Master Gardener: Top priorities for starting your new garden | Lifestyles


I would like to start a vegetable garden, but I don’t have a lot of space. How do I decide what type of garden is best for me? — C.W.

First of all, congratulations on wanting to start your journey into gardening. I say “journey” because if you approach it with the right attitude, you will be on a learning journey for many years. There are quite a few ways to grow vegetables, but some requirements need to take priority. Let’s talk about a few of those to help you get started.

First, you will need to find a spot that gets good sunlight. Full sun is considered 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day. This would be ideal. At minimum, you will need 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Can you grow vegetables in less light? Yes, but your plants will tend to be long and lanky and probably not produce as well as they would in a location with full sun. Here in Oklahoma, a little shade in the afternoon doesn’t hurt, and it will help shield your plants from that afternoon cooking heat.

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Next, you will need a location with fertile, well-drained soil. Optimal soil would fit in the sandy loam category (we’ll take up soil in a different article). And this soil should be high in organic matter as well as have the proper pH and nutrient levels.

In-ground gardens can be a little challenging in this area because very few of us are fortunate enough to have perfect garden soil in our yards. So, plan on getting your soil tested at the OSU Extension. We have instructions on how to gather your soil test sample on our website. Also, you need your garden site to be pretty level, so don’t exceed a 10-degree slope or you will have issues with runoff and erosion.

You will also need access to a convenient water supply. This is one that gets us sometimes because we find that perfect spot without thinking about how we are going to get water to the garden, and you will need water. Hoses are great, but they can really wear you down over the season if every time you need to water you have to pull a 100-foot hose from the house out to the garden. So, remember to factor in a water source.

And then, you’ll want your garden to be away from trees and shrubs, so your vegetables won’t have to compete with them for light and nutrients. Trees and shrubs can have vigorous roots that will love the extra attention your garden gets. So, keep some distance between them and your garden if possible.

The above recommendations are general recommendations that apply primarily to in-ground gardens. But there are a lot of other ways to grow delicious vegetables. First up would be raised bed gardens.

Raised bed gardens are great for several reasons. First of all, gardening involves a lot of time down on your knees. As we get older, that gets more difficult. But raised beds can be constructed at a height so that they provide you with either a place to sit while gardening, or if you build them high enough, they can allow you to work in your garden while standing. Every year I get closer and closer to taking the leap into a garden that allows me to stand, but maybe next year.

Raised beds also help solve the soil issue to some degree. When you build a raised bed, you get to fill it with the best garden soil you can afford. In the vast majority of these cases, this will be soil that is superior to the soil that is in your yard… no offense. Raised beds (if constructed properly) can also help keep Bermuda grass from creeping into your garden. And, raised beds typically allow for better soil drainage.

As a beginner, you might want to start small to test the waters (so to speak) before jumping off the high dive. Container gardens are not only a great way to start, but seasoned gardeners also make great use of containers for plants such as blueberries that have specific soil requirements.

The good news is that almost anything can be a container, even those 5-gallon plastic buckets from the big box stores. These buckets are inexpensive, and once you fill them with bagged garden soil you will be good to go. Don’t forget to drill some holes in the bottom of the bucket so they can drain, otherwise the soil will stay too wet, and your plants will likely suffer from root rot. Fabric grow pots are also great for growing vegetables.

Containers work well for people who live in apartments or are perhaps renting a home where they can’t make changes to the yard. The portability of these buckets can also come in handy during inclement weather. When all of us with in-ground gardens are hoping hail doesn’t wipe out our tomato plants, you will be able to just pick yours up and move them to safety.

There are a variety of other ways to get into vegetable gardening and we have information about these on our website. See you in the garden!

You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918-746-3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th St. or by emailing us at mg@tulsamastergardeners.org.



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