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Published: 4/16/2011

The first step to gardening isn’t planting — it’s planning

BY BARBARA NORTHRUP
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Have you been thinking of starting a vegetable garden? With grocery prices continuing to increase and food recalls becoming more frequent, now is a great time to start putting plans together for this growing season.

Consideration needs to be given to the site selection, which vegetables to grow and when to plant them, what type of garden to plant, and most important what type of soil you have.

The first step always should be a soil test to determine what, if any, amendments need to be made to your soil. In order for plants to thrive, the soil should have a pH balance between 6.2 and 6.8.

Completing a soil test is a simple process. In addition to the pH level, testing is done for nutrients, heavy metals, and many other elements essential for optimum growth. The results you receive should include information on what your soil lacks, providing you with fertilizer recommendations to obtain the correct balance. Call your local Ohio State University County Extension office (for Lucas County the number is 419-578-6783) for information on completing the test; results usually are received within 2 to 3 weeks.

In determining where to place your garden, you’ll want to consider the amount of sun the site receives. Watch different parts of your landscape to determine the amount of sunshine the location receives. Full sun is six hours, partial sun is three to six hours, and shade is anything less than three hours. Most fruits and vegetables prefer full sun.

You’ll also want to make sure it will not be a chore to get water to the garden. If you have to use additional hoses to water, or carry watering cans to the garden, it can be difficult to maintain.

Next, how big should your garden be? Size can be determined by deciding which vegetables you want to grow. If it’s a large variety, you should draw your plans out, allowing the plants to thrive without crowding each other out. There are many organizations that will accept excess produce, and now is the time to plan ahead for sharing with others.

If you only want to start with a few varieties, consider square-foot gardening, dividing the garden into 12-foot-by-12-foot segments, and planting compatible varieties in each segment. If your space is limited, some plants will thrive in containers that can add ornamental elements to your deck or balcony.  I love picking fresh lettuce from the window boxes on my deck.

In determining the type of produce you would like to grow, choose varieties your family enjoys, but don’t shy away from trying something new.

Cool season (March through mid April) crops include broccoli, cabbage, collards, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach, and turnips. Peas prefer cool weather and perform poorly as temperatures rise. Plant them one inch deep, and 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 2  feet apart. If the types you choose are a climbing variety, make sure there’s a support structure. Peas should be ready to harvest in June.

Barbara Northrup is an information associate with the OSU Extension Master Gardener program. If you have questions, call the OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Horticultural Hotline at 419-578-6783. Volunteers are on hand Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Questions also may be emailed to: mghotline@osu.edu and answered in a future Plant to Plate column.



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