Gardening with Laurie: Plan your garden for maximum output
Well, here we are again: vegetable garden planning time. Of all the different facets of gardening, growing a vegetable garden has to be one of the most popular. The past few years have definitely seen an incredible increase in the number of home vegetable gardens.
Non-genetically modified and heirloom seeds are selling like never before. The public is fed up with not knowing what's in the foods it buys from grocery stores.
People want to know that what they feed their families is healthy and nutritious and does not contain any unknown organisms. People want to know that the food they feed their families is all from nature and not from some scientist's test tube.
It is so enjoyable talking with new gardeners, especially about starting their first vegetable garden. They are excited and anxious to get their hands in the soil but usually don't have a clue as to where they should start.
Most first head to the colorful seed racks. New and old gardeners alike can easily become preoccupied with all the different varieties of tomatoes, green beans, broccoli and all other vegetables they want to try growing.
Deciding on the right varieties to plant is an important part of gardening. But, as I remind all first-time gardeners, first things first.
One of the most important parts of gardening has to be preparing a healthy soil. New gardeners don't seem to think much about their soil's condition. After all, dirt is dirt - what's the big deal?
Dirt is everywhere; you dig a hole, drop in a seed, give it some water and wait for your first harvest, right?
Well, not exactly. Organic gardening is basically all about putting the valuable microbial life back into the soil that has been stripped from it.
I make the comparison to the forest floor where leaves, bugs, twigs and all sorts of living things have decomposed for many many years. The forest floor is full of life. It's like a living sponge that can easily soak up nutrients, oxygen and moisture.
To grow strong, healthy plants, you mimic nature. You start with a healthy soil. Start composting leaves, grass clippings and all your kitchen waste - except for bones and meat.
Until you've made enough of your own compost, purchase a good-quality local compost and incorporate it into your soil along with your choice of organic granular fertilizer. These additives will encourage all sorts of beneficial life - microorganisms and earthworms - into your garden.
Once you have your compost and fertilizer worked into your garden soil and you have time to wait before doing any planting, I'd recommend letting it rest for a few weeks.
This gives the soil, compost and fertilizer time to marinate. Then you will be ready to start planting all those wonderful seeds you bought.
Until next time, let's all try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.