Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's not too late to plant a garden!

There is still time to plant a garden!

Planting a traditional garden:

1. Find a place in your yard (preferably a place that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day).
2. Prepare it (if there is grass, remove it, and remove any large rocks or stones). Use a shovel to turn and loosen the soil, about six inches deep so the roots will be able to grow.
3. Make it level. Use a shovel or a hoe to level the ground. If it is really uneven, add dirt to the low end, or remove dirt from the high end.

Planting a garden in a small yard:

1. Build a box garden. (Buy wood from any hardware store. Nail it together in a square. Fill it with dirt). (Buy dirt from any gardening store, or get dirt free from Olathe city. Call 971-9311 to find out more about getting dirt from the composting facility on Hedge Lane). Picture above is a box garden.

2. Incorporate the garden into the landscape or perimeters of the yard. Above are two pictures of grape vines. The first picture is a grapevine planted in a corner by the house and the deck. It is tied to a simple wood trellis with twine. The second picture is a grapevine planted at the edgeof the yard near the fence. It is growing on pipes which are cemented in the ground on one end and bent at an angle on the top end. The grapevines on top are over five feet high and provide some shade and privacy. If neighbors don't mind, grapes can be grown on the fence.

3. Many types of fruits and vegetables can be planted around a house or in a yard--and not in a "typical" garden plot. The three pictures above are examples of this. The first picture is a rhubarb plant growing at the edge of a flower bed. The second picture is a strawberry patch in the corner of a yard. The third picture is a raspberry patch along the edge of a house in a narrow side yard. Some vegetables that are frequently grown as landscaping are vegetables with lots of leafy vines such as squash and zuchini. The vines can sprawl along the ground or be tied to a trellis and grow upward along a house or fence.

4. Many garden vegetables can be grown in planter boxes on porches and decks (this is especially good when living in an apartment). This picture is a tomato plant in a planter box. Some vegetables (such as cherry tomatoes) can even be grown from hanging baskets.

What to plant and when to plant:

1. Most fruits and vegetables can be grown successfully in Kansas.
2. The growing season is from March to September. Kansas State University has published an excellent guide about when to plant each vegetable. Click here to read it.

May is the perfect time to plant these: beans, cucumbers, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes. March and April were the perfect time to plant these: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes, radishes, onions, peas, spinach, turnips, beans, carrots.

Good news!: Many of the vegetables that could have been planted in March-April can also be planted later (now!) for a second harvest later in the fall.

3. You can plant from seeds (the cheapest alternative) or from "starts" (a little more expensive, but usually cheaper than buying produce at the grocery store). Grass Pad and Suburban Lawn and Garden are two local stores with good stock. However, you can buy seeds and starts at many other places, such as Ace Hardware, Wal-Mart and many local nurseries. You can grow your own starts from seed if you begin in February or early March, then grow them indoors (near a sunny window) until it is time to plant. The picture above shows "starts" that are ready to be planted in a garden.

Caring for your garden:

1. Water! Don't let your plants dry out. How often you water depends on how much it rains and how hot the weather is. Seed packages and starts will both have brief instructions on planting and watering.
2. Weed. It's a good idea to weed once in a while, especially as your plants get bigger, so the weeds don't overtake the plants. :)
3. Harvest. This is the reward for your planning and work. More information later about harvesting and preserving.

Other tips:

1. Olathe City has a community garden on Santa Fe (just east of K-7, near city center). You can reserve a patch of land in this garden for $25. For more information, call: 971-8817.
2. "Square foot gardening" is a useful way to garden in very small areas. More information about this is available on the internet, at the library, or at the Johnson County extension office. (As of today, this website has good and helpful content: ).
3. The Johnson County extension office has a lot of information available for free. This information is specific to Kansas and is very helpful for learning growing seasons, when to plant, and where to plant. There are also Master Gardeners who are available to help as well. (I've posted contact information on the side bar of the blog).

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