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Choosing Where to Garden is Essential to Producing High-Yielding Crops
By Clint Thompson, UGA Extension
Spring is right around the corner, and so are spring flowers, summer vegetables and all the gardening these seasons bring. Selecting the best place to grow your garden is essential to producing high-yielding crops, like tomatoes, corn, and squash.
Bob Westerfield, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist, believes there are three factors that all home gardeners should consider before planting this year’s spring gardens.
First, find the best place to achieve maximum sunlight. Westerfield said that vegetables grow best in as much sun as possible. Most require at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Areas under or near shade trees are not suitable for gardens due to the lack of sunlight. Pick the sunniest spot available for growing a vegetable garden.
Next, select a spot in close proximity to a water source. Westerfield recommends using drip irrigation, as water is applied at soil level and impacts the roots directly. “There are plenty of agronomic farmers … who grow dryland corn or dryland soybeans, but when it comes to vegetable gardens, you’re producing a crop with very fast turnaround and you need to be able to rely on irrigation,” he said. “You’ve got to have a source of water.”
Finally, find an area that drains well and does not have a history of noxious weeds like bermudagrass or nutsedge. Westerfield advises against planting in a weedy area because it can be difficult to eradicate the weeds. While bermudagrass serves as turf on some front yards, when it grows in a vegetable garden, it becomes a weed, and a deeply rooted one.
After the proper site has been selected, Westerfield advises preparing it now, starting with soil sampling. Consider having your soil tested through your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office. A soil test report provides information regarding the soil’s fertility status. This is critical to plant health and growth. A soil test will provide data about the soil pH and recommend how to improve the soil for maximum productivity. It’s important to know the pH of your soil. Vegetables grow better in soil that is slightly acidic. Soil pH often needs to be adjusted through lime application and this can take three to six months to take effect.
So how exactly do you take a soil sample? If soil in your garden area is uniform and has been treated similarly over time, you can assemble one sample by taking sub-samples from 8 to 12 spots around your garden. If you have different soil types or have amended soil in various areas of your garden differently, then you should sample those areas individually. Use clean tools and containers for all sampling, so that you do not contaminate your soil test. Take a “slice” of soil from the surface down, 4-6 inches in the soil for each spot. Mix all of the sub-samples collected thoroughly in a clean bucket, before placing about 3 cups of it in a Ziploc sandwich bag.
Soil samples can be delivered to the Paulding County Cooperative Extension Office at 530 West Memorial Drive in Dallas. The fee for a sample is $9, but that fee will save you money by helping you perfect your vegetable garden’s soil! For more information, contact a Master Gardener or the County Extension Agent at Paulding County UGA Extension at 770-443-7616 or check us out online at www.ugaextension.org/paulding.
Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University Of Georgia College Of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.