Re­solved to start gar­den­ing in 2015? Here’s how you start

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NEWS - By Dean Fos­dick

The ar­rival of a new year is al­ways a good time for fresh starts, and there are few things as en­joy­able to start — or that pro­vide fresher re­turns — than gar­den­ing. But how should a novice be­gin? A help­ful first step is to de­velop a plan. De­cide what you want to grow. Choose the best place for grow­ing it. De­ter­mine how much you can safely har­vest and store. Fi­nally, lay it out.

“Novice gar­den­ers of­ten start too big, and soon re­al­ize they don’t have the time or en­ergy to fully de­velop or main­tain their orig­i­nal gar­den plan,” said Gail Lan­gel­lotto, a hor­ti­cul­tur­ist with Ore­gon State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice.

“Another common mis­take is gar­den­ing with­out first get­ting to know your soil,” Lan­gel­lotto said. “Dif­fer­ent soil types present dif­fer­ent gar­den­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges.”

What that means is get­ting a soil test done if you pre­fer an in-ground gar­den. You also can do your plant­ing in raised beds or con­tain­ers. That way you can in­tro­duce com­mer­cially blended soils, many of which in­clude slow-re­lease fer­til­iz­ers and wa­ter re­ten­tion cap­sules to give seeds or seedlings a quick boost. Want guid­ance? “Many peo­ple search for ad­vice on the In­ter­net,” Lan­gel­lotto said. “But a fan­tas­tic and un­der­used re­source is your lo­cal Ex­ten­sion of­fice. We pro­vide gar­den­ing ad­vice that is re­li­able, fact-based and rel­e­vant to your par­tic­u­lar gar­den­ing sit­u­a­tion.”

Easy-to-grow plants in­clude an­nual flow­ers. But peren­ni­als gen­er­ally take care of them­selves once you get them es­tab­lished in the right lo­ca­tion, Lan­gel­lotto said.

“For vegetables, I have a list of ‘the easy eight’ that be­gin­ning gar­den­ers might want to start with: radishes, peas, leaf let­tuce, car­rots, spinach, bush beans, sum­mer squash and hy­brid toma­toes,” she said. “Most of th­ese crops are very for­giv­ing and easy to grow if you un­der­stand their ba­sic needs.”

Set some first-year goals, said Larry Camp­bell, the Har­ri­son County, West Vir­ginia, agri­cul­ture ex­ten­sion agent.

“Those should in­clude gar­den site de­vel­op­ment through tillage, con­struc­tion of raised or square-foot beds if de­sired, and soil amend­ment for pH and nu­tri­ents,” he said. “Also, de­cid­ing in ad­vance whether you want to grow enough vegetables to sup­ply fresh pro­duce for daily use or for post-sea­son preser­va­tion is nec­es­sary be­fore start­ing the gar­den each year.” Some gen­eral tips from Camp­bell:

Gar­dens should get six to eight hours of sun­light per day.

Soils should be well drained and slightly acid to neu­tral, or in the 6.5 to 7 pH range.

Choose plants suit­able to their re­gion or USDA plant har­di­ness zone.

Keep a record of the weather each gar­den­ing year. That can help you pre­dict pat­terns for the fol­low­ing sea­son. “Also, keep­ing records of the per­for­mance of the var­i­ous va­ri­eties grown each year can aid the gar­dener with plant se­lec­tion,” Camp­bell said.

“I think the best rules of thumb are, have fun, don’t be afraid to ex­per­i­ment in the gar­den and don’t be afraid of fail­ure,” Lan­gel­lotto said. “Re­al­ize that no one is born with a green thumb or a brown thumb. Gar­den­ing can be learned.”

This April 8, 2013, photo shows Wave Petu­nias at Ball Hor­ti­cul­tural Company’s spring tri­als that are fast-spread­ing, easy-to-grow starter plants, in Santa Clara, Calif. An­nu­als, which are an easy way to grow if you’re a be­gin­ning gar­dener, pro­vide in­stant color and quickly fill in the gaps in in-ground flower beds or con­tain­ers.

This May 14, 2014, photo shows a gar­dener pre­par­ing the soil for plant­ing in her des­ig­nated plot at the South Whid­bey Demon­stra­tion and Com­mu­nity Gar­den near Lan­g­ley, Wash. She added fer­til­izer and some other soil amend­ments be­fore putting more cool-sea­son vegetables into the ground.

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