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There is a higher interest this year for vegetable gardening. Vegetable gardening offers a multitude of benefits -- you can improve your health by increasing your consumption of fresh vegetables, and increase your physical activity by digging, planting, and pulling weeds. It is a natural stress reliever to go outside and get some fresh air. Do you want your kids to eat more vegetables? By having them help in the garden, they are more likely to eat vegetables that they help produce. On top of all that, vegetables you grow yourself just seem to taste better than what you buy in the store.

Here are 10 steps to help your garden be successful:

1. Make good use of your location. Make sure your soil is loose and well-drained. Check your soil's pH and fertility with a soil test, which is free of charge through the Cooperative Extension Service. Your location should receive plenty of sun. Your garden should be near your home for convenience as well as being near a water supply.

2. Make a plan for your garden. You need to know how much space you have available for the plants that you and your family want to grow. Spacing is different for each crop, so plan accordingly. Rotating crops yearly is helpful in preventing diseases that overwinter in the soil. Rotate crops from one side of the garden to the other to accomplish this.

3. Grow recommended varieties. Make sure you select a recommended variety for your area. One variety of a vegetable may do well in certain area of the country, but might not be suitable for Arkansas. Check with your county Extension agent for varieties that are suitable for what you want to grow.

4. Obtain good seed, plants, equipment, and supplies. Purchase seed from reliable seed companies. If you plant seed that is over a year old, you will need to plant at a higher rate. If you purchase plants to be transplanted, make sure they look healthy and free of disease and insects. Avoid plants that are spindly. Make sure you have all your tools, fertilizers, and chemicals when you start so you have them when they are needed.

5. Prepare and care for the soil properly. The soil provides food and water to plants. To promote good growth and development of your plants, prepare the soil before planting by adding organic matter, applying fertilizers, correcting acidity, and plowing the seedbed properly. Take care of the soil during the growing season by applying starter fertilizer and by side-dressing with fertilizer as needed.

6. Plant your vegetables right. Make sure your timing is good on planting. Some vegetables can be planted early and withstand frost, such as leaf lettuce and broccoli. Others, like peas and peppers, will not do well in cold temperatures.

7. Keep down weeds. Weeds will compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients. Also, weeds can harbor disease and insects. Using a 3-inch layer of mulch will help in controlling weeds, as well as saving moisture. Removing weeds by hand or hoe works well. Be careful not to cut into the roots of your vegetables when using a hoe.

8. Control pests. Insects and diseases can be the downfall of your crop. Select varieties that are disease-resistant. Plant at proper distances to avoid crowding. Keep down weeds in and around the garden. If insects become an issue and chemical control is necessary, make sure you properly identify the insect to make sure you use the correct control.

9. Water properly. Vegetables will do well on 1-2 inches of water each week (that includes rain and irrigation). Water at ground level to avoid fungal issues with water sitting on leaves or stems.

10. Harvest at peak quality. The quality of vegetables cannot be improved after harvest. Therefore, it is important to harvest at the proper maturity. Some vegetables, like okra, cucumbers, and squash, can stay on the plant for a while, but become tough or stringy if left on too long.

Homegrown vegetables are a great addition to your dinner plate. While it takes time and effort to have a productive garden, it is time and energy well spent. When you have questions on vegetable gardening, garden pests or diseases, or anything else gardening, the Cooperative Extension Service is here to help you. Contact the Garland County Cooperative Extension Service office at 623-6841 or email [email protected]

Master Gardener information

Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They're open to the public, and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]

EHC information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane at [email protected] Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.

4-H information

For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Carol Ann McAfee at the Garland County Cooperative Extension Service office located at 236 Woodbine in Hot Springs, call 623-6841, or email [email protected] More information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.

Society on 05/18/2020

Print Headline: Ten steps to a successful garden

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