AMES, Iowa – An early appearance of warm temperatures has allowed thoughts to move from frigid January to the bright sunshine of spring. It also signals a shift in attention outdoors, and in many cases into the garden.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has a variety of resources that can help prepare gardeners for the upcoming gardening season, whether planting a home vegetable garden for the first time or with years of experience. These publications are all available through the ISU Extension Store.
“I would encourage first time gardeners to start small,” said Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Start with something 10 feet by 10 feet and plant easy to grow vegetables, such as tomatoes. Summer squash, green beans, peppers and onions are also great for beginners.”
“Planting a Home Vegetable Garden” (PM 0819) includes information on how to prepare the site, seed selection, when to plant and how to plant. “Planting and Harvesting Times for Garden Vegetables” (PM 0534) provides times when 22 different garden vegetables should be planted and harvested. A chart with a visual representation of planting and harvest times and the length of each plant’s growing season is also included.
Detailed information on vegetable cultivars that typically perform well in Iowa is available in publication PM 0607, “Suggested Vegetable Varieties for the Home Garden.”
Determining a location for a garden is critically important for the garden’s success. According to Jauron, a garden needs at least eight hours of sunlight a day while also having well-drained soil. Publication PM 0814, “Where to Put Your Vegetable Garden” gives guidelines for location, garden size and plant placement.
For gardeners who want to start transplants indoors before planting them outdoors, “Starting Garden Transplants at Home” (PM 0874) is a resource that can be used to get a jump-start on the growing season.
“It’s important to know your crop time and when they need to be planted outdoors,” Jauron said. “Some vegetables take a long time and others have a much shorter growing period, so you need to know planting dates so they don’t get started indoors too early. Careful attention needs to be paid to when those plants should be transplanted.”
Another challenge many gardeners face is the issue of pruning grapevines. Pruning must be done to obtain maximum yields, but can be daunting to those who haven’t worked with the plants before.
“It’s not that difficult to do once you understand the principles, but it can be rather intimidating the first time you do it,” Jauron said. “Once you understand the principles of pruning you can begin to do it the correct way. Take your time, that’s the biggest thing. You may think you are removing too much but in reality that’s okay, especially with grapes. In the end you are going to remove most of last year’s growth.”