Vegetable gardening can be a fun, rewarding and an important hobby for many people. I am sure we have local gardeners that are planning for the next gardening season now.

Vegetable gardening can be a great way to get you out in the sunshine and active. It can be rewarding to be able to provide fresh and nutritious produce to your family and friends also. There are important steps to follow in your gardening efforts to help increase your chances of vegetable gardening success.

Today, I will be sharing vegetable gardening tips with help from a UGA publication on the topic by Bob Westerfield, UGA Extension horticulturist, and David Linville, UGA county agent. I will add that on March 12, Westerfield will be with us in Gordon County for a home vegetable gardening workshop. More details on this event will come out soon along with a workshop flyer.

The first consideration is on site selection. Many folks will overlook this important point. No matter the size of the garden, you need to pick a spot that will receive at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day. At our home, my wife has a couple of raised beds. They amazingly will produce a good amount of tomatoes and peppers. This spot does get some shade but for the most part does fit the daily sunlight requirement.

Ideally, the garden spot should be near the home and a water supply. A clean water source is important, so having the garden close to your home is great. I have seen gardeners plant a garden with no water supply options. This can be a big problem in times of drought, plus it is very difficult to haul in the amount of water needed. Make sure the spot will drain excess water well and the soil is a good texture. Try to avoid spots that have a history of tough-to-control weeds such as nutsedge and bermuda. I know bermuda can be a popular lawn grass. I have bermuda in my home lawn. It just can be a problem in a vegetable garden area.

It is suggested to make plans on paper before ordering seed. If the area is small, for example, choose crops or items that you prefer best and even consider using dwarf compact varieties that will give you adequate production on a few plants. You may also want to plan on planting another in-season crop after the last harvest is done in the first planting to take more advantage of your space. Another tip is to plant tall growing plants together on the north or west side of the garden to keep them from shading out lower growing plants. You should also make a map and keep the map current to help in crop rotation decisions. You should also plan for space between rows to help with harvest and at times you need to maintain the beds.

As we move closer to spring, I will give numerous articles on specific garden items in more detail. In general, I will state to select only recommended varieties for our area for your main planting. There will always be new varieties on the market. It is your choice if you want to try some of them, but it is suggested to only try on a small scale to see their success in your garden.

I will add that you need to only buy good quality seed from a reputable company. It is suggested to not save your own seed unless the seed is from a unique and unavailable variety. Westerfield and Linville add that if you are buying plants, to buy fresh, stocky plants that are free of disease and insects.

I will add that mulch can be a big bonus in your gardening efforts. Our information states that mulch items such as straw, leaves, compost or even pine straw can aid in conserving soil moisture, help control weeds and reduce cultivation efforts. You need to add enough mulch material to have 2 to 4 inches after the material settles. You can even apply newspaper two to three layers thick around plants. Then apply 3 inches of straw or compost on top of the paper.

Do not overlook the importance of water. You need to maintain a uniform soil moisture supply. There will be drought times where you will need to add supplemental water. Ideally, you should use soaker hoses and irrigation tape. Soaker hoses and irrigation tape should help keep plant foliage dry and reduce the chance of disease. In times that we are not receiving rainfall, a good irrigation event once a week should be adequate for heavier soils. A light or sandy soil area may need more frequent watering events.

Over the course of the next few months, I will be sharing many columns centered on vegetable gardening. Also, be in the lookout for information on our March 12 workshop.

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

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