and usually will not mature if directly planted in the garden. Cool season crops must mature before hot weather to get the best yields. This article is just a start as to what you need to know about vegetable gardening, and remember that no matter how long one gardens, you will never have all the answers.

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