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Janet Laminack: Timing key to planting vegetable garden

Now is the time to start your spring vegetable garden, but keep reading, because it is not time for tomatoes yet.

Timing is one of the most common mistakes made by beginner vegetable gardeners in Texas. By the time spring fever really hits and everyone is in the mood to garden, it’s getting a little late for us. To help you get started with this worthwhile hobby, these web pages have planting guides that help you determine when to plant specific vegetables: www.dcmga.com and http://aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu.

Right now is the time to seed most of your leafy green crops such as chard, collards, mustard, lettuce and spinach. It’s also time to seed beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and radish.

Radish is a great vegetable for a novice because it germinates within four to six days and makes you feel successful almost immediately. Unless you want a lot of radishes all at once, stagger your plantings out eight to 10 days apart so you will have a more steady supply.

If you are a beginner or just impatient like me, consider buying transplants instead of seeding. Transplants are more expensive, but it’s an easier way to get started in gardening. Coming up soon, the Emily Fowler Central Library in Denton will have vegetable seeds you can “borrow” beginning March 1. Also at the Fowler Library at 6:30 p.m. March 2, there will be a free class taught by a Master Gardener on how to get started with seeding your vegetable garden.

Now let’s talk about where to grow your vegetables. Most fruits, vegetables and herbs need at least eight hours of direct sunlight. If you have a shady yard or don’t even have a yard, there are other options available, such as community gardens or container gardening.

Next thing plants need is soil. Soil is the gardener’s fancy name for dirt. The ideal garden soil is deep, well-drained and fertile. In Denton County, our soil tends to be compacted clay. The best way to deal with it is to build a raised bed. It doesn’t have to be a very deep bed, but adding lumber, bricks or concrete tiles a foot high can greatly improve your garden.

A raised bed would require extra soil to be brought in and compost should be added as well. If you decide to garden in the soil you have in your backyard, adding compost or organic matter (such as leaves or chipped wood mulch) will help it drain better and improve the quality of the soil.

Make sure you kill or remove any grass before you put in a garden. Our common lawn grass, Bermuda, is very aggressive and has discouraged many would-be gardeners. So kill it before you begin and stay vigilant to keep it out of your garden.

The last essential ingredient for a garden is water. Vegetables will need regular watering, probably every few days, possibly daily. Make sure you put your garden in a location that has a faucet and hose so that you can easily water it.

Once we get past our average frost date (March 16), then we can begin thinking about our warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corn and squash. It’s always a gamble though, since Mother Nature isn’t predictable.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have specific questions at 940-349-2892 or via email to master.gardener@dentoncounty.com.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.