With all the snow so far this year, some of us have caught ourselves daydreaming of summertime. Those seed catalogs and newly stocked garden store shelves give hope.
As pretty as a white snow blanket is, I think I prefer green grass and tree leaves. If you have some extra downtime right now, seize a moment to take the first step in home gardening — planning. This will give you an idea of what types and quantities of seeds and/or plants you’ll need for spring. Planning helps assure that your home garden will satisfy your needs.
If you are choosing a garden site for the first time, consider these things:
Is the site level with rich soil? Consider getting a soil test to see where the pH stands and if any nutrients are lacking. Adding fertilizer or lime when it isn’t needed is a waste of time and money.
Will the site receive at least six hours of sun per day? Vegetables grow best in an open area.
How is the drainage for the site after rain? A good site will not have standing water after most rain showers.
What plants are nearby? Vegetables planted too close to shrubs and trees have to compete for light, nutrients and water. Also, do not plant near walnut trees because they produce a substance that can be toxic to some plants.
Whether you are a novice or expert, making a rough blueprint of the garden site is always a good idea. This way you can plan out the distance between rows and what you will plant. Vegetables should be grouped according to height and season. Plant tall crops in the north end. Cool season vegetables such as radishes, lettuce, and onions can be planted as soil begins to warm up. You’ll know when the soil is ready because 1.) you’ll be able to grab it and it won’t be frozen and 2.) when you squeeze a handful of soil and it crumbles, that mean it won’t turn into clods as you till.
Warm season crops such as green beans, peppers and tomatoes should be planted only after the danger of frost has passed. The National Climatic Data Center has information on average frost dates. For our area, it is usually mid to late April.
By making a plan, you’ll be ready to go when warmer weather arrives. A fresh garden tomato isn’t that far away. Keep dreaming about the garden your family will be harvesting and plan it out on paper or on the computer.
Sarah Hanson is the agricultural natural resources extension educator through the Johnson County Purdue Extension. She has a master’s degree in animals and public policy from Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Purdue University. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.