Starting A Vegetable Garden
It’s not a difficult task, especially if you know what you’re doing. A small amount of time and effort can result in a bountiful harvest.
Choosing the right varieties, zones and seeds is key to success. Also, be sure to plant when the weather is warm enough.
When they’re actively growing during the summer, perennial weeds like wiregrass may take six weeks or longer completely kill.
After tarping, the soil is usually loose from increased earthworm activity as the sod or vegetation decomposes, so tilling the area may not be necessary. If your soil test indicates you need to change the pH by adding lime or Sulphur, or if you need phosphorous, those materials should be mixed into the soil to make them effective.
Purchasing expensive bagged soil or other amendments may not be necessary either. To determine what amendments your soil needs, get a soil test by contacting your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.
“It almost always helps to bring in compost or good quality bagged soil to increase organic matter, but may not be necessary, especially if you’re on a budget,” said Jadrnicek. “If you think of a large farm, they don’t bring in soil amendments on that scale. Even a quarter inch of compost makes a big difference.”
Good-quality seeds do make a difference, especially for gardeners who want to save money and labor by avoiding disease problems.
“A lot of people want to grow heirlooms, which can be susceptible to pest and disease problems that make them less likely to succeed,” Jadrnicek said. “Hybrid varieties can have disease and pest-resistant genetics and can produce a higher yield.”
If your crops struggle with a specific disease, for example, cucurbit downy mildew or bacterial leaf spot, look for hybrid seed varieties bred for resistance to this disease.
Make sure you are planting crops at the correct time to maximize the length of time vegetables are productive and ensure good plant establishment amid changing seasons. This is especially important for spring and fall crops which need to be started early in the spring or late in the summer when many people aren’t yet thinking about cool-weather gardening.
Finally, good irrigation is critical for success in the vegetable garden, according to Jadrnicek.
“Irrigation can make a big difference in yields,” he said. “Giving the plants the right amount of water by hand can take a lot of time, and growers hand-watering typically don’t give enough. if you do not water enough, you are not going to maximize yields, and if a plant is stressed by lack of water, you are going to have more pest/disease problems.”
“If you must prioritize, spend your money on an automated drip-irrigation system rather than a raised bed. Irrigation will make gardening much easier and much more productive. If you’ve got to choose, spend on irrigation and good quality seeds,” Jadrnicek said.
Virginia Cooperative Extension experts help all Virginians implement the research of Virginia’s two land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, and provide real solutions for a more sustainable and collaborative commonwealth.
To help connect your community with research-based horticulture education and participate in volunteer projects related to emerging pests, environmental stewardship, and community resilience, become an Extension Master Gardener by contacting your local Extension Office.
For information on selecting the raised bed option that suits your budget, check out the Virginia Cooperative Extension publication, “Comparison of Raised Bed Methods, Materials, and Costs.” For planting time advice, use “Virginia’s Home Vegetable Planting Guide.”
– Written by Devon Johnson