Spring is just around the corner, and gardeners are already hard at work getting their flower beds and vegetable plots ready for planting. If you are new to home gardening, or considering growing your own fresh produce for the first time, you need to get started now!
But before you start digging holes and buying seeds, ask yourself a few questions. The most important question – who will do the work? While edible gardening is fun, it does require work, daily maintenance, and dedicated time during the harvest. If you can get the whole family committed, you will benefit, not only in shared time together, but in sharing the workload. Get your children involved and they will more likely eat what they grow! And gardening provides a fun way to exercise and get outside in nature.
How big do you want your garden?
Your best bet, when starting out, is to dedicate yourself to a small garden – perhaps one or two raised beds. Don’t plant more garden than you can adequately tend, or you will be overwhelmed. What does your family like to eat? Don’t grow okra if nobody likes it! Of course, experimenting with vegetables may be a way to get your picky eaters to try new things. Determine ahead of time how you plan to use your harvest. Even with a small garden, you will probably grow more than you can eat, so decide if you want to preserve your produce through canning or freezing or want to share them with neighbors and friends.
For practical advice on growing a simple edible garden, I talked to local organic gardeners, Larry Dove, of Two Doves Farm, and Mike Cunningham, of Country Gardens Farm. Both are enthusiastic about home gardening and urge readers to try it out this year!
Advice from Larry Dove
You need full sun to grow vegetables. Don’t even try without full sun!
- Good soil is critical for healthy vegetables, so build a raised bed and fill it with a quality soil and compost mix.
- Pick up the book All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew – a great reference that explains how to build a simple raised bed, what soil amendments to add to the bed, what to plant in the square grid, and how dense to plant.
- Stop by the Fayette County Extension Office for a planting calendar that describes when and how to plant vegetables.
- Planting in containers is a great way to start! You can grow tomatoes, herbs, potatoes – almost any vegetable – in a container on your deck.
- Water is critical to the health of your plants. If you are going to be away, set up a simple timer and irrigation system to keep your plants moist while you are gone.
- Inspect your plants daily for insect or disease damage.
- If you don’t have enough sun in your yard or don’t want to build your own raised beds, join the Peachtree City Community Garden, a 147 plot garden on Kelly Drive! The raised beds are already built and filled with quality soil amendments! And, you will find a community of gardeners to help you and give you advice.
For more information about the Peachtree City Community Garden, “like” them on Facebook.
Advice from Mike Cunningham
You can start vegetable plants from seed. Get your seeds now online from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Here are a few suggested varieties.
- In mid-March, plant seeds of radish (D’Avignon) spinach (Space), lettuce (Salanova) and mixed salad greens (Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix).
- In mid-April, after the threat of frost is past, plant bush-type green beans (Provider), cucumbers (Little Leaf) and pattypan squash (Sunburst). Buy seedlings (small plants) of cherry tomatoes, (Matts Wild and Sungold) and tomato heirlooms, (Cherokee Purple), to plant after the danger of frost is over. If you like peppers, consider buying seedlings of sweet pepper, (Carmen), and hot pepper, (Early Jalapeno). You can buy vegetable seedlings at Country Gardens Farm in Newnan.
For more information on vegetable gardening, pick up a copy of Mike Cunningham’s new book, Seven Steps To An Organic Vegetable Garden at the farm stand at Country Gardens Farm on Hwy 154 in Newnan or order a copy on Amazon. Check out Mike’s vegetable gardening classes at: countrygardensfarm.com. Lester Bray, local Fayetteville gardener, has a free downloadable book called, Plasticulture Farming for Everybody.