Planning Your Vegetable Garden
Growing your own healthy food, does take some time, effort and planning, but it is certainly well worth it when you get to enjoy the harvest.
This is a good time to start planning this year’s garden and getting ready.
Crop rotation is an important step in keeping pests and disease to a minimum as well as growing strong healthy plants.
Different plants attract different pests. For example carrots attract the carrot rust fly which leads to maggots in the carrots. Members of the Brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) can get maggots that burrow into the main stem of the plant, just below the soil’s surface, which will kill the plant. Onions are also prone to maggots that can kill the plant. Potatoes can get scab.
To help prevent these problems from re occurring you want to be able to rotate the crops so that the same thing is not growing in the same spot the following year. Ideally, you want to wait three years before that type of vegetable is grown in that spot again.
Crop rotation is also beneficial in growing strong healthy plants because different vegetables take different nutrients from the soil. By rotating vegetable plants to different parts of the garden, the garden soil will not be depleted of certain nutrients.
Before you plant, plan first. Make a blueprint of the garden and decide what, and how much is going where. It is always a good idea to save your blueprint from one year to the next, for future reference in the years to come.
Throughout the season, keep notes of varieties that you did or did not like, and any problems that you have, so that in the future you can use the notes for reference.
Clean all your garden tools before using them again this season. Spades, rakes, water cans, hoses, pruners, hand tools, etc., including any used containers, pots, trays, should all be washed with a mild bleach solution of 1 part bleach mixed with 10 parts water. This will help prevent diseases from spreading. It never hurts to clean your tools periodically throughout the season to prevent any spread of disease or pests.
This is an early spring, and many gardeners can’t wait to work the soil. You want to wait until the soil is dry enough. It should break down into fine particles. If it is too wet it will be muddy and clump up. Before tilling the soil, remove any of last year’s debris, especially if there was a problem with disease or pests and throw it in the garbage. You don’t want to spread last year’s problems in this year’s garden or compost.
Adding manure or compost to the garden before tilling the soil, will integrate it into the soil when the soil is tilled. This is also a good time to take soil tests and see if you need to add anything else to the soil. Depending on the size of the garden, take a few different samples from different areas of the garden, digging down 10-15 cms, so that you get an accurate reading. There are inexpensive soil test kits available at the garden centres.
Keeping the weeds down is another important step to growing a healthy garden. Weeds take nutrients, moisture, and light away from the vegetable plants as well as harbour pests and disease. You want to get rid of the first crop of weeds before you even start planting. Weeds are easier to eliminate when they are young and have a small root system. On a warm sunny day, go through the garden with a hoe to dig up the weeds.
By doing the prep work, and planning now, you are one step closer to a growing a healthy garden this season!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road