Gardeners' Dirt: Vegetable gardening for future generations
By Michelle Mudd - Victoria County Master Gardener Intern Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
March 8, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 7, 2012 at 9:08 p.m.
When many of us think of vegetable gardening, we think of the past, something our grandparents or even parents did - and indeed this is true. They ate what they grew.
They did not have the modern-day conveniences of fast-food restaurants or drive-thrus. With our busy lifestyles, we can't imagine trying to grow vegetables or even the extra time it would take to do so, but we can - and we should.
Reasons to grow your own
There are many reasons to grow your own vegetables, but I'm pointing out just a few: Rising prices at our local grocery stores and the freshness and quality you get from your local market, isn't even comparable to what you get from your own garden. Another very important point is the fact that this generation is one of the unhealthiest of all time. Teach and show our children how to grow vegetables, and they are more apt to eat them.
Steps to success
Have a plan - To have a successful vegetable garden, there are a few basic, but very important steps to take. What type of garden do you want? Small or large, you need a plan. To avoid first-year failure, start small, like maybe a four- by eight-foot raised bed, using untreated landscape timbers or cinder blocks. What vegetables will you plant? Plant the vegetables that your family will eat and always try a little of something different or extra to pique their interest. And also, plant the proper veggies for the season you are planting in. It has been springtime weather outside, so start planning your garden now.
Choose a location - Select a location that gets at least eight hours of sun and is close to a water source. You can, however, plant your leafy plants, such as lettuce, mustard greens and radishes, in a partial shaded area. Make sure the area drains well and is not close to any buildings or large trees - and avoid planting in low spots or next to septic tanks. It's important to have your garden close enough to the house so it doesn't feel like it's a chore to get to it.
Test the soil - Also, have the soil tested every three years. Your local county extension agent has information on how to do this. A pH of 5.5 to 7.5 is good, but 6.5 is ideal. The pH will affect the availability of nutrients to plants. Remember, a well-planned, small, fertile garden is more fruitful than a large messy one.
Indoor vegetable gardening
Indoor vegetable gardening is picking up speed in becoming the trendy, healthy lifestyle. So many of us live in apartments and town homes. Let's face it, we are getting older and not able to do as much work maintaining a vegetable garden in our yard.
Container vegetable gardening will brighten a dull patio into an attractive plantscape. Whether you use barrels, cut off milk jugs, window boxes or planter boxes with trellises, you can grow almost anything. The containers must have adequate drainage and be large enough to support plants when they are fully grown.
If you choose wood, use untreated - or approved treated - lumber (see Gardeners' Dirt article, Feb. 10, 2012 at VictoriaAdvocate.comvcmga.org). Containers should not be used if they had previously had anything toxic in them.
Containers must be able to hold soil without spillage. Most plants need at least 6 inches of soil depth to root along with adequate drainage. For container gardening, a light-weight potting mix is preferred. Local nurseries and garden centers will be able to recommend what is best suited for your needs.
If and when you do have a problem with pests, and I'm talking about your leaf eaters and such, an organic pesticide is my first recommendation although other pesticides may be approved. Again, your local nurseries and or county extension agent can give suggestions.
Pass along knowledge
I still get excited when I see the plants break ground, and now, so do my children. It is a good feeling when you know you are passing along knowledge that your children will pass on to theirs. It is a part of survival, but most of all, your family is healthier and wiser for doing so. There's not a vegetable my children won't eat - and I attribute that to having a family vegetable garden.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.