Tell the truth. You've been waiting to start the vegetable garden the way kids wait for Christmas. Well, wait no more. You may start (if you haven't already) planting your cool season veggies. What are those?
Cool Season Vegetables Can Be Planted Now
- Swiss Chard
And more. Click here for a pdf schedule for which vegetables get planted now and which ones need to wait until night temperatures are consistently 55°. If you're minus a printer, we have laminated copies in the annuals department next to the vegetable starts. (Of course.)
There are lots of ways to plant a vegetable garden. No yard? Live in an apartment? Try containers on the balcony. Claim a spot in a community garden. Can't bend over? Can't squat down? Try raising those raised beds to a height where you can stand or sit while weeding. Prefer the old-fashioned way of digging up dirt and laying out rows? And, you have the space? Mark your spot.
Warning: if you're a beginner, go smaller. It's easy to get overwhelmed once the weeds start growing or the pests show up. Smaller allows for trial and error that every gardener has.
Here's what you'll need.
Sunshine. Vegetable plants need 6 hours of sunlight daily, preferably that middle-of-the-day-sun, not morning sun or late afternoon. Measure your sunlight in different areas (this just means keeping track during a day when you're home) to find the right spot. If you've lived in your home 10+ years, assume your landscape has gotten shadier (and perhaps, you haven't noticed).
Good soil. Soil should allow for root development and good drainage. Water cannot pool in the garden (clay) or run straight through (sandy). Add amendments as necessary. Compost, Kickin' Chicken, Manure, (products we carry) all work to build a better soil for your garden. For a quick overview on good garden soil, click here. To learn how to calculate how much soil you need for raised beds, read here. A soil test is pretty essential. You can send off your soil samples by following these simple instructions, or you can purchase kits at the store. You can download a soil sample form here if you want to get a full report from the NCSU Extension Service. Note: You must pick up the soil sample boxes at a local extension office.
Access to water. Last year's drought is still with us. The Drought Management Advisory Council lists Buncombe County, as of March 21 of this year, in a severe drought. Click here to see their home page. We've had a few good rains lately, but we still need more. Consider rain barrels for storing water for dry days, and give the water bill or well a break. Vegetable gardens need an inch of water over the surface area of the garden bed per week. A rain gauge is very helpful to have near-by and they're not expensive. To calculate the amount of water your garden needs click here. Don't forget a good water hose. One can never have too many.
High Quality Seeds or Transplants. It's personal preference whether you plant seeds or transplants. Best way to determine: Read the seed packet for germination to fruit time, and if you're behind on getting seeds in the ground, go for the transplants. We sell organic starts and seeds.
Space. Determine your space needs. Remember the caution of starting small. This is not a go-big-or-go-home situation. Smaller is better when starting, and small gardens do produce a lot of vegetables. A plot 16' x 10' will feed a family of four with extra for give away. If you don't have that much space, scale it back, but if you have more, don't get tempted. Vegetable gardens require weeding, watering, fertilizing--basically, some tender care. Be realistic regarding the time and energy you have. Here's a chart that tells the spacing between vegetables and rows. A helpful tool.
Plant easy to grow veggies. You'll find heirloom plants and unusual vegetables, both good things, when you shop for your veggies, but go for a few of the tried and true. Cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow and come in many varieties. They're a great garden ego booster because you're guaranteed a harvest. That's good for the beginner's soul. The unusual veggie is fun too, and so definitely try some things you've never tasted, but give yourself a good beginning with plants that are going to produce for you. Nothing gets you hooked on growing a vegetable garden better than actually harvesting that garden. Nothing is more discouraging than a having little-to-no harvest. Some easy vegetables to grow? Onions, garlic, radishes, lettuces, and squash. Be sure to ask fellow gardeners what works for them.
Tenacity. This comes in handy because weeding is a chore you need to stay ahead of. Keeping the weeds out of the garden is essential because of competition for sunlight, water and much needed nutrients. If follow-through isn't your thing, give yourself permission to head to the Farmer's Market without the guilt. There are plenty of things to grow that only require admiring.
Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, blog writer, and outside sales staff.
BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.