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Now is the time to start planting summer vegetables

Posted: April 11, 2015 - 11:08pm

With our traditional last frost date of March 15, give or take a few weeks, many people around town are ready to start planting summer vegetable gardens. In the past 15 years, we have had two instances where the frost date has exceeded the two week grace period we add.

Those dates were April 8, 2007 at 28 degrees and April 9, 2000 at 30 degrees. Looking at the projected weather for the rest of April we should only see low 50s, so now is the time to start planting.

Home gardens can be an enjoyable way to stay active and provide your family with fresh produce throughout the summer.

However, a productive garden takes a lot of work and proper planning can greatly increase a garden’s success.

Many garden problems are more easily prevented than solved once they occur. As Clyde Lester, retired Richmond County Agriculture Agent, has said many times, “A pen and a piece of paper is the best tool for a vegetable garden”.

Good planning can reduce problems and help make the most of your effort.

It is best to plan out what crops to grow, how much and where and when you will plant before you begin. Also, be sure to record how well the crops produced or if any did poorly.

Location of your garden is important. It is best to find a site with loose, friable soil. This is often a difficult task with our red Georgia clay, but our soils can be amended with the proper materials or you can choose to grow in raised beds.

Select a planting site with at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Vegetable leaves need a tremendous amount of light to grow and produce enough food to set fruit.

Your garden site also needs to be close to a water source. If you are near a hose spigot it won’t take as much effort to properly water your plants.

Gardens that are closer to a house tend to be better cared for and more successful. The closer a garden is to your house, the easier it is for you to water, weed, scout for insects and harvest.

Planting rows should run east to west to maximize available sunlight. Plant the taller vegetables on the north and west sides of the garden to keep them from shading out the other plants. It is also recommended to plant certain vegetables, such as corn, in blocks rather than long rows to improve pollination. Perhaps the most vital component for successful gardening is having good soil.

Amendments like compost and manures can make a tremendous difference in how well your vegetables will grow.

UGA Horticulture specialist Bob Westerfield suggests that you spend your money getting your soil right before you ever spend a dime on seeds or transplants.

Especially on new planting sites, it is important to build up your soil quality before you begin planting. So you know what that means, soil sampling! Have your soil tested periodically at the extension office to determine the nutrient needs of your specific soil.

If you are a new gardener, or a seasoned veteran looking to brush up on the basics, you might want to take a look a few of UGA’s gardening publications. The major one I use is called, Vegetable Gardening in Georgia. This publication contains everything I have discussed in this article but also will provide you with a chart of vegetables, the cultivars and planting dates that we recommend growing here in Georgia.

Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource extension agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or trippj@uga.edu.

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