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Start small if you’re gardening for first time

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

Spring is here, and we have to stay home, so now is a great time to start a garden.  You don’t need a considerable amount of space to have a garden.

The best advice I can give first-time gardeners is to start small.  It’s easy to get carried away at the garden center and buy too many plants or seeds.  Remember, all those little plants will get big and need water throughout the summer.

Container or patio gardening is one of my favorite ways to garden.  Many vegetables can be grown in containers. For example, enough lettuce for a salad can be grown in a 12-inch pot on the back deck. Add a few radishes and carrots,  for spice and sweetness, and you have a good start on a delicious salad. Some easy vegetables to grow and be successful are squash and zucchini or cherry tomatoes.  One cherry/grape tomato plant can produce a tremendous amount of fruit, and they are fun to eat

Success, however, takes more than just a place to grow the vegetables. They need sunlight, water, air, soil, fertilizer, and care.

Most vegetables need at least eight hours of direct sunlight.   Plants that we grow for their fruit, including tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and okra, need a least eight hours and do better with ten hours of sunlight.  Where most gardens fail is with water.  Water makes up 90 percent of a plant’s weight.  You must locate your garden near a water supply so you can water adequately.  Hauling buckets of water across the yard or dragging hoses hundreds of feet every few days makes taking care of your garden a burden.

If you are growing your garden in containers, you will need to water every other day at the beginning of the season and as much as twice a day later on in the summer.  In the ground, vegetables will need one inch of water per week.  Water the soil, not the leaves of the plant.  Many diseases are spread by water splashing on the leaves.  Overwatering can also lead to insect and disease problems as well as washing nutrients away.

Pull weeds as soon as you see them, and remove any dead or dying plants from the garden.  Tall plants like tomatoes will need support with a trellis, stake, or tepee.  Harvest your vegetables when they are fully ripe for the best flavor.

Take notes about your garden throughout the season in a journal.  This is one of the best ways to really grow as a gardener.  Record how individual plants do in your garden and what worked well and what didn’t.  Your journal can be as simple as a spiral notebook, just as long as there is room for planning, drawing, and making notes.

For more information about gardening or other horticultural topics, contact the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970 or http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu.

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