ASHLEY GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
The start of a new year usually inspires people to start fresh or try new things.
If you are looking for a healthy start to 2019, why not try out vegetable gardening. Not only will you be growing your own nutritious vegetables, but you will get plenty of exercise and fresh air at the same time. Now is a great time to start preparing your spring garden; here are some tips to get you started.
Location is going to be the most crucial part of the equation; your garden should be located in an area that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight and has easy access to water.
Fruits and vegetables don’t like to compete for their resources so make sure your area is free of weeds and grass. Whether you are working directly in ground or using a raised bed, it’s a good idea to incorporate some compost to replenish the soil. Well-drained soil is a must for fruit and/or vegetable gardens, which is why raised beds work so well.
If you are planting in ground and want to determine how quickly your soil is draining you can perform a “hole-test” to access drainage (https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/files/2010/10/soilimprovement.pdf).
Watering will be very important to the success of your garden, so if you have the ability to install a drip irrigation system for precise and consistent water application it will be in your favor. If you are going to plant seeds, read the seed packet for information on planting depth and spacing, a general rule of thumb is to plant the seed twice the depth of the seed itself. So for very small seeds that can be very close to the surface.
Additionally, consider the mature size of your plant when planting them in your garden. You need to make sure to leave enough space for good air circulation. Crowded plants are easily stressed and more susceptible to fungal issues. Monitor your plants every couple of days for signs of insects and disease. Often the easiest thing to do is to remove infected leaves and/or plants to prevent the spread. Routine monitoring can prevent most problems before they get out of control. Don’t forget the mulch, once you have your garden all planted be sure to top with a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch. This will help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Most of the crops that can be planted at this time prefer moderate daytime temperatures and cooler nights. We are at the tail end of planting for crops like broccoli, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower. If you have a prepared garden and can get transplants of these in the ground in the next few days, you might still produce something. You can plant the following crops up until about the middle of February: Beets, cilantro, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, radish, Swiss chard and spinach.
The Farmers’ Almanac is still predicting cold weather in late January and mid-February; so these crops you will want to wait until mid to late February to put in the ground; beans, cantaloupe/watermelon, sweet corn, cucumber, eggplant, okra, peas, sweet and hot peppers, winter and summer squash and tomatoes.
Check out our Vegetable Variety Selector to help you find the vegetable varieties best suited for our area: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/veg_variety/. Happy Gardening!
Ashley Gregory is the Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She can be reached at the Hidalgo County Extension Office at (956) 383-1026 or by email at email@example.com.