Texas Neighbors Winter 2017 : Page 25

TEXAS NEIGHBORS | WINTER 2017 Preparation is key to successful spring garden By Shala Watson Staff Writer Planning for a spring garden may not be the first thing on your agenda as temperatures are drop-ping across the state. But now is a good time to start making those preparations, according to Dr. Joe Masabni, Texas A&M AgriLife Ex-tension Service small-acreage veg-etable specialist. Winter months are a good op-portunity to start getting organized and ready for spring planting. Prop-er preparation can help make gar-dening much easier. Masabni recommends that those planning a spring garden should review notes, clean out gar-dens, take soil samples, order sup-plies and clean and repair equip-ment. After a hard freeze has killed plants is the best time to chop and incorporate the plants into the garden or to clean the garden and throw them into the compost pile, Masabni said. “Now is a good time to look, read and do research,” Masabni said. “Look up Aggie Horticulture. Learn and ask questions. Visit good gar-deners, and ask for tips and tricks.” Keep track of the dates you first detected pests or disease, so next year you know to scout the garden before that date to catch it early. For first-time gardeners, there are many things to be considered before planting a garden, includ-ing location, soil, drainage and re-sources. A garden needs morning sun and at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. Try to choose a location that is not shaded in the morning, Masabni said. He said it’s also important to stay away from trees because the roots spread as far as the tree is tall. Soil quality is also a highly im-portant factor to consider. He said in regions like the Hill Country that have very shallow soil or other re-gions with heavy clay soil, it is best to build a raised bed and plant in it, because it can take years to correct the soil conditions. Weed-free loamy or sandy-type soil is perfect for planting. But he recommends getting a soil and wa-ter test first to make sure the water is well. “You can send a sample or you can get a report from the com-munity or the city,” Masabni said. “They have a report of their water quality.” Drainage is also important for a healthy garden. “Besides location, make sure you have good soil drainage, and it’s not in a low spot in case you get an inch of rain and the garden is un-der water,” Masabni said. Finding a good source of com-post to add will help improve soil health and will increase the chanc-es of better quality and quantity vegetables. He recommends gardeners learn the art of making their own compost because it is so valuable. “I recommend using compost before every crop,” Masabni said. “The last thing you want to do be-fore planting is to add compost. Be generous with compost. Add three to four inches, mix it in and plant in it. Plants will love it.” Compost can reduce the amount of waste generated and produce organic matter and nutrients for a garden. “Composting has all the micro-organisms in it that really do the work for you for the plants, in the sense of breaking down the com-post and releasing the nutrients that are in it to make it available to the plant,” Masabni said. Composts also help improve soil capacity to hold water and nutri-ents. “If you have heavy clay soil and you add compost to it, it will drain better,” Masabni said. “If you have very sandy soil that doesn’t hold water, you add compost to it, it will hold water.” Compost can be made of kitch-en scraps, including fruit and veg-etable trimmings, coffee grounds and eggshells. Grass clippings and dry leaves also make good com-post. Chicken, cow and horse ma-nures are a great nitrogen source for compost piles. “Mix compost into the soil and, with time, year after year you don’t have to do hard tilling,” Masabni said. “The mark of a good gardener is one who can with their hand dig a hole and place the tomato trans-plant because the soil is soft.” Masabni doesn’t recommend tilling a raised bed too often. Just add compost and plant. “Minimum tillage is better because you don’t lose the or-ganic matter from the com-post you just added,” Mas-abni said. Adding mulch to the surface of the garden will help conserve and reduce mois-ture loss, control weeds and pre-vents water from washing away soil particles, according to Masabni. To help reduce the spread of dis-ease in your garden, it is also vital to keep equipment clean and sanitary, according to Masabni. “The old adage an ounce of pre-vention is better than a pound of cure is very true,” Masabni said. “Simple things like cleaning your hoes and cleaning your tools. Make a five percent bleach solution and spray the tools at the end of the season just to sanitize.” Masabni said if you purchase plants from the store or visit some-one else’s garden, you should spray plants to sanitize them to reduce the risk of carrying disease or in-sects into your garden. For more resources on home gardening preparation, visit http:/ / bit.ly/springgardenprep or talk to your local Extension agent. WWW.TEXASFARMBUREAU.ORG

Preparation Is Key to Successful Spring Garden

Shala Watson

Planning for a spring garden may not be the first thing on your agenda as temperatures are dropping across the state. But now is a good time to start making those preparations, according to Dr. Joe Masabni, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service small-acreage vegetable specialist.

Winter months are a good opportunity to start getting organized and ready for spring planting. Proper preparation can help make gardening much easier.

Masabni recommends that those planning a spring garden should review notes, clean out gardens, take soil samples, order supplies and clean and repair equipment.

After a hard freeze has killed plants is the best time to chop and incorporate the plants into the garden or to clean the garden and throw them into the compost pile, Masabni said.

“Now is a good time to look, read and do research,” Masabni said. “Look up Aggie Horticulture. Learn and ask questions. Visit good gardeners, and ask for tips and tricks.”

Keep track of the dates you first detected pests or disease, so next year you know to scout the garden before that date to catch it early.

For first-time gardeners, there are many things to be considered before planting a garden, including location, soil, drainage and resources.

A garden needs morning sun and at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. Try to choose a location that is not shaded in the morning, Masabni said.

He said it’s also important to stay away from trees because the roots spread as far as the tree is tall.

Soil quality is also a highly important factor to consider. He said in regions like the Hill Country that have very shallow soil or other regions with heavy clay soil, it is best to build a raised bed and plant in it, because it can take years to correct the soil conditions.

Weed-free loamy or sandy-type soil is perfect for planting. But he recommends getting a soil and water test first to make sure the water is well.

“You can send a sample or you can get a report from the community or the city,” Masabni said. “They have a report of their water quality.”

Drainage is also important for a healthy garden.

“Besides location, make sure you have good soil drainage, and it’s not in a low spot in case you get an inch of rain and the garden is under water,” Masabni said.

Finding a good source of compost to add will help improve soil health and will increase the chances of better quality and quantity vegetables.

He recommends gardeners learn the art of making their own compost because it is so valuable.

“I recommend using compost before every crop,” Masabni said. “The last thing you want to do before planting is to add compost. Be generous with compost. Add three to four inches, mix it in and plant in it. Plants will love it.”

Compost can reduce the amount of waste generated and produce organic matter and nutrients for a garden.

“Composting has all the microorganisms in it that really do the work for you for the plants, in the sense of breaking down the compost and releasing the nutrients that are in it to make it available to the plant,” Masabni said.

Composts also help improve soil capacity to hold water and nutrients.

“If you have heavy clay soil and you add compost to it, it will drain better,” Masabni said. “If you have very sandy soil that doesn’t hold water, you add compost to it, it will hold water.”

Compost can be made of kitchen scraps, including fruit and vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds and eggshells. Grass clippings and dry leaves also make good compost.

Chicken, cow and horse manures are a great nitrogen source for compost piles.

“Mix compost into the soil and, with time, year after year you don’t have to do hard tilling,” Masabni said. “The mark of a good gardener is one who can with their hand dig a hole and place the tomato transplant because the soil is soft.”

Masabni doesn’t recommend tilling a raised bed too often. Just add compost and plant.

“Minimum tillage is better because you don’t lose the organic matter from the compost you just added,” Masabni said.

Adding mulch to the surface of the garden will help conserve and reduce moisture loss, control weeds and prevents water from washing away soil particles, according to Masabni.

To help reduce the spread of disease in your garden, it is also vital to keep equipment clean and sanitary, according to Masabni.

“The old adage an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure is very true,” Masabni said. “Simple things like cleaning your hoes and cleaning your tools. Make a five percent bleach solution and spray the tools at the end of the season just to sanitize.”

Masabni said if you purchase plants from the store or visit someone else’s garden, you should spray plants to sanitize them to reduce the risk of carrying disease or insects into your garden.

For more resources on home gardening preparation, visit http://bit.ly/springgardenprep or talk to your local Extension agent.

Read the full article at http://texasneighbors.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Preparation+Is+Key+to+Successful+Spring+Garden/2681034/374045/article.html.

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