With a warmer-than-normal winter being enjoyed from December to January, it could give one rise to think about getting a head start on vegetable gardening for 2008. Oddly enough you don't really need a muggy January to start thinking about your veggie garden at this time of the year. That's because you should actually start thinking about making the raised beds in January. If you can make a perfectly raised bed, and let it rest for up to 30 days (sort of mellow out, if you will), then starting in February we can start cheating Mother Nature in some instances and get certain vegetable started. I'll let you click the link and find out the suggested planting dates for the vegetables you would like to try this year.
So, as you may have been able to deduce from the previous information, the ability to make raised beds for vegetable gardens is the real key to success. For years, on the GardenLine radio program, I've tried to make as simple as this - Make a raised bed of good garden soil (Equal thirds of Soil/Sand/Humus) as the basis for at least 6-8 inches, with 10-12 inches being even better. Then amend that soil with well-composted organic matter/humus/manure, at a rate of about one inch (tilled in later) to every 4-6 inches of good soil. For more detail here's some information pulled from a Texas A&M website on vegetable gardening in Texas. But before you read on at this tip sheet, here's two more great links you can access all about Vegetable Gardening in Texas from A&M and the Cooperative Extension Service. (These are in .pdf format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to be installed on your computer to view them)
Click Here And Here
SOIL PREPARATION -
Many garden sites do not have deep, well-drained, fertile soil which is ideal for vegetable growing. Thus, soils must be altered to provide good drainage and aeration. If the soil is a heavy clay, the addition of organic matter or sand may be highly advantageous.
Apply 1 to 2 inches of good sand and 2 to 3 inches of organic matter to the garden site surface and turn under in late winter or early spring to improve the soil's physical quality. Work on the soil's physical condition over a period of time rather than trying to develop desirable soil in a season or two. Make periodic additions of organic matter in the form of composted materials, peanut hulls, rice hulls, grass clippings, or other organic matter. Turn the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches -- the deeper the better. Gypsum improves soil structure and drainage. Add gypsum at the rate of 6 to 8 pounds per 100 square feet where the soil is a tight, heavy clay.
When adding organic matter or sand to the garden site, take care to avoid introducing soil pests such as nematodes. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service provides a laboratory service to determine whether nematodes are present in soils. Contact your county Extension agent for additional information.
Never work wet garden soil. Soils containing a high degree of organic matter can be worked at a higher moisture content than heavy clay soils. To determine if the soil is suitable for working, squeeze together a small handful of soil. If it sticks together in a ball and does not readily crumble under slight pressure by the thumb and finger, it is too wet for working.
Seeds germinate more readily in well-prepared soil than in coarse, lumpy soil. Thorough preparation greatly reduces the work of planting and caring for the crop. It is possible, however, to overdo preparation of some soils. An ideal soil for planting is granular, not powdery fine.
Proper fertilization is another important key to successful vegetable gardening. The amount of fertilizer needed depends upon soil type and crops. Texas soils vary from deep blow sands to fertile, well-drained soils to heavy, dark clays underlaid by layers of caliche rock. Crops grown on sandy soils usually respond to liberal amounts of potassium, whereas crops grown on clay soils do not.
Heavy clay soils can be fertilized considerably heavier at planting than can sandy soils. Heavy clay soils and those high in organic matter can safely absorb and store fertilizer at three to four times the rate of sandy soils. Poor thin, sandy soils, which need fertilizer the most, unfortunately cannot be fed as heavily and still maintain plant safety. The solution is to feed poor thin soils more often in lighter doses. For accurate recommendations regarding fertilizer rates, contact your county Extension agent and request a soil test kit.
In general, if your garden is located on deep, sandy soil, apply a complete preplant fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 at the rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet. If your garden consists of a soil type with a high percentage of clay, a fertilizer such as 10-20-10 or 12-24-12 at 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet should be suitable.
After determining the proper amount of fertilizer for a preplant application, apply the fertilizer a few days before planting. Spade the garden plot, spread the fertilizer by hand or with a fertilizer distributor and then work the soil one or two times to properly mix the fertilizer with the soil. After the fertilizer is well mixed with the soil, bed the garden in preparation for planting. On alkaline soils, apply 1-20-0 (superphosphate) directly beneath the intended seed row or plant row before planting. Apply the superphosphate 2 to 4 inches beneath the seed or roots of the plant at the rate of 1 to 1-2 pounds per 100 linear feet of row. Take care to avoid banding nitrogen material directly beneath the row. Death of the seed or severe burning of the plants could result. Apply additional nitrogen as a furrow or sidedress application later in the season. For most soils, 2 to : pound of 21-0-0 (ammonium sulfate) per 100 linear feet of row, applied in the furrow and watered in, is adequate. Apply at first fruit set for crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Sidedress leafy crops such as cabbage and lettuce when they develop several sets of character leaves.
Top Ten Quick Reference Tips for Growing Good Tomatoes (Vegetables)
1.'Tis Better to Plant a Twenty-Five Cent Plant in a Five Dollar Hole, Rather than a Five Dollar Plant in a Twenty-Five Cent Hole - emphasizing the importance of building the proper beds.
2. Compost, Humus or Organic Matter - You say Toe-May-Toe, I say Toe-Mah-Toe… whatever you call it, it's a wonderful thing-Use it!
3. Ensure Good Drainage - with our Feast or Famine rainfall, you'll eventually see why this is so important, or you'll drown your first attempt after a gully-washer.
4. Let the Sunshine In - Pick a spot that can provide up to 6 hrs. of sunshine.. filtered light won't cut it.
5. Pick Proven Varieties - Make sure it's approved for your growing region. In fact, check with your County Extension Agent for proven varieties.
6. Cheat Mother Nature -- Because of our heat, if you can start 'em early more power to you, especially if your willing to protect them on late-freeze nights.
7. Control Your Appetite - That means don't over-plant; Control that desire.
8. Feed Me Seymore!!! - Veggies are heavy feeders (Just ask the Audrey II) the compost is a good start and a nice addition throughout, but amend that feeding with some kind of fertilizer, beit granular, liquid-organic or water-soluble.
9. Keep Your Shadow in the Garden - That means get out there on a consistent basis, looking for insects, weeds and diseases. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - as the old saying goes.
10. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency - Consistent watering and consistent feeding are so critical. Don't ever allow allowing things to dry up before you water them back up.
Until next issue, here's to Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively, 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, only on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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