By Susan Albert
If you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden this year, here are a few things to consider:
First, decide which veggies to plant: What does your family like? Can you grow the crops successfully in your region? Are seeds or transplants recommended for your desired crops?
Your state’s extension fact sheets list the best disease-resistant varieties for your area, and the proper growing needs. Oklahoma gardeners can visit the Oklahoma State University extension site and download vegetable growing guides. Gardeners in Texas should check out the Texas A&M extension site.
Planting time depends on whether you choose cool- or warm-season vegetables. Generally, cool-season varieties prefer average daytime temperatures below 70°F. Warm-season varieties favor average daily temperatures between 70°F and 90°F.
Here are some tips for preparing the garden:
- After determining the size, site the bed in a sunny area receiving at least six hours of sun per day.
- Using a spade or rototiller, till the soil about 8 to 10 inches deep.
- Add compost and peat moss to break up heavy soils. (All soils benefit from the addition of organic matter such as compost and composted manure.)
Raised beds are ideal for vegetable gardens, especially if the ground is clayey or sandy. You can construct beds of timber, stones, or bricks. Adding hoops along the bed to fasten plastic sheeting can extend your growing season in the fall and early spring, as shown in this Tulsa Extension Center raised bed.
Fill the bed with a mix of 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse sand or perlite. After planting, apply mulch to prevent weeds, conserve moisture, and maintain temperature. Add fertilizer at recommended intervals.
Large containers are another option if the vegetables you choose don’t require a lot of room. You can easily grow in small spaces cool-season vegetables such as carrots, radishes and leaf lettuce, plus warm-season peppers and green beans.
Rather than create a separate bed, interplant vegetables among the ornamentals if the cultural needs are similar, i.e., amount of sun, water, and fertilizer.
Growing vegetables can be an enjoyable way to provide a variety of healthy, low-cost foods. It does, however, require preparation and maintenance.