Gardening has the ability to get the whole family out together into the fresh air and sunlight and creates a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Many families are seeking safe and meaningful activities they can participate in at home as our world practices social distancing to reduce the spread of Covid19. Gardens have historically been important in times of crisis. Many of you may have heard of WW2 era Victory Gardens planted to aid in food shortages. Did you know that an astounding 40 percent of the food grown in the U.S. in 1944 came from National Victory Gardens? Gardening fosters a sense of perseverance and reliance by providing hope and food. I am pretty sure most of us can weather many of life’s storms as long as we have hope and food! If you have never planted a garden or just typically don’t have the time to plant one, now is a great time to start! Gardening can provide many benefits to people of all ages. Not only do gardens provide fresh, nutritious and delicious food but can boost overall physical and mental health. According to the World Health Organization, good health means more than just the absence of bad health symptoms. It means “the presence of positive emotions, quality of life, sense of community and happiness.” Gardening burns calories, helps build and maintain strong muscle and bones, reduces likelihood of dementia, improves sleep and heart health, and elevates immunity. Studies also show that gardening can actually reduce stress and improve mood by increasing the body’s serotonin levels.
Convinced yet to start a garden? Yes? The days are getting longer and the air warmer, so let’s start planning!
The first thing to consider is the location of your garden. In Kiowa County and surrounding rural areas, many are blessed with plentiful space. For growing most vegetables, a sunny area with some shelter from wind is best. Close access to water and healthy topsoil is also important.
Next, choose the type of garden that is right for you. An in-ground traditional garden is the way to go if you are a very ambitious gardener with plenty of time and space to dedicate to tending your plants. A rototiller is best for working large areas of soil. Mixing in all-purpose slow release dry fertilizer or composted manure are good options for in-ground and raised beds.
After preparing the soil, I recommend laying weed barrier over soil to preserve moisture and keep weeds to a minimum.
Raised garden beds are a smart choice for those with physical limitations, areas with poor soil, or for the simple pleasing aesthetic of many raised garden bed designs. Planter borders are best built from pressure treated lumber or cedar, but recycling and reusing old tractor tires, livestock tanks, or old lumber is perfectly fine. It is best to lay a ground barrier underneath the bed that allows water to drain and keep weeds from growing. Most sources suggest a minimum soil depth of 12 inches or more. Raised beds are easily covered in cold weather to extend the growing season.
If you don’t have the space or capability to care for a large garden, container gardening on a patio or sunny window in your house might be your best option. There are even small hydroponic patio planters that can be purchased or built. New seed varieties developed for container gardening are more readily available than in years past. Container gardens grow well with slow release fertilizers such as Osmocote.
Now we have our beds ready, what to plant? According to Farmer’s Almanac, the official last average freeze date in Eads is May 3, Lamar is May 2, and Kit Carson is May 12. We can use this as a guideline. Onions, potatoes, and garlic can be planted now. Any starter plants such as tomatoes or peppers should be planted after freeze danger passes or will need to be covered on the nights where temps fall below freezing. Many heat loving plants such as corn, pumpkins, and cucumbers need the ground to warm up a bit before sowing seed to ensure good germination.
There are many effective watering systems out there to choose from. The most important thing to remember about water is that slow, frequent, and consistent watering is always best for optimum plant growth. If you have the time and are consistent, hand watering can be best because you can customize which plants need a little more or a little less. I have had success with drip irrigation systems similar to those used in landscaping and tree rows. Drip tape is another good option. Using a water timer is also a great way to help with consistency.
For additional gardening information, I encourage you to visit Johnny’s Selected Seeds website and explore their “Grower’s Library.” Another great resource that many are familiar with is the Farmer’s Almanac website. These resources answer just about every gardening question you can dream up and provide information suitable for beginners and experts alike. Johnny’s Selected Seed website has individual, one by one, detailed plant variety growing information and has garden planners and calculators, companion planting tutorials, instructional videos, how to deal with pests and diseases, organic gardening, and much, much more! I am also happy to give gardening advice, please call or text or FB message Katie at Blue Roof Hydro Farm.
Blue Roof Hydro Farm is changing things up a bit to do our part to keep our family and our community safe and continue to supply you with plants, produce and beef. We are setting up a pickup/delivery ordering system through our Facebook page and expect it to be up and running April 20th. Check our page for updates and details.
We are excited to serve you and help you on your gardening journey and hope that your garden can be a bright spot during this difficult time! Until we can all be together, let’s all grow together!