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Spring Has Sprung: Vegetable Gardening 103

Spring Has Sprung: Vegetable Gardening 103

by Brandee Gillham

The Cowboy’s Wife

Finding the right spot for your garden, laying out your beds and preparing your soil can be grand adventures.

As I have mentioned before, I do not care for weeding my garden, so using weed proofer has saved me hours and hours of labor. It also keeps the soil warmer and moisture locked in.

For my row crops I simply cut a slit in the weed proofer and plant my little seeds down those rows. For my starters, I cut a four-inch hole in the weed proofer, place them in their little home and cover the roots with soil.

One of the best things you can do for your soil is to remember to rotate your crops from one year to the next. Some crop rotation plans can be incredibly complex, but I use a three-year cycle.

Year 1 would include legumes and fruiting vegetables. Legumes are podded vegetables, and include peas and beans. These are nitrogen “fixers,” so if you leave the roots in the soil to rot down, vegetables planted there the following year can use that nitrogen. Fruiting vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, cucumbers and squashes.

Year 2 is the brassica group and that is simply a fancy term for the cabbage family. These include cabbages, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, radishes, turnips, etc. These all require lots of nitrogen, so it’s smart to grow them where you grew legumes the previous year.

Even though I listed all of these amazing vegetables, I do not plant all of these. As a young child, my mom use to make brussel sprouts in this spaghetti sauce concoction that I thought represented my impending death. I believe my parents were teaching me that lesson about being grateful for food on my plate, or that there were starving children in some third world country, or the need to clean my plate, or some other healthy life tutorial, but all I remember is sitting there… at the table… for hours… staring at that cold, bloody, disgusting brussel sprout.

Needless to say, I didn’t grow brussel sprouts for the longest time, but started in 2020 and we have loved them despite my terrible youth-based experience. Enjoy them if you can swallow them…if not, don’t waste your time!

Year 3 would include the root vegetables. Beets, carrots, potatoes, onions fit well with this group.

Each bed is given a “year” notation and they follow one another in numerical order with year 3 following year 1.

Most of my plants are started from seed and I put them in the ground about the third weekend in May. In 2016, I ventured out and started my own tomatoes and peppers in a small indoor green house. That was a ton of work and I really think spending $3 - $4 per plant is just worth it. The only starters I purchase are broccoli, tomatoes and peppers.

I often see where you can purchase the squashes as started plants, but I think that is a waste of money. Those easily grow from seed. I do recommend planting about four seeds where you want one to grow and let them develop for about four weeks and then pull the three weakest plants out.

Setting up a watering system can be a life-saver as well. I have a hydrant about 20 feet from my garden. Last year, I splurged and bought a timer to attach to that hydrant and I HIGHLY recommend it. Again, I want to enjoy gardening and not find it so labor intensive that is takes the joy right out of it.

I divide my garden in half and run a garden hose to each end. The garden hose is then attached to a ½” tube that runs along the outside of my beds. I pierce the tubing with ¼” hose valves and then attach soaker hoses on top of each bed.

If within that bed, I have planted two rows of carrots, then I would run two soaker hoses down that bed and plug the end of each. I use garden staples to keep those hoses in place. If I have planted my started plants then I run my hose down the bed, then make a loop around each individual started plant and continue down the row.

I sincerely hope you can find a way to start your gardening adventures because it can be incredibly rewarding to produce your own food for your own family and even have extra to share!

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