Gardening: Now is the time to plan, prepare your garden (copy)

Gardening

A type of successful interplanting of crops involves watermelon and ice plant, which is a type of succulent. Christopher Burtt/Provided

It is the start of a new year, which means it is time to start planning and preparing your garden. The beauty of growing edible plants, such as vegetables and herbs, is that just about any garden can accommodate them and the reward is exceptional.

Even in a small space such as a window box or a large area carefully prepared, planting a vegetable plot with herbs intermixed can bring joy and unique flavors for any household.

Though the weather is wet and cold, January is the perfect time to begin planning the garden for the spring. Planning and preparing a garden is an integral part to having a healthy and productive garden. Whether planting vegetables, herbs or flowers, now is the time to think about the health of the soil, where to plant and when to start the seeds.

It is important also to prepare the soil and to have a soil test done now to prepare for the spring. Spring comes fast, so it is crucial to have a plan in place for the upcoming growing season. Whether it is deciding the right site, preparing the site or deciding on the crops to grow for the upcoming year, having a plan in place will help increase productivity.

Gardening

Baby's breath interplanted with watermelon is an example of companion plantings. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Finding the best location for a garden is key. Generally, fruits and vegetables need at least six to eight hours of sunlight for the best production. And while the spot should have plenty of sun, it also should have a good water source. It is imperative to have an area that is well drained, as most plants do not like to be waterlogged. If drainage is an issue, raised beds are an excellent way to alleviate the problem.

Once the site has been selected, it is important to prepare the soil ahead of time. Good soil health is not something that can be bought as healthy soil takes time to build.

After having the soil tested, add compost to bare areas to increase organic matter. Adjusting pH takes time, so if lime or sulfur needs to be added, do it now.

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If the garden was already prepared in the fall with cover crops, it is good to best decide how to terminate the crop before planting. While most will turn the crop into the soil, no-till options are effective, as well.

Gardening

An example of no-till prepping for a garden involves cutting down plant remnants but not tilling them into the soil. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Deciding what and where to plant is essential. There is a variety of plants that grow well here in the Lowcountry, but there are plants that may require more work or space than is available.

Put the plan on paper to help utilize how the space will be used. Additionally, it is valuable to interplant, which can save space while still encouraging good growth from each of the plants.

Certain plants like to be planted next to each other while others do not. While companion gardening is by no means a new concept, it is a great way to use as much space as possible while also attracting beneficial insects and repelling bad ones. This also can help mitigate the spread of disease.

Not all plants are equal in ease of growth or production. Herbs are by far the easiest to grow, and many vegetables such as radishes and peas are relatively simple.

Tomatoes are popular but can be difficult and less productive if not grown properly. Decide which crops to plant based on their input requirements as well as the proper planting dates.

There are many resources available in regard to planting calendars and companion planting guides. Be sure to do the research or just ask for advice. Knowing the planting dates for each crop and how to start them is critical to having a successful garden.

For more information on planning a harden, go to http://bit.ly/PlanAGarden or contact a local extension office.

Christopher Burtt is the Urban Horticulture Extension Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. He graduated from Clemson University and his main area of expertise is consumer horticulture with experience in research agriculture. He can be reached by email, cburtt@clemson.edu.

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