Time To Plan a Spring Vegetable Garden
Yes, it's cold and dreary outside, however you can start dreaming of warmer spring days by planning your garden this weekend! Herbs and vegetables can be an attractive addition to your outdoor space, and growing your own edibles can help promote healthy living for you and your family. Just think of all that fresh flavor you can pluck with your own hands!
Where to begin?
*Here are some key points to consider to when planning a successful vegetable garden:
1.) Where do you plant?
- Find a spot with full sun because without full sunlight vegetables and herbs won't produce well.
- A healthy garden begins with healthy soil, so plant in loose, fertile soil. Unsure about the quality of your soil? It's important to get your soil tested. A simple soil test sent off to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can let you know what nutrients are missing in your soil.
- Soil can be amended as needed by adding well-composted organic matter/humus/manure, AND fertilizer to encourage healthy roots and growth. Click here for more details regarding healthy soil.
- You can plant directly in the ground after tilling and amending the soil first, of course. However if the ground is too compact to till, or in areas of poor soil drainage, then you should build a raised bed for your vegetable garden.
**Edibles can also be an attractive addition among your annuals, perennials, and containers. So go ahead and eat your landscape this year by sprinkling in some vegetable and herbs!
*Quick tips to building a raised garden bed:
♦Landscape timbers, concrete blocks or treated lumber, as well as other materials can be used to construct your raised beds. There are many how-to resources online.
♦The soil should be at least 6-8 inches, but 10-12 inches is even better.
♦Don't forget to allow for proper drainage.
2.) What to Plant & When?
- Consider the growing season when choosing which crops to plant. See links to Vegetable Planting Guides for our area below.
- Many cool-season transplants should beplanted in January and harvested in spring include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale. It's also time to plant Irish potato tubers and onion sets (small bulbs).
- Cool-season veggies that should be directly seeded in garden soil this time of year for spring harvest include beets, carrots, mustard, radishes, spinach, sugar snap peas, and more.
- Lettuce and bok choy can be planted from transplants OR seed this time of year as well.
•For the best results some crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are often started indoors now (or earlier), and transplanted outside late February and in March. This is because they are not frost-tolerant. The larger these plants are when they are set out in the garden, the more they will produce before day temps are above 90 degrees.
•For all the summer vegetables like beans, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, and sunflowers, you should plant those seeds directly into the ground around March and April, or until the soil is near 60° F in temperature.
*Here are some helpful Vegetable Planting Guides/Calendars for the Montgomery/Harris county areas:
3.) What is the best layout of your garden?
- It can be helpful to draw out your garden layout on paper first. Keep in mind the size of the full grown plant, and their needs to help you decide how many of what to plant. For instance leafy greens like lettuce and kale can benefit from the shade cast by taller plants.
- Since limited space is often a factor, plant according to your appetite, and avoid cramming too many crops in a small area. Once the plants get bigger then they will compete for nutrients and water which would result in a poor harvest if overcrowded.
- There are a lot of great apps nowadays for your smart phone or iPad to help you plan your vegetable garden space.
4.) Tips for VegetableGarden Success:
- Water and check plants regularly. Don't allow things to dry up before you water. A drip irrigation systemis one of the best tools for watering your crops and plants efficiently. Living Expression Landscapes can easily install one for you.
- Crops can be attacked by pests such as aphids or slugs, so if insects do become a problem, then treat right away so they don't spread to every plant.
- Consider mixing in companion flowers to attract beneficial predators such as wasps, birds, and frogs. We'll talk more about planting as natural insecticide in an upcoming blog.
- Mulching will increase yields, conserve moisture, prevent weed growth, regulate soil temperature, and lessen losses caused by ground rot of many vegetable crops.
- Veggies are heavy feeders. Amend your composted soil with some kind of fertilizer, and feed regularly.
- Harvest vegetables when they are ready to avoid deteriorating quality.
- Reduce the likelihood of pests and plant diseases by incorporating crop rotation (moving plants) every year.