In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
Now is the time to make choices for your vegetable garden.
Think Vegetable Gardening in 2009
You're probably as tired of all the news about the economy being on the downslide as am I, so let's talk about a gardening activity that will lift our spirits and provide us with healthful, organic food. It's a great opportunity to get outdoors, be physically active, and reap bountiful rewards. This year resolve to plant a vegetable garden. It can be in containers, or if you have the space, plant a full-fledged garden to produce enough to can and freeze.
While the weather is cold outside, it's a great time to plan your garden on paper. You don't need a fancy plan; a simple sketch will work and help you in deciding how much to plant. Planning now will help you get your cool-season vegetables in the ground at the proper time, so they mature while the weather is still cool. Warm-season crops can be started indoors, if you have the space, and be ready to plant out when the temperatures warm.
If you have been growing a vegetable garden for several years, plan to rotate crops from one area to another. This age-old technique is a good cultural practice that helps to reduce disease and insect pest invasions -- even if you move a crop just a few feet away from where it was last planted.
Read seed packet descriptions to help you choose which varieties you and your family would like to grow and eat. Review your garden notebook or journal from last year to find out what plants did well or those that did not, or were not consumed and went to waste.
Consider what varieties are best suited for your area. Your State University can provide you with a list of recommended varieties. Check out the newest All-America Selections and give them a try if you have space in your garden plot.
When possible, draw a garden plan to scale, orienting the rows or beds north and south to maximize the amount of sun they can receive, so that the tall crops or those growing on supports will not shade the shorter ones. If you orient rows east to west, locate taller plants to the north to keep them from shading the lower ones.
With limited space, consider growing vining plants such as cucumbers, melons, pole beans, garden peas, and others on supports. You can construct a fence or put up garden netting to support plants that like to climb.
If you live in an area where deer, elk, and other creatures may want to share your bounty, now is the time to plan to fence in the vegetable garden. Your local Division of Wildlife can help you with information on deer fencing and strategies to thwart wildlife. Lower fencing can be placed around the garden to keep out rabbits, dogs, cats, and other smaller critters.
If you intend to use a mechanical rototiller to keep weeds down in the paths, be sure to allow enough room between rows to accommodate your tiller.
If you are new to vegetable gardening, start with a small plan. Preparing a large area and maintaining it can take a lot of time for beginners, so ease into it first. Once you get the feel and enjoy the adventure, expand your garden area and try more varieties.
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