Having spent the last 4 years in Las Vegas I am so excited to have a house with a large yard in Washington for my garden.
There are four very important things to consider before beginning your vegetable garden.
Soil- An easy way to determine the type of soil you have is to dig a hole about one foot deep. Scoop up a handful and squeeze it into a ball. If it crumbles and falls apart it is loam-based soil. That is great! If it stays a solids ball that is slick, then you most likely have clay based soil. Add organic matter to clay soil to break it up and keep it from clumping together. I like to add peat moss or coconut fiber mulch. It helps keep the soil moist in between watering and does a great job of loosening clay base soil. King County has a free soil testing program for anyone living in King County. They are able to test the soil for the major nutrients N-P-K, pH, organic matter, and other micro-nutrients. The lab will send back recommendations specific to your plant needs. For information about soil testing in King County click HERE. For soil sampling instructions click HERE.
Fertilizer- Natural organic or slow-release fertilizers provide nutrients in small amounts over time - just the way your plants need them! Quick-release fertilizers are highly soluble, and water and rain can wash them right down the storm drain - directly into local waterways where nitrogen causes algae to grow, depleting oxygen and suffocating aquatic wildlife.
N = nitrogen, P = phosphorous, K = potassiumNitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are three major nutrients that are important for the growth of healthy plants. All plant food (fertilizer) needs to have a healthy balance of nutrients.
In the Pacific Northwest, the optimum ratio of N, P and K is three parts nitrogen to one part phosphorous to two parts potassium: 3N-to-1P-to-2K.
A great article about soil management from Washington State University.
Sun- Sun is vital to the proper growth of your crops. Plan out your garden before planting. Watch the sun in the area you want to put your garden to determine which places get the most.least amount of sun. Plant your taller crops on the north side of the garden so they don't shade the other crops. There are a variety of garden planning website like this, some are free for a trial and others you must pay for. I found it very helpful to remind me when to plant, harvest, fertilize, and where I planted crops previous years.
Water- Establishing the correct water-air relationships in the soil is essential for the best growth of all plant types. Oxygen in the soil is necessary for plants to grow. Watering too often or too much is likely to exclude the necessary oxygen from the soil pore spaces. Without enough oxygen, plant roots suffocate and die. Plant parts above ground exhibit symptoms of this stress: wilting, yellowing, and drying foliage, leaf drop and twig die-back may all occur. Constant over-watering kills most plants.Check out this article for great watering tips.
For more articles on general vegetable gardening in Washington visit this website.
Rototilled the garden about 3 times adding in a little peatmoss
Here are a few other general reminders:
- Vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight a day. If all that’s available is a low-light location, concentrate on leafy vegetables. Some other plants will grow in shade but will produce less and take longer to mature.
- The garden site should be relatively level. If there is a steep slope, run rows of plants across it. They will hold water longer and will help avoid erosion.
- Just about any soil will benefit from the addition of organic matter, such as manure, peat moss, or dead leaves. Also, before planting it’s a good idea to spade soil to a depth of 12 to 14 inches.
- Be careful with fertilizer. Lawn fertilizer will make plants produce lots of leaves and stems but not many vegetables. All fertilizers have a three-digit code. The normal one for vegetable gardens is 8-8-8 or 16-16-16.
- The simplest way to eliminate plant pests is to remove insects, worms, or eggs by hand. Remember to inspect plants regularly. Some shake-on powder or liquid bug sprays that are relatively safe include vegetable and tomato dusts, and sevin. A local garden shop will know what they are.
- Give seeds a chance. Most people plant them too deep. Proper depth is approximately four times as deep as the seed is thick, which often isn’t very deep.
Gardening is an essential part of emergency preparedness. It is much better to learn how to keep and grow a garden now, while it may not be needed, than waiting until it is an emergency. Besides being healthier and better for you, you will find that freshly grown vegetables taste much better than store bought.