While it’s cold and it seems like nothing is growing, we don’t think about planning our garden. Most of us don’t consider working the soil to prepare the ground for our tomatoes and peppers until the weather is nice and we’re weeks behind the natural schedule. We don’t peruse seed catalogs in January so we either plant too late or purchase a couple transplants that we hope were the strongest in the nursery.
If you are even considering a garden this year, this is the best advice you will receive: start today. Before long, it will be time to start your plants indoors so that by the last frost they will be ready to move outside. Decide what you want to grow (I grow what I like to eat) now so you can order a variety fit for our USDA Hardiness Zone. Generally, if you live north of Howe, you’re in 7b. South of Howe and you’re in 8a.
If you’re into composting, it takes time for material to break down and become good fertilizer that plants can use, so beginning your compost pile or bin before you plant your seeds is necessary. If you want to work that compost into the soil before planting, you need to start even sooner.
If you have existing garden beds, you will want to incorporate the old plant material into the soil and give it time to break down as well, otherwise your fertilizer will be “tied up” by the soil microorganisms until all of that new carbon has been processed. Separating your tillage and planting by at least two weeks will reduce pests by “breaking the greed bridge” or depriving pests a place to live and a food source before they move to your new plants.
You also need to plan for your irrigation. Unless you intend to fill a watering can and water each plant individually, you will want to purchase the materials for a drip system, either above or underground. Avoid using sprinklers on your garden because watering the leaves promotes fungus that will hurt your yields.
Don’t let the need for urgency intimidate you. If you’re new to this, start with one. One seed packet planted in one shallow container filled with soil. Do this in late February. Water your germination container enough to keep the soil moist but not wet. If you don’t have space for a garden, take the strongest one of the plants that emerged and put it in a planter with a vegetable garden soil from the nursery. Listen to the episode about container gardening on my podcast, Grayson Ag Talk, to learn how to take care of that plant until it gives you something to eat.
Take care of business now so that you can reap the rewards in season.
Marshall Tolleson is a county extension agent for the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. The AgriLife office is located at 100 W. Houston St., Sherman. For more information, visit http://www.Grayson.AgriLife.org.