Planning for your spring garden

Published 6:58 am Monday, January 1, 2018

Although winter has officially arrived here in Harlan County, warmer weather will be here before you know it, hopefully. Therefore, now is actually the best time to begin planning your garden. Maybe the thoughts of spring on the horizon will make those cold dreary days better. Before long, those seed catalogs will begin showing up at the door and stores that sell garden supplies will switch from snow shovels to garden tillers.

Having a successful garden begins with these seven steps:

1. Select a good gardening site. Make sure it gets plenty of sunlight, is well drained, and close to a water source.

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2. Plan your garden on paper before the season begins. Make a scale drawing of your garden area and show where you want to plant different cultivars.

3. Prepare the soil and add fertilizers and lime according to a soil test.

4. Plan only as big a garden that you can maintain. The garden will require weeding, insect and disease inspection, and water. If you plant too large of a garden the tasks may become overwhelming.

5. Grow vegetables in the maximum amount of space available.

6. Plant during the correct season for the crop.

7. Harvest your vegetables at their proper stage of maturity. Store them promptly and properly if you do not intend to use them immediately.

A well maintained garden can produce up to 700 pounds of produce per 1,000 square feet and will also yield many different crops.

A garden favorite you may want to think about now, are onions. Onions are a good crop for Kentucky gardeners. Typically in late winter it takes eight to 10 weeks to produce a reasonably sized transplant. If you want to plant in late March or the beginning of April, you need to seed your transplants this month.

When buying onion seed, be sure to buy intermediate day-long or day-neutral onion varieties. Onions can typically be categorized into short, intermediate and long day types.

Onions will bulb in response to day length. Short-day varieties need 11 to 12 hours of sunlight per day to bulb, intermediate-day varieties bulb with 12 to 13 hours of sunlight, and long-day varieties bulb with 13 to 14 hours.

A popular variety to try is the Candy onion. These will begin to bulb in mid-May and should mature by early- to mid-July.

Many growers report bulbs the size of softballs when growing Candy onions. If you decide to plant a long-day variety, such as Walla Walla or Sweet Spanish, your plants will begin to bulb in June and continue until early August when they will be mature. Although long-day types yield well in Kentucky, high temperatures during the summer, may lead to an increased disease risk.

So while we are on the subject of garden planning, the Harlan County Extension Service plans to hold a gardening series workshop from January thru May. At least one gardening session will be held each month. Subjects include making decisions for the garden, planning and preparing, planting and care, harvesting and post-harvest and marketing your harvest. If you are interested in this series please contact me at the office for more information and to sign up. Those completing the full series will receive a certificate.

Jeremy Williams is the Harlan County extension agent for agriculture & natural resources. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.