Greg Bow­man dis­cusses the best ways to grow veg­eta­bles or­gan­i­cally.

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - Greg Bow­man

Many veg­etable gar­den­ers in the area want to grow their pro­duce or­gan­i­cally. Oth­ers want to use or­ganic prin­ci­pals, but are will­ing to use fungi­cides or in­sec­ti­cides if there is a prob­lem they can­not man­age in the gar­den. To­day, I would like to go over some or­ganic gar­den­ing ba­sics that can help over­all veg­etable gar­den­ing suc­cess. I will be shar­ing in­for­ma­tion from a UGA pub­li­ca­tion on the topic by UGA staff, Ge­orge Boy­han, Robert Wester­field and Suzanne Stone.

Proper site se­lec­tion is go­ing to be an im­por­tant key in or­ganic veg­etable gar­den­ing suc­cess. Pick a full sun ex­po­sure area if pos­si­ble. The area in the least needs to pro­vide 6- 8 hours of sun­light daily. Many times, putting the gar­den in an open field or where the gar­den will get more south­ern ex­po­sure will work. The spot needs to be well- drain­ing. If drainage is a prob­lem, you are go­ing to need to do some area prepa­ra­tion to im­prove the spot. This could be from dig­ging ditches, in­stalling tile drains or de­cid­ing to grow the veg­eta­bles on raised beds.

Try to keep the gar­den site away from trees and shrubs that can com­pete with the grow­ing veg­eta­bles for water and nu­tri­ents. Stay away from spots with too much slope than can lead to runoff and even soil ero­sion. It is sug­gested to stay away from ar­eas that have more than 18 inches of el­e­va­tion change in 100 feet. Many sites are se­lected close to a home so you have a clean water sup­ply for ir­ri­ga­tion. In or­ganic gar­den­ing, stay away from ar­eas that have weed prob­lems al­ready such as kudzu, nutsedge or even ber­muda grass. These items can make it tougher to grow veg­eta­bles or­gan­i­cally.

How you ir­ri­gate is im­por­tant in gar­den­ing. The most com­mon types of ir­ri­ga­tion are over­head and trickle ir­ri­ga­tion. Trickle ir­ri­ga­tion is go­ing to be the most ef­fi­cient in water use. The key here is water is ap­plied di­rectly to plant roots with ei­ther soaker hoses, drip tape or emit­ters. I will ad­mit that the cost of in­stal­la­tion and main­te­nance can be more, but again this ir­ri­ga­tion is more ef­fi­cient. You will have to mon­i­tor to make sure the trickle ir­ri­ga­tion is wet­ting the ground prop­erly and may need ad­just­ments dur­ing times such as plant es­tab­lish­ment. Over­head sprin­klers can be easy to use, but this type of ir­ri­ga­tion can lead to un­even water ap­pli­ca­tion to the ground and again is less ef­fi­cient. I will add that over­head ir­ri­ga­tion will wet the plant fo­liage. This type of ir­ri­ga­tion at the wrong time of day can ex­tend the amount of time the fo­liage is wet thus could aid in dis­ease es­tab­lish­ment. In the­ory, you want to keep plant fo­liage as dry as pos­si­ble.

I could prob­a­bly write an en­tire ar­ti­cle on soil prepa­ra­tion. I would tell any or­ganic veg­etable gar­dener to spend time do­ing your soil prepa­ra­tion re­search. It is stated that suc­cess­ful or­ganic gar­den­ing is to feed the soil with or­ganic mat­ter, which feeds the plant, rather than to feed the plant with in­or­ganic fer­til­izer like we do in con­ven­tional veg­etable pro­duc­tion. Many soils in Ge­or­gia have less than 1 per­cent or­ganic mat­ter, but your soils can be im­proved over time. You may also need to do some weed man­age­ment in the soil prepa­ra­tion time. Turn­ing the soil may help with some grasses and weeds.

You also may use soil so­lar­iza­tion in con­trol­ling some weeds. I will add that since im­prov­ing the or­ganic mat­ter in your spot is im­por­tant, you may want to con­sider com­post­ing. Well pre­pared com­post is a great way to add or­ganic mat­ter into your gar­den. Most all peo­ple can make their own com­post. Mak­ing your own com­post ma­te­rial is a great way to re­duce some items that make their way to the land­fill. You should take time to re­search ma­te­rial that makes good com­post along with proper mix­ture of brown to green ma­te­ri­als for the com­post pile. You also need to learn on proper par­ti­cle size and how to speed up de­com­po­si­tion in the com­post pile.

I will add that crop and va­ri­ety se­lec­tion is im­por­tant in or­ganic gar­den­ing. Trial and er­ror at times is a key in de­cid­ing what veg­eta­bles work best in your area. Keep notes or records on the veg­eta­bles planted and use that in­for­ma­tion for plan­ning fu­ture gar­dens. Re­mem­ber that one year’s worth of notes may not be enough in mak­ing a de­ci­sion on a par­tic­u­lar veg­etable. It is stated that cli­mate, dis­ease and in­sect prob­lems should all be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when choos­ing a veg­etable crop. I would sug­gest that choos­ing veg­etable va­ri­eties with known lev­els of dis­ease and in­sect re­sis­tance can be help­ful if you grow or­gan­i­cally, too.

Fi­nally, the topic shared to­day is just scratch­ing the sur­face in re­gards to grow­ing veg­eta­bles or­gan­i­cally. Do­ing your home­work and cov­er­ing the bases is im­por­tant to suc­cess­ful or­ganic veg­etable gar­den­ing.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact UGA Ex­ten­sionGor­don County at 706- 629- 8685 or email gbow­man@uga.edu.

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