The Roundup -

Gardening 101

 

When it comes to preparing an area for a vegetable garden there is one main point to stress: do whatever you possibly can do to limit the amount of "damage" to the soil. Soil damage, refers to soil compaction, breaking soil structure, robbing the soil of nutrients, etc. People frequently get anxious when it finally warms up and conditions are right for working in the soil, but sometimes waiting an extra day or two to let the soil dry out some (or warm up a little) pays off tremendously in the long run.

In terms of getting a garden site ready to go, there are generally two scenarios that a person is dealing with. You are either preparing an area that has been gardened before, or you are looking at installing a new garden in the yard and may have an idea of where it will be located or you may not. The following information is directed at those of you who fall into the first category, although there should be some tips and tricks that, if you have a previously established garden area, will be useful as well.

As with real estate, the three most important things to consider when planning a garden are location, location, location. If you have a particular spot that seems to be more fertile, receives a good portion of sunlight in a day (8-10 hours of full sun is preferred), and is near a water source, this is probably the spot where you want to seriously consider putting your garden. If this spot is currently covered with grass, you will want to first kill the grass. A product like Roundup works fine for this, but read the label and make sure that there is enough time between when you spray the grass and when you want to begin planting your vegetables. You can try simply tilling the grass under and not spraying but chances are you will be fighting grass invading your garden all summer long.

So, now that you have all of the sighting and planning done, you are now ready to begin tilling. Stressing again that, if the soil is not fit to be tilled, stay out of it. Trying to do some tillage in soils that are still too wet and too cold can cause compaction and/or really damage the structure of the soil and those issues are difficult to correct. If you start to till and there are large chunks of wet soil sticking to the tines on your tiller or if you have issues pushing it through the mud, then park it for another couple of days and try again. You may feel that this is delaying your planting too much but if you try and put plants into soil that has been worked when it was too wet, you are setting yourself up for failure. Unless you have been getting some moisture that the rest of us have not, this is probably not a concern this spring.

After you have tilled the area and created a nice seedbed, your garden should be ready for planting. It is not suggested to add any amendments, such as manure or compost, at this time as those are typically better applied in the fall. The problem with applying them now is that they may not be completely broken down and, especially in the case of manure that comes from animals bedded with wood shavings, can ultimately lead to mineral deficiencies.

The last tip in garden preparation is to decide now exactly what it is you want to plant. After deciding, look at how much space plants are going to need in a garden. A nice exercise to try: take old newspapers and cut out the area that particular plants will need. Then take these "newspaper plants" out to the garden and lay them out and see if the garden is big enough for the plants that are intended to go in there. This is a good time to decide what plants go where as well. You do not want to end up with your larger plants (corn, tomatoes, and peppers) shading out the smaller ones (carrots, lettuce, and spinach) so try to keep those taller specimens to the north of the garden.

Although these recommendations are made specifically for vegetable gardens, many of them also apply to landscaping beds as well. By no means is this a complete and exhaustive list of how a garden should be prepared and in no way does following these steps guarantee success. Hopefully though, by going through these steps, you will be off to a good start. It would help tremendously if Mother Nature would cooperate in getting our soils ready to be worked with.

Now that you know how to plant your garden let's talk about nutritional facts of vegetables you may plant.

Leafy Greens: Leafy Greens are cholesterol free and low in calories and sodium. Most of these plants are referred to as super foods because they contain phytochemicals, which promote long term health as part of a nutritious diet. They are also good sources of Vitamin A, C, K, protein and fiber. Greens are high in folate, a nutrient important for fetal development and calcium.

Kale: Kale is a nutrient packed vegetable, rich in Vitamins A, C, K and B6 and contains significant amounts of potassium, calcium, iron and manganese. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, contains no cholesterol and minimal amounts of calories and sodium. Like other leafy greens, it is rich in phytochemicals, which may help prevent cancer and other diseases.

To prepare, cut off end of stems using a knife. For large leafed kale, slice on both sides of the stem to remove. Remove the stem and discard.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are high in Vitamin A and C and are a good source of potassium, with 16 calories per half-cup serving.

Broccoli: Broccoli is high in folate and Vitamins C, A and K and also a good source of potassium and dietary fiber, with 15 calories per half-cup serving.

Summer Squash: Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash) has a low nutrient value because it is picked when it is immature. Since summer squash consists of 95% water, it has few calories (about 20 per medium squash). This makes it a great summer meal side dish. The vitamins and minerals are found in the skin, therefore, it is best to not peel the squash before cooking.

Winter Squash: The edible, dark orange winter squash flesh is high in beta carotene which is converted in the body to Vitamin A. Winter squash is also high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. You can also roast the seeds as a healthy snack.

Food Safety Tips for preparing your vegetables: 1. Clean. Wash hands and food contact surfaces before and after preparation. 2. Chill. Keep produce and food cool and chill promptly. 3. Separate. Keep produce and food separate from raw meats and eggs.

For more information, and gardening tips & tricks, check out the Richland County Nutrition Coalition Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/1rcnc1, and the Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/1rcnc1.

 

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