For Release April 20, 1999

Gardening Guidelines for Rookies

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

I’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries this year from people putting out vegetable gardens who have never gardened before. I’m not sure what’s creating this whole new interest in gardening but it’s exciting to see people wanting to get into gardening.

If you’ve never gardened before then you’re in for an interesting summer! If you are easily discouraged then don’t start gardening because it’s an activity full of hard work, the unexpected and occasional disappointment. Your biggest help is lot’s of information, your biggest enemy is weeds. For the information, come on down to the Extension Office, 119 East 9th in Junction City. We have a lot of free information on gardening that ranges from basic concepts clear up to specific information on each crop. For the weeds... hoe, hoe, hoe!

Your garden site needs to be in a location convenient for you as you’ll want to be out there about every day to stay on top of things. It also needs to get as much sunshine every day as possible - 6 to 8 hours of direct sunshine per day is minimal, all day is preferred. You don’t want tree limbs overhanging the garden as heavy shade is very detrimental. You also don’t want to have tree roots invading the garden soil as they will steal away water and nutrients from your garden crops. A location with a little air movement is good, but protection from the south and west summer winds is often helpful.

One of the major factors that determines your gardening success is the soil. If you have a heavy clay soil with lots of rock you’re going to have problems and you may want to consider a different location. Fertile, deep well drained soils are the optimum, but sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got. If you add anything to the soil it should be organic matter (peat moss, compost, dried or composted lawn clippings, old tree leaves, rotted manure, etc.) and it needs to be worked into the soil. Do not add sand. Sand usually just makes a soil problem worse! Before doing too much work in your garden spot take small soil samples from several areas, add them all together and bring a one pint sample (a one pound margarine tub works great) into the Extension Office. We’ll send this to the K-State soils lab to be analyzed and this will tell us what key nutrients your soil needs. The cost for this is around $10.

You’ll want to till your soil up as deep as possible. If you have grass or weeds growing in the spot you’ll want to remove this vegetation and sod before tilling. Be careful not to do this tilling when the soil is very wet or you’ll create a problem with clods. Once the area is tilled, try to level it out and smooth it up as much as possible. Soil temperature is a big concern for planting garden crops, especially early in the growing season. Also, the distance between rows and plants can be very important as is how deep you plant your seeds. Make sure you read the back of the seed packet or refer to a copy of our bulletin, Vegetable Garden Planting Guide.

With rows of any length it is often easiest to lay out a marker using twine fastened to stakes so that it can be stretched out and used as a guide so your rows will be straight. Most gardeners use a hoe to make a furrow, of whatever depth is needed. You can plant your seeds at the recommended spacing or plant thicker (closer). If you plant extra seeds you must remember to thin out the plants as they grow. Finally, don’t forget the water. Some seeds are planted very shallow and if we don’t have rain the soil must be kept wet to get the seeds sprouted and growing. This will help get you started, and then we can deal with other problems as they develop during the year!


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