Starting a vegetable garden

Start small with your first garden. Carefully consider what to plant and how to best care for your garden.

If you have never had a vegetable garden or your experience vegetable gardening was a long time ago, you may be unsure about how to start and which vegetables to try. Here are a few ideas that may help your garden flourish:

Vegetable gardens need at least six hours of sun. The more sun the garden gets, the more vegetable choices you have and the faster the vegetables will grow. If you are near or below six hours of sun, concentrate on leafy greens (lettuce, kale, chard, etc.), beets, and carrots.

If possible, create your garden where it is easily visible from the house. After planting, there are lots of things that can be done in short blocks of time like weeding out plant competitors and thinning out your crop to give each plant the space to thrive. You are more likely to do it if it is nearby.

Start small with your first garden

A 10-foot-by-10-foot garden can grow quite a bit. You could easily have a couple of tomato plants (one cherry type and one regular type), some peppers, rows for greens like lettuce, chard and/or kale, a pole bean trellis on the north side of the garden, maybe beets and/or carrots, and a zucchini. It probably is too small for sweet corn but that can come next year if the garden gets bigger.

If your prospective garden is now grass, you can either turn it all under with a shovel or first remove the grass and then dig up the soil underneath. It is generally better to remove the sod which you can pile into the odd corner and cover with black plastic. It will compost over the summer and can be added back to the garden next year. But either technique will work. If the ground seems to wet to dig, it probably is. Wait until lit dries out a bit.

Add agricultural lime at the rate 15 pounds or so per 100 square feet. Add fertilizer to provide nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium at the rate recommended on the bag. If there isn’t a rate, go to a web link on the OSU Extension/Columbia County website for more complete instructions. Nitrogen is the key element that determines the application rate. The product can be organic or conventional.

Planting

Get your peppers and tomatoes already started. Beans can be started from seed (get the trellis ready if growing pole green beans) as can kale, lettuce, chard, and beet. Plant carrots and beets by making a shallow furrow in your soil, plant the carrots, and then cover the seed with a thin topping of potting mix. They will germinate much better. Same with beets.

Carrots will need to be thinned once they are growing to about 1 plant for every three inches of row. Same for beets. Kale will need wider row spacing as will lettuce and chard (6+ inches between plants). Lettuce can be purchased as transplants. It is usually best to transplant in the evening so plants have a chance to get established overnight before sun the next morning. Carrots can be planted in blocks with “mini” rows 4 inches apart and leaving, after thinning, one carrot per 3 inches within the rows.

Care of the garden

Water and weed as needed. If deer are wandering through your yard, they like to eat almost everything you like. So find a way to fence them out with a gate that you can open and close as needed. They generally won’t jump into a fenced area as small as 10 x 10 but no promises.

For more information, go on-line to get Growing Your Own, an Oregon State University publication: catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9027/html.

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