Planning crucial to successful vegetable garden

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, March 8, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Having a successful vegetable garden takes careful planning.

The Chilton County Extension Office hosted a class full of tips and best practices for cultivating good vegetables on March 8.

Regional Extension Agent Nelson Wynn said a vegetable garden needs to be in a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight.

The plot should also be close to a water source, easily accessible from the house and have good drainage.

Wynn said a good way to test the drainage of a potential garden spot is to dig a hole 12 inches deep and wide, fill it with water and time how long the water takes to drain.

“If it takes more than an hour for that water to run out of that hole, you have a bad drainage problem,” Wynn said.

Using compost and topsoil can help with some drainage issues, Wynn said.

A soil test is crucial.

Wynn said this test can be done at any time, but having one done in the fall gives ample time to address any issues. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will complete a soil test for $7. Extension Agents will answer any questions gardeners have after receiving the test.

After choosing a good location, a gardener must decide what to plant and how much of it.

“If you are going to grow tomatoes to make sandwiches, and you buy cherry tomatoes to grow, that’s not going to work out very well,” Wynn said. “That’s going to be a lot of slicing to fill that bread.”

Regional Extension Agent Sallie Lee said some vegetables good for beginner gardeners that grow well in Alabama are summer squash, zucchini, okra, eggplant, sweet potatoes and watermelon.

Lee said the growing season is long in Alabama, but the plants need to be able to withstand the high humidity.

“The plants that grow well here … have to be able to withstand our heat, our humidity and some of our temperature extremes,” Lee said.

Wynn said it is important not to start too big of a garden too soon.

“Start slow,” Wynn said. “Start with something you can handle … If you start too big, you are going to hate it.”

Reading the labels on plants is crucial to proper care. Wynn said it is also important to read the labels on fertilizer to make sure it matches the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus (P205) and potassium (K20) that the soil needs to grow the desired vegetable plants.

Lime is sometimes needed in the soil. Lee said the lime decreases the acidity of soil.

Seeds need to be planted about three seed lengths under the soil with adequate space in between.

Wynn said removing plants that are too close together once the plants have sprouted is recommended for healthy plants. Rows of plants should be three feet apart from the next row.

Drip watering is the best option. Wynn said this ensures the roots receive enough water without increasing the chances of fungus growing on wet leaves.