March 09, 2012

by Michelle Mudd,
Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
Cade Mudd, 10, son of Master Gardener Intern Michelle Mudd and Ronny Mudd, has grown up involved with the family vegetable garden. The very large homegrown cabbage obviously liked its surroundings as much as the family enjoyed growing it.
Three-year-old Elizabeth Janak is ready to help plant green bean seeds in the family garden. She is known to like and eat most vegetables right out of the garden because of gardening with her parents, Sara and Travis Janak. She is also the granddaughter of Carol and Joe Janak, recently retired extension agent.
This one day's harvest from a local garden includes black and neon eggplant, okra, six varieties of yellow, white and red grape tomatoes, and three varieties of sweet peppers.
This raised-bed garden, constructed of untreated landscape timbers, gets at least eight hours of sun daily, is close to a water source and is not close to any buildings or large trees. Growing in the bed, from left, are rows of okra, potatoes, tomatoes and onions.
When many of us think of vegetable gardening, we think of the past, something our grandparents or even parents did - and indeed this is true. They ate what they grew.

They did not have the modern-day conveniences of fast-food restaurants or drive-thrus. With our busy lifestyles, we can't imagine trying to grow vegetables or even the extra time it would take to do so, but we can - and we should.

Reasons to grow your own

There are many reasons to grow your own vegetables, but I'm pointing out just a few: Rising prices at our local grocery stores and the freshness and quality you get from your local market, isn't even comparable to what you get from your own garden. Another very important point is the fact that this generation is one of the unhealthiest of all time. Teach and show our children how to grow vegetables, and they are more apt to eat them.

Steps to success

Have A Plan - To have a successful vegetable garden, there are a few basic, but very important steps to take. What type of garden do you want? Small or large, you need a plan. To avoid first-year failure, start small, like maybe a four- by eight-foot raised bed, using untreated landscape timbers or cinder blocks. What vegetables will you plant? Plant the vegetables that your family will eat and always try a little of something different or extra to pique their interest. And also, plant the proper veggies for the season you are planting in. It has been springtime weather outside, so start planning your garden now.

Choose a location- Select a location that gets at least eight hours of sun and is close to a water source. You can, however, plant your leafy plants, such as lettuce, mustard greens and radishes, in a partial shaded area. Make sure the area drains well and is not close to any buildings or large trees - and avoid planting in low spots or next to septic tanks. It's important to have your garden close enough to the house so it doesn't feel like it's a chore to get to it.

Test the soil - Also, have the soil tested every three years. Your local county extension agent has information on how to do this. A pH of 5.5 to 7.5 is good, but 6.5 is ideal. The pH will affect the availability of nutrients to plants. Remember, a well-planned, small, fertile garden is more fruitful than a large messy one.

Indoor Vegetable Gardening

Indoor vegetable gardening is picking up speed in becoming the trendy, healthy lifestyle. So many of us live in apartments and town homes. Let's face it, we are getting older and not able to do as much work maintaining a vegetable garden in our yard.

Container Gardening

Container vegetable gardening will brighten a dull patio into an attractive plantscape. Whether you use barrels, cut off milk jugs, window boxes or planter boxes with trellises, you can grow almost anything. The containers must have adequate drainage and be large enough to support plants when they are fully grown.

If you choose wood, use untreated - or approved treated - lumber (see Gardeners' Dirt article, Feb. 10, 2012 at -- Containers should not be used if they had previously had anything toxic in them.

Containers must be able to hold soil without spillage. Most plants need at least 6 inches of soil depth to root along with adequate drainage. For container gardening, a light-weight potting mix is preferred. Local nurseries and garden centers will be able to recommend what is best suited for your needs.

If and when you do have a problem with pests, and I'm talking about your leaf eaters and such, an organic pesticide is my first recommendation although other pesticides may be approved. Again, your local nurseries and or county extension agent can give suggestions.

Pass along knowledge

I still get excited when I see the plants break ground, and now, so do my children. It is a good feeling when you know you are passing along knowledge that your children will pass on to theirs. It is a part of survival, but most of all, your family is healthier and wiser for doing so. There's not a vegetable my children won't eat - and I attribute that to having a family vegetable garden.
More economical
Possibly higher quality
Good for you
Fun to grow
Great learning opportunities for kids
A means to teach kids to enjoy veggies



When: Noon to 1 p.m. Monday
Where: Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.
Cost: Free

Subject: Victoria County Master Gardener Dick Nolen will present a program on plant propagation.

Optional: Bring your lunch and drink
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at