Photo Credit: Photos: Roy Cook/Victoria County Master Gardener
Randall Nelson, a Victoria County 4-H member, with help from his father, Scott Nelson, took advice from Master Gardener Roy Cook and successfully planted a vegetable garden.
Vegetable adventure turns out successful for
first-time gardeners

December 11, 2008

By Roy Cook, Victoria County Master Gardener 
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon, Victoria County Master Gardener
As a Victoria County Master Gardener, I have had the pleasure of having helped with the school tours at Victoria Educational Gardens at the Victoria Regional Airport.

I normally guide the youth through the vegetable area of the gardens and explain to them and their chaperones, where the vegetables come from and how they are grown.

Some young children have no idea where the vegetables they eat come from. All they know is they have seen their parents go to the supermarket and come home with fruits and produce.

I love to see the expression on a child's face and the look in his or her eyes when you pull a carrot, radish or potato from the ground. Many also believe pickles are grown on a bush, not made from cucumbers.

At our March meeting, Joe Janak, Master Gardener coordinator, announced that a mother whose son, a 4-H club member, had expressed a desire to start a vegetable garden. They were asking for the help of a master gardener. I was very busy at the time, but knew I could find the time in my schedule to help.

I obtained the phone number and address from Janak and gave them a call. I talked to Scott Nelson, the father, and made an appointment to visit with them. When I arrived, I found out that the boy, Randall Nelson, was sick. The father showed me where they wanted to put the vegetable garden. The area was mowed but was infested with grass and weeds. I recommended staking off the area they wanted to plant and spraying with a post emergent weed killer.
Photo Credit: Roy Cook/Victoria County Master Gardener
The original site for the garden was wide-open land that was full of grass and weeds and exposed to a possible deer population.
After taking the suggested steps, the completed site was cleared and fenced in with added soil amendments and had access to a necessary watering source. The plants were nice and green, had no signs of disease or pest problems, and were plentiful for family and neighbors.
After the weeds and grass had died, they should till the soil, remove the dead materials and level the ground. I told them about soil amendments for soil enrichment and conditioning.

I noticed that the water supply was not very close, so if they did not want to spend a lot of time pulling water hoses, they needed to run a water line closer to the garden. The father also told me they had a deer problem so I recommended installing a fence.

We talked about what could be planted at that time of year. We discussed the different varieties of the vegetables the family liked to eat and how they could be planted. I also cautioned them about overplanting. That is, don't plant more than you can or want to take care of or more than your family can consume, unless you want to .

After about a month had passed, I received a call from Randall asking if I would come out and take a look at what he and his father had done. I said yes and told them when I could be there.

When I arrived and talked to him and his father, they showed me the garden area. Believe me when I say I was shocked and amazed at the excellent job they had done. The soil was nice and friable and had a great earthy smell to it. I told them to start planting.

As I was preparing to leave, Randall ran into the house and returned with a package of green beans, ready to get his vegetable garden going. I left with them not only my knowledge of gardening, but printed information from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Web site on The Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide at
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homeguide/index.html or a downloadable PDF form at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/home/hmguide.pdf

The Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide by Sam Cotner and Frank Dainello, extension horticulturists, has all kinds of topics relating to home vegetable gardening.

I did a follow-up on this father and son team to see how they had progressed on their garden. Not only had they followed suggestions and recommendations, they had taken steps further still. They had run water to their garden, installed soaker hoses on each raised bed under the mulch and installed shutoff valves for each row. Not only had they put up a fence to keep the deer and other animals out, but they had installed an electric fence.

These two had spent a lot of time and hard work getting their vegetable garden going, but the final results they said was worth it. Everything they had growing was what the family liked to eat.

The plants were nice and green with no signs of disease or pest problems. They had not put in a lot of the same varieties, but their production was so good that they shared with their neighbors.

Now that they have a garden established, future gardening should be a lot easier. After all, the hardest work is behind them. The fence is up and the water supply is installed.

The biggest problem I see is the decision on what to plant.

If there is anyone with the desire to start a vegetable garden for the first time, or needs fresh ideas for one they already have, please let the Victoria County Master Gardener Association know by calling the Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County office at 361-575-4581.

Kids love computers and there are various computer-related teaching tools to develop a youth garden.






Besides great ideas and sound advice from these sites, learning gardening principles on the computer is a fun thing to do to plan a spring garden now in the cold of winter.