While many of us are spending extra time at home, now is the perfect time to start planning a vegetable garden.
Whether it be your first time planting a garden or you have been doing it for years, planning what you are going to plant and when will result in a more successful growing season as well allow you to plan ahead for needed seeds, plants, and supplies.
I would like to point out the pretty much anyone can have a vegetable garden. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate. It can be a good sized traditional garden or as small as a few bales of straw (straw bale gardening) or a few potted plants (container gardening), but no matter what kind of garden you are planting there are certain elements that pertain to them all.
If this is your first garden you will need to choose an appropriate site. An optimal site will be well drained and will receive a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day, so avoid those trees! It is also important that the garden be close to a water source so that it can be easily watered as needed.
Secondly, decide on the size of your garden. If this is your first garden don’t go overboard when it comes to garden size. A garden can quickly become overwhelming and a lot of work if it is too large. If it is too big to be properly cared for, a large, weed filled garden will be less productive than a small, well maintained garden. A good size to start out with is 10 x10. If you think you will want to make it larger in the future, just be sure to choose a location where that is an option.
Once the site is chosen (and the ground thaws), it is recommended to take a soil sample. Cornell Cooperative Extension offers free soil pH tests and can also help you submit a sample for a more comprehensive soil analysis which cost $13. For more information about taking and submitting a soil sample you can call or visit your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office. In general, it’s recommended that you test your soil every three to five years. A good time to do this is in late April or early May so you have time to add the necessary soil amendments before it is time to plant.
Now that you have a site in mind (and taking a soil sample is on your “To Do List”), you can start the fun part of deciding what to plant. Plant vegetables that your family loves to eat.
When choosing seed be sure to read the information on the seed packet. Here in Northern NY for example, we have a short growing season of about 120 days. If the seed packet says that it takes longer than that for the vegetable to mature, then the plant needs to be started indoors, purchased as a started plant from a plant supplier or another, shorter day variety needs to be chosen.
Vegetables such as radishes, lettuce, carrots, peas, beans, squash, cucumbers, and corn are great to start from seed directly in the ground while vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and some pumpkins and squash are more successfully grown starting with transplants.
Additionally, transplants of shorter day vegetables are often purchased or started indoors so that vegetable can be harvested earlier in the season than if direct sown.
So get out those seed catalogs or go online and start shopping for seeds! There is nothing better this time of year than to think about getting out in the nice weather and digging in the dirt and you don’t even have to worry about social distancing!
Photo of Adirondack farm produce by Shannon Houlihan.