In our recent landscape and gardening pursuits, we’ve had a tough run since last summer. As the warm, spring temperatures settle in again, it is time to plan for a summer garden. While it is a little early to plant, there is still time to plan!
Consider the following tips while getting ready for a summer garden:
▪ Garden site: Gardens can take all different forms. However, for summer veggies, the garden should be situated in a spot that receives at least eight hours of sun per day. Close proximity to a water source and your home is also a plus. Decide if gardening in the ground or in a raised bed is the best for your situation. Raised beds reduce problems with contamination, such as lead. They also reduce weed and disease pressure, and allow you to start with great, non-compacted soil.
▪ Proper nutrition: If you haven’t already done so, now is the time for a soil test. In the absence of a test, a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, is a reasonable choice. Vegetables range from light to heavy feeders, and therefore have different nutritional requirements. It is important to avoid over-fertilization. Too much nitrogen, for example, will promote succulent, vegetative growth, but will diminish vegetable output in the long run. Ten-foot-tall tomato plants with no tomatoes have very likely been over-fertilized.
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▪ Soil temperatures: At planting time, the soil temperature at 4 inches deep needs to be about 65 degrees and rising. Check the closest weather station at weather.uga.edu for current conditions. For many in Middle Georgia, Byron is the closest weather station. Planting when the soil is still too cool can lead to stunted, struggling plants that are more susceptible to disease problems.
▪ Water management: Gardens need a consistent supply of moisture. Most gardens need at least 1 inch of water per week. This is the equivalent of five gallons of water per cubic yard — that is a lot of water! As we move through the summer, use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to avoid wetting the foliage. Use a watering can in small gardens to target moisture directly on plant roots.
▪ Weed control: Removal of weeds prior to planting will make things easier in the long run. What looks like a little sprig of green could quickly take over as the season progresses. Begin a garden plot by hand weeding, tilling or using a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate. Sometimes a combination of several methods is necessary, depending on the weeds present. If you don’t have a tiller, local businesses and garden centers offer rentals. A pre-emergence herbicide containing trifluralin can be used to reduce many weeds during the coming summer.
▪ Mulch: Mulching plants offers many benefits in the home garden. Mulch prevents weeds, which rob moisture and nutrients. It also conserves moisture and provides a more uniform water supply. The occurrence of diseases that are spread by water splash also will be prevented with a layer of mulch. Applying several layers of newspaper underneath mulch will add extra protection against weeds.
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has a wealth of information available from our specialists in our local offices and online. Visit caes.uga.edu/publications to find information on everything from growing vegetables organically to harvesting from your garden.
Master Gardeners of Central Georgia Spring Plant Sale: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; State Farmers Market, 2055 Eisenhower Parkway. Ornamentals, fruits, vegetables, trees and much more. Proceeds support scholarships, grants and educational programs throughout Middle Georgia. Call 478-751-6338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Contact county Extension agent Karol Kelly at email@example.com.