With many people having extra time at home this year gardens are becoming very popular. There are many important factors in having a successful home garden. Here are some tips and advice on how to keep your plants happy and healthy.
Your garden’s site location is very important. The three major things your garden will need is sunlight, water, and good soil. Make sure all of these are available in the spot you have chosen. Near your house may be a good spot so you can keep an eye on it easily and have water access. The soil type is less important than soil fertility, drainage, ease of tilling, good moisture-holding capacity, and deep topsoil. If you know, the area is bad to hold water during wetter periods it may be wise to avoid that spot since drainage may be an issue. Poor drainage can increase risk of root diseases and drowning of plants.
Avoiding areas with major weed issues is recommended. Weeds compete against vegetables for moisture and nutrients. Home gardens are very limited on types of herbicides. Using herbicides in the home garden is difficult and not generally recommended since no single herbicide can be used for all crops and the amount used is critical. Controlling weeds by cultivating soil, and mulching are the best methods for home gardens. Most herbicides, and must be controlled by cultivating, mulching or using herbicides. Using herbicides in the home garden is difficult and not generally recommended since no single herbicide can be used for all crops and the amount used is critical. Too much may injure or kill the desired crop while too little won’t kill anything.
Prepare the soil early. If you did not plow or spade the garden soil in the fall, turn the ground in the spring as soon as it is dry enough to work. To see if the soil is dry enough, mold a handful of soil into a ball. If the ball is not sticky but crumbles readily when pressed with the thumb, the soil is in good condition to be worked.
Soil testing is an important practice for the home gardener. Soil test will tell you the fertility and what is lacking as well as the pH of the soil which is the basis for liming recommendations. It is best to test the soil in the winter months so you can have the soil ph adjusted by planting time in the spring.
How much water your garden needs will vary depending on soil type, stage of growth of the plants, amount of rainfall and temperature, but most vegetable gardens require about 1 to 1½ inches of moisture per week during the growing season. Water often enough to keep the moisture level fairly uniform. On medium and heavy soils (darker soils with more clay), an application of about 1 inch per week should be adequate in the absence of sufficient rain. On light sandy soils, two or three ½-inch applications per week may be needed. Water appropriately can also help with diseases. For example, avoid watering late in the day because wet foliage contributes to disease problems.
Some insects you are likely to encounter include aphids (plant lice), cutworms, tomato fruit worms, pickleworms, wireworms, spider mites, Mexican bean beetles, leafhoppers, corn earworms and the Colorado potato beetle. In the home garden, regular inspection and good horticultural practices may cut down on the need for chemical controls of these pests. Check the entire plant, including the underside of the leaves, for evidence of pests. Contact your county Extension agent if you suspect an outbreak and for specific and up-to-date information about garden insect control.
Planting dates for a spring garden, there are later planting dates if you wish to have a fall garden as well. You can find them by searching the UGA Extension website. Below are some of the spring planting dates for common vegetables in home gardens.
Cucumber – April 1- May 15th
Corn – March 15th – June 1st
Lima Beans – March 15th – June 1st
Pole Beans – March 15th – May 10th
Okra – April 1st – June 1st
Peppers – April 1st – June 1st
Squash – April 1st – May 15th
Tomatoes – March 25th – May 1st
Below is a link to an in depth planting date guide for Georgia
Vegetables will ripen and need be harvested at different times through the growing season. Some plants like tomatoes and squash will continue to bare fruit for an extended period of time if harvested and maintained properly. When the gardens begins baring fruit and ripening it is best to harvest every day, or every other day, only the vegetables that are ready. This can help spread out the bounty of the garden over a longer period. Letting the fruit get too big before harvesting can be as bad as harvesting too early. I like to harvest squash when they are between 3 & 6 inches long. The larger they are the tougher they become. Not harvesting the fruit will also cause the plant to stop baring new fruit. Tomatoes can be harvest as green unripe fruit or wait until they are nice and red. Your taste will determine when you pick them. Sweet Corn needs to be harvest in the milk stage so it is nice and tender to eat. When the silks turn brown and the kernels are still soft is when it is best to pick. You will need to inspect the garden on regular basis to keep up with how the vegetables are progressing. This will give you a good idea on when to harvest.