Growing a better garden

Published 9:47 am Thursday, February 9, 2017

By Pam Jones

Cooperative Extension

Horticulture Agent

This is a continuation of the garden series begun last week so I am going to make the following assumptions based on that information.

You took soil samples and have your soil analysis report in hand.

You have your record of observations on the amount of sunlight your proposed garden site receives each day – 10 or more hours of full sun is recommended.

Your water source has been determined and you can provide one inch of water minimum weekly to your garden to supplement rainfall if needed.

You have planned the flowers and/or vegetables you want to grow.

What now? Raised beds, traditional garden plot or container garden?

Ask yourself these questions.

• How large do I want my garden to be? Is this garden for my own use or do I want to harvest enough flowers or vegetables to share or possibly sell?

• Do I need to build raised beds because there are soil issues?

• Do I want raised beds because I cannot or do not want to spend my summer days weeding? It is easier to cover a small garden area with mulch to suppress weeds. Additionally, it is easier to amend the soil in a raised bed to improve it thereby improving your harvest of flowers or vegetables. Gardeners with mobility issues prefer raised beds for ease of working the garden too.

• Do I just want to grow a few tomato or pepper plants? Then container gardening may be a good choice for you.

After you have determined the garden area size and type, prepare your garden area for planting. If you chose a traditional garden, prepare the area by tilling to remove as many weeds as possible. Allow the soil to rest a week or two and till again. Never work soil when it is too wet as this causes clumping and leads to poor soil structure.

If raised beds are chosen, they can be many heights and made from many materials. They range in cost from reasonable if you use materials you may already have on hand to pricey depending on design and building materials used.

Construction plans can be found on the internet on Extension websites or by contacting your local Extension office. Here in Davie County, contact Pam Jones, Horticulture agent, at

Containers can be filled with a good soil mix that can be obtained from a garden center. These prepared mixes already have the pH needed for growing flowers and vegetables. Some people fill their raised beds with bags of soil mix but this can get expensive quickly. Good quality topsoil can be used in raised beds and amended as needed according to a soil sample report. Other mixes include amending topsoil with well-composted manure or leaves or bagged mixes. However, preparation always comes back to the foundation of working with good soil structure and the proper pH for the crop you are growing. So, build your raised beds, fill with your soil or soil mix, and have that tested.

Next week, I will assist you in understanding your soil analysis report, what pH is and how it can affect the nutrients available to your plants.

Until then, you have homework to do as outlined in this article and in last week’s.

Happy gardening.