To Be or Not To Be … A Gardener?

It’s true, snow flakes have been spotted. For those of you that might of been thinking about a veggie garden this season and just never got there, it’s not too late to get it ready for a head start next season.

Here’s some advice from PATTI NAGAI, Horticulture Educator For Racine Count UW-Extension. There are things you can do right now to prepare for a vegetable garden next spring. Choosing the site is very important — full sun (more than six hours of direct sun each day) and well-drained soil are essential. Low areas that hold water and are subject to frost are not the best for vegetable gardens. Check for trees. Roots interfere with water and nutrients, and shade is not good. Roots can extend four times their height out from the trunk, or more. So a 40 foot tree could easily have roots 160 feet from the base.

Once you have selected a site, consider soil sampling. You don’t have to wait for the soil test results to begin preparing the area for a garden; the next thing to decide is how to kill the grass and weeds. The traditional method might be to use a sod cutter or shovel to scrape off vegetation, but there is good organic matter in those plants that will be lost.

Another way is to use a non-selective vegetation killer like glyphosate to kill everything green; that can still be done now but you need a warm day when the plants are active. This time of year plants are transporting storage compounds to the roots for winter preparation, so the glyphosate will move to the roots also, resulting in dead plants. Once the plants are brown, turn them into the soil for decomposition.

A third method does not involve the use of chemicals and is much easier. Cover the area completely with 12 to 15 layers of newspaper (non-glossy) topped with four to six inches of good quality compost. Keep this moist until it freezes. In spring, plant into or through the compost, no tilling or turning of the soil required. This method can be used with constructed raised beds and other types of gardens as well.

You can spend the winter dreaming of vegetables to grow. Plan out your garden according to cool season, warm season and days to harvest and most importantly, what you like to eat.