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For those who don’t know, I love to garden. So when I say it's that time of year around this period.It means; it is time to garden, in the future, you will know what I'm saying.

This year I plan to garden a little differently! I'm going to use containers for my spinach, carrots, and tomatoes. I will use the raised bed method for my cabbage, cucumbers, a few tomatoes (can never have enough), and string beans. This year I plan to do a small garden. It will be; small enough for me to maintain, while I do book events and other activities as an author.

If you haven’t already started, you should start getting that soil ready now. There are some who will say, oh it's too late to work on the land. Oh, hogwash; depending on where you live, the climate, and whether your garden will be indoors or outdoors you can start at any time. I started on my spinach and carrots over two weeks ago. I now have little baby sprouts popping up! I know that my Virginia people are saying, it was cold a few weeks ago.

True, it was, I used plastic bags to cover my babies. A DIY greenhouse if you will. Gardening does not have to break the bank. When you think and plan ahead. A box of trash bags from Dollar Tree, work for me every time!

My tomatoes will be grown two ways, one is from cut tomatoes and the other from a baby plant! I am looking to compare; growth time to maturity, how they taste, and what they will look like. I am doing this because when we buy store brought veggies, there is a chance that they are Hybrids. I generally do not keep, save, or try to grow hybrid seeds from the previous year. One reason; is that the plant may not look like what it should or what you think it should like. The one time I did save hybrid seeds from a cucumber, the veggie came out looking like a squash with a bunch of unusual colors. After that; I decided no more hybrids. Yeah, so I am taking a chance on the tomatoes. However, this will be my research and used for next year.

What I do to get my soil ready

If you plan to use containers, you can buy premixed potting soil for veggies or go in the yard and dig up some dirt. Not every bag or brand of potting soil is the same! If I buy premixed, I still add Epsom Salt, Egg Shells, and Miracle Grow to the soil. When I do this, I do not fertilize my plants when I first place them in a pot or the ground. I don’t have to; the soil has been allowed to absorb those added nutrients over a period of time. My methods and products are not set in gold. This is what works for me and how I like to start my garden. Everything I do in my garden now was learned through trial and error over the years.

I do the same for raised beds; each section is treated the same and allowed to sit over the winter. You will be surprised how fertile your soil is, if you start turning the soil over after the fall, and adding whatever it is you use for your fertilizer. The soil has a chance to rest the whole winter and rejuvenate itself! Another way to rest your soil, try rotating when planting. There are several ways that I do this; how you do, it may differ from me. Whether it’s a raised bed or tilled soiled; I rotate my crops if I planted string beans in the first three top rows.

Then that next year, they will go down at the bottom or in another raised bed. I do this for all of my crops, and I learned this method from watching my mother and grandmother garden. Some plants are harsher on soil than others! If you look at large farms, they rotate their crops and will even leave a field alone for a year to give it time to replenish itself.

For those gardeners, or soon to be gardeners. I hope this information helps you in some way. For gardening tips and advice contact your local extension office, and check to see if your library will be hosting a helpdesk with Master Gardeners.

Twitter @Kim_L_Walton

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