It Really Is a Good Time to Think Through Next Year’s Garden

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It was sleeting and snowing yesterday. Later on in the week the forecast predicts highs in the mid 50s to mid 60s. Yo-Yo weather. The stink bugs in my yard just don’t know what to make of this uncertain weather pattern. I’m sure they’ll bring their appetite and species survival instincts with them whatever happens. I’m still planning on gardening next season, regardless of the uncertain weather, insect intrusions or other unavoidable obstacles. Staying connected to green spaces can bring all kinds of benefits with it:  physical exercise, stress relief, fresh food, fresh air and fresh ideas.

By thinking through next year’s garden now I can influence the outcomes I want to achieve from it. Exercising the ”influence muscle” by doing something, can decrease the concerns over the unavoidable things like the weather, etc. that I can’t do anything about.

Food production will take the top spot for the 2021 garden for many of us, followed by beauty and relaxation. With the right choices and placement we can have both at the same time. Gardening consists of selecting a site, planning the garden, preparing the soil, choosing the seeds and plants, planting and nurturing the plants until they are ready for admiring and harvesting. The end result includes fresh produce to eat, share, or sell.

It doesn’t take a lot of money, time, or talent. A convenient site in full sun with easy access to water and productive, well-drained soil in either container gardens, raised beds, or traditional rows will get you started off right. Help with understanding the plant requirements and growing information is available from your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office. Candidly, it’s the “getting after it” that tends to be elusive. Anyone who is willing to invest some time every day or two to nurture the plants can grow a vegetable garden, so we need to include garden care into our plans and schedules.

Plan to grow what your family likes to eat. Here in North Carolina, most vegetables are grown as annuals. Vegetables are grouped by when they grow: Cool-season annuals are planted in early spring and early fall. They are cold-hardy and thrive in spring and fall when temperatures are below 70°F: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. Warm-season annuals are planted after the last spring frost when soils have warmed up. They are frost sensitive and thrive in summer when temperatures are above 70°F: beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, pumpkins, southern peas, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelons.

For specific planting dates depending on where you live, you can also use N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Garden Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs in North Carolina.

Some vegetables produce more than others so fewer plants will be needed. The amount to plant depends on family size, expected production, and whether or not you plan to do any freezing or canning. For an idea of how much to plant per person take a look at information from our colleagues at Michigan State University and Kansas State University.

Need some advice on how to prepare healthy and tasty dishes with your garden groceries? The Family and Consumer Sciences program in Lee County provides education for: Healthy Eating; Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Prevention; Food Safety; Local Food Systems; Food Preservation and the NC Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) Read more

For a bounty of more resources take a look at NC State Extension’s Gardening Portal.

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

Written By

Minda Daughtry, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionMinda DaughtryExtension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture Call Minda E-mail Minda N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center
Posted on Jan 4, 2021
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