The months of April and May are ideal to start gardening for the summer season. But for individuals who don’t currently garden, here are a few helpful hints to get you started from gardening experts Jim Denning of Denning’s Greenhouse and Garden Center and Bob Neier and Rebecca McMahon, Horticulture agents, with the Sedgwick County Extension.
Neier recommends you start with a small garden in the first year and then expand your gardening in future years. Starting with small plants gives higher transplant success.
Develop a plan
Determine what you are interested in planting. Choose where you would like to plant trees, flowers and vegetables in your yard. Observe the land and evaluate the amount of sunlight certain areas receive as well as drainage. Flowers and vegetables of all varieties may have different needs including the amount of sun they require.
“Pay attention where the shade and sun is in your yard. What time of day are there shady areas and where are the sunny places? Also, walk through the lawn to see where water is standing after a rain,” says McMahon.
Neier continues, “Avoid planting most plants (trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables) in low, poorly drained areas.”
Choose a location
“Once you decided what you want to try to garden, choose a spot to plant the garden for first time,” says McMahon. “For veggies, I encourage people not to plant veggies in containers because it is hard to keep them appropriately watered.”
However, if you need to use a container, McMahon recommends purchasing a container larger than 10- 15 gallons.
Pick the Plants
“When planting permanent plants and perennial flowers you have to do your research,” says denning. “Visit the Sedgwick County Extension or a local garden center to ask about what plants would work for you and your garden.”
Another resource is the Prairie Star Annual Flowers list. This lists the toughest annuals for Kansas and designates which plants perform best in sun as well as shady locations. Summer flowers listed on the Prairie Star list should be planted after May 10.
For food production, McMahon recommends planting the foods both you and your family enjoy.
“You are more likely to spend time gardening when you want to eat the end product,” says McMahon. “I recommend planting summer veggies in May. When planting tomatoes, don’t start with Heirloom tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are more productive with less stress and hassle.”
Prepare the ground
Once you have chosen a location for your landscaping and garden, make sure you prepare the ground for planting. Preparation should include tilling up the grass or soil where you plan to plant the plants.
“If you are converting a garden from a Fescue lawn to flowers or veggies, till and plant,” says Neier. “When removing Bermuda grass, let the Bermuda grow and then spray it with Roundup (Glyphosate) or another herbicide containing Glyphosate and then plant the next season or when the grass is fully dead. If you don’t want to use synthetic herbicides, cover with black plastic to shade out the grass. Then next year garden in it (that location).”
Maintain your garden
Within the first few weeks of tilling and planting, you will see little blades of grass and weeds, denning explains. “If you wait too long, the weeds can become out of control. Make sure you hoe the weeds at least every month, or as early as three weeks during the rainy growing season.”
Additionally, Denning recommends watering regularly especially when growing tomatoes. “don’t water a tomato plant and then wait until the plant wilts and then water again. Uneven moisture can make a tomato’s skin crack.”
“In today’s world, people want to buy locally, grow their own food and know just what they are eating,” says denning. “It is so rewarding when you garden and produce something you can eat and enjoy.