In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
January, 2008
Regional Report

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With a little site planning you can have a beautiful vegetable garden this spring.

Find the Right Garden Site for Vegetables

There is nothing quite like thinking and planning for the growing season to keep us afloat when the weather is cold and forbidding outdoors. Working your way through luscious garden catalogs will raise your spirits and set you on your way to a bountiful harvest, if only in your imagination.

As you choose your seeds, it also might be a good time to look at your growing spot. Is it a new garden? Did you have good luck planting there last year? As you ask yourself these questions, keep in mind that your site needn't have huge spreading beds. You can grow vegetables in small spaces, and there are also many varieties that grow beautifully in containers. Don't discount the possibility of a garden if you live in an apartment or condominium.

Sunlight
Evaluate the sunlight in your garden spot. This is critical. Even though there are many vegetables that can be grown in partial shade -- such as lettuces, radishes, and green onions -- 7 to 8 hours of sun will provide you with more and larger vegetables. So find a spot with good sun.

Soil Drainage
The next consideration is the soil. If you are growing in the ground, you will need soil that drains well. If your existing soil doesn't drain, you might consider raising your planting areas. Raised beds warm up faster in spring and drain much more quickly than in-ground beds. They do, however, also dry out more quickly. The same goes for containers. Also remember that plants grown in containers cannot reach their roots beyond the pot to find water and nutrients. You must supply everything.

Organic Matter
If your soil is of marginal quality, you can improve it by adding organic matter. Digging in compost, composted leaves, or aged manure will help loosen compacted soil, add fertility, and make the soil drain better. Research shows that plants grown with compost are more disease resistant than when grown without. What better reason could there be for composting?

Accessibility
Make sure your planting site is easily accessible. If you can't get to it without getting covered in mud or hiking to the back forty, you won't spend much time there. Being able to step out the back door and pluck tender, tiny beans for dinner is much more conducive to getting fresh produce on the table than having to bring out the wagon to haul the 40-pound zucchini that you overlooked because it was too hot to walk half a mile to the garden.


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