From – WVU Extension Service County News 2 12 13
Although we aren’t beyond the threat of snow, it isn’t too early to start thinking about gardens. Some planning now can help ensure you’ll have plentiful flowers and vegetables all through the growing season.
If you’ve never gardened, you may wonder where to start. A logical place is deciding where you want to put your garden. Before you move any dirt, you need to observe the area. Make note of how much sun and shade the space gets. Most vegetable plants that produce fruit – like tomatoes and corn – require six to eight hours of full sunlight every day. Leafy and root crops like leaf lettuce, spinach, turnips, and carrots can tolerate some shade.
You also need to consider water. Does rain run off, or does it collect in the area you’re considering? Neither situation is a deal-breaker, but it affects how you’ll need to plant and maintain your garden. If you don’t have a piece of land where you can put grow crops, you can always explore container gardening, using large pots.
What should you grow? Well that depends. If you’re going to plant vegetables, choose things that you and your family like to eat. You can’t find more local foods than the ones you grow yourself! Think about how you’ll use the things you grow, and plan accordingly.
Seed packets usually include a wealth of information. In addition to the name of the vegetable, there should be a description of the characteristics of that particular variety as well as information about how, when and where to plant the seeds, how long they take to germinate, how long it takes before they’re ready for harvest, and whether they need full sun or can tolerate shade. Seeds are available at local stores, or you can order them from seed catalogs or internet sites. Row covers or frost blankets will help protect plants from frost or freezing temperatures.
You don’t need a lot of tools to get started with a small garden. At minimum, most gardeners need a shovel or spade, a hoe, a rake, and a trowel. Larger gardens may require a rotary tiller or small garden tractor, but if you’re just beginning to garden, you probably shouldn’t invest in large expensive equipment until you know that gardening’s for you. In the meantime, you can rent or borrow a tiller or hire someone to do that work for you.
Oh, and while you’re busy planting vegetables, don’t forget some flowers to brighten up your home and garden!
The WVU Extension Service has a number of helpful resources about gardening and agriculture. These range from the online Gardening 101 series to specific information about pests, soil, bees, and more. You can find these at www.anr.ext.wvu.edu. You can also download the 2013 WVU Extension Service Garden Calendar, a growing guide, and a varieties guide from the same site. And remember: if you need help contact Stephen Starcher at the WVU Extension Service Hampshire County office: (304) 822-5013 or firstname.lastname@example.org