If you have decided to start a new vegetable garden this spring, here are some pointers for you. One does not have this opportunity very many times, so it is worth giving some serious thought before you begin.
I made some mistakes when I started mine on the site of a small lawn a number of years ago, rushing into things as I always do, without thinking forward. One hopes a garden will be there for a long time, so it is worth the time and effort to plan well ahead.
The first decision is site selection.
You need at least six hours of sun a day for most vegetables, and do be sure you have a water source close at hand. Sometimes you have no choice on location, and have to make the best of things. In that case, do a little research and find some crops that will do well with less sunshine and are not too demanding about constant moisture.
Next, consider the soil.
Unfortunately, we do not have a local source for soil testing, but if you call the Seneca County Extension Office, they will give you the address of a lab that provides this service for a small fee. The kits you can purchase for home testing at a garden center are not reliable, although you will get a rough idea of the suitability of your soil for good crops.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next is the fun part - planning which vegetables to grow and choosing from a bewildering array of varieties, whether you decide to start your own seeds or to let someone else get your vegetables through their babyhood and go with transplants.
Consider what your family likes to eat, and which vegetables are most expensive in the produce aisle.
Some crops need to be seeded directly into the garden, and this group includes corn, peas and beans, as well as root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, spinach and lettuce.
Those that go in as transplants include the must-have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage and other leafy crops.
If you want to grow perennials such as raspberries or other berries, rhubarb and asparagus, give extra thought to siting them. I made mistakes there that cannot be corrected easily.
If limited space is a consideration, you probably should avoid vining plants such as squash, melons, cucumber and sweet potatoes. It is possible to train these creepers up a trellis or a tepee, or simply attach netting to a wall, but it takes constant care to control them.
If you are anything like me, you will be in a great hurry to get started.
Having to go out in the evening with pots and old sheets to cover things up because of a threat of frost is no fun, but it may be worth the trouble when you can boast of the first tomatoes in the neighborhood.
Peas, spinach and potatoes are the earliest to plant, and they can go in now. A little cold will not hurt them.
For other varieties, May 15 is the average date to expect frost-free nights consistently. But who can wait that long? Certainly not me.
If you do not have space for a conventional garden, consider a window box or containers. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and lettuce will do very well with consistent watering and half-strength fertilizer. Add a few herbs such as parsley and thyme, and you are ready to go.