Producing fresh garden vegetables in a home garden can be a rewarding activity. Being outdoors enjoying the sunshine, doing physical activity and being able to provide fresh and nutritious food for your family and friends are all positives of vegetable gardening.

You would probably think the county agent would have a large vegetable garden, but to be honest I don’t. We are on the road so much with our daughter’s basketball activities, plus with the daily cattle farm chores, there are not enough hours in the day.

My wife does have several raised bed gardens that to my amazement produced a great deal in 2018. She recently put in her transplants so we will be having fresh vegetables of our own.

Today, I wanted to go over important reminders for your vegetable gardening efforts. I will be sharing information from a UGA publication by my good friend Bob Westerfield, a UGA Extension Horticulturist, and also David Linvill, Chatham County Extension agent.

For starters, site selection is very important. I know many of you already have planted, but keep this in mind if you do not have the success in 2019 that you expected. The area needs to be well-draining and also a place where vegetables will receive eight to 10 hours of sunlight a day. Ideally, the garden site will be close to the home where you will have a good water source for irrigation. Try pick a site that does not already have an issue with nutsedge or bermuda.

I know I say this all the time, but you really can really benefit from sending a properly taken soil sample to the UGA Soil Test Lab. First, a routine test is very economical at $9. This includes postage. The results you obtain can give you a fertilization plan for the garden and also give you liming recommendations if the soil pH is not in the preferred range. Think of soil testing as a resource.

Again, I know some of you may have a fertilizing and/or liming plan that you use annually. Yes, there are general recommendations that you can find, but a soil test will give you accurate recommendations for the soil that you are working with on your property. Hard to get more accurate than the information a soil test can provide. We can give you sampling directions and let you check out a soil probe.

Another reminder in vegetable gardening is to make a plan. It is suggested to plan your garden out before ordering seed. If the area is small, try to select those crops that you like best and try to select compact dwarf varieties that will give an adequate supply on a few plants. It is suggested to plan to use the space continuously by planting another in season crop after the last harvest is complete. Westerfield and Linvill suggest to plant your tall growing plants together on the north or west side of the spot so the tall plants do not shade the lower growing vegetable plants.

You should make a map and keep it up-to-date so it can be used for rotation decisions in the garden. Also, plan for space between rows in order for you to walk down the rows for harvesting or other gardening activities. Mulch can be your best friend in a vegetable garden. A mulch material such as straw, leaves, compost or pine straw can be a benefit. Mulch can help by assisting in the conserving of soil moisture, reducing weed problems and limiting the need for cultivation.

You need to apply enough mulch so you will have 2 to 4 inches of material after settling. Newspaper can be applied as mulch by placing two to three layers thick around plants. Then place 3 inches of straw or compost on top of the newspaper. Proper watering is also important for gardening success. You need to water the garden often enough to keep a uniform soil moisture.

If we are in a dry period, a good irrigation effort once a week will normally provide adequate soil moisture in heavy soils. A light and sandy soil would need more frequent irrigation efforts. I say this often, but I will say it again. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation can be better because it will keep the foliage dry thus reducing the chance of disease in the garden. Ideally, you want to keep the foliage dry. If you do use a sprinkler, irrigation in the early morning can be better because the foliage can dry off quicker.

Finally, this only covers a few topics in the area of vegetable gardening. Be on the lookout for damaging insects and disease problems. Remember, some insects could be good guys so you need to identify them.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.