Gardening is a Great ‘Stay at Home’ Activity

By Kris Woppert, Premium Lawnperson-digging-on-soil-using-garden-shovel-1301856

What’s a great way to save money on vegetables and have fun too? Planting your own vegetable garden! We have some great tips for planning, preparing and planting your very own vegetable garden. The best part, it’s a great way to spend time with family and get outside!

From planning to planting your garden, it is important to consider location, soil types, types of crops, planting methods, weed control and pest control as the basic components for managing your garden.

Location: You want to select a location near a consistent water supply to easily water your plants and one that receives full sun. Some plants will grow in shady areas such as leafy greens or pumpkins, but it is easier to create shade with a canopy than to create sun without direct access to natural light. You also want to plant away from trees as they can steal nutrients from your veggies. Lastly, plant on flat land to prevent runoff and erosion.

Soil Types: The best garden soil is loam which is equal amounts of sand, silt and clay. Soil tests should be conducted every year to determine nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and pH level. You want your pH level to be between 6.3 and 7.0 for most veggies. For fertilizing, your plant food elements should be on the front of the fertilizer bag. Use this to determine the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needed for your specific vegetables and amounts differ from crop to crop.

vegTypes of Crops: There are seven main types of crops you can plant in a vegetable garden in Western Wisconsin. They are Root Crops (carrots, radishes, turnips), Cold Crops (broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, cabbage), Warm Crops (watermelons, sweet potatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra), Legumes (peas, beans, sprouts), Vine Crops (pumpkins, squash, melons, cucumbers), Black Night Shades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes) and Grass (corn). Keep in mind each category of crops will require different planting techniques. Just like with the fertilizer, it is important to read the directions on the packaging for sunlight exposure, temperature and nutrients needed.

Planting Methods: Use fresh seeds from a reputable source and plant according to the directions on the package. It is important to pay attention to the last frost date in your area and monitor the temperature. If you want to alleviate some of these planting hinderances, build a “mini greenhouse”! This protects seedlings from frost, increases germination rate/date and increases the temperature from the sun to allow for a longer planting season.

Weed Control: Get a jump start on removing weeds whenever possible! Remove weeds when they are less than one inch tall and don’t forget to remove the roots too! If you use chemicals to treat the weeds, read the directions carefully! Chemicals are not desirable for edible plants. Mulching-straw, leaves, black polyethylene plastic, grass clippings and non-treated wood chips works well to keep weeds out and are a great alternative to using harsh chemicals!

Pest Control/Prevention: It is a good practice to dispose of crop residue (leftovers) when you are done using a specific crop. Use treated seeds and resistant varieties of seeds that repel pests without additional treatment. Purchase healthy transplants when rotating crops and again, use limited chemicals or none at all! Pests can easily become resistant to the chemicals. The more chemicals you use, the more resistant pests become to the chemicals.

Here are some tips and tricks to keep your garden looking great:

  • Replant areas where early crops (such as peas and lettuce) are harvested with fall crops (such as kale and turnips) to maximize gardening space.
  • To protect your garden from weeds, use black plastic and mulch to cover the ground and help keep out weeds.
  • Plant your garden North and South to make all possible sun available. Put tall crops on the North end as well to avoid cheating smaller plants out of sun exposure.
  • Want to add color to your garden? Add in some flowers! Marigolds with beans repel beetles and nasturtiums throughout the veggies deter aphids, beetles and squash bugs.

Gardening is a great way to get outside and improve your mental health, especially during these times of isolation. Follow these tips to help your garden flourish.

Kris Woppert is the fertilizing manager at Premium Lawn Service, LLC, a member of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. House Calls is submitted by members of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. For more information, please call 715-835-2526 or email info@cvhomebuilders.com.

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