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Gardening with Wanda: Cover all the basics before planting your edible garden
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You may have plans to start your own veggie garden. Or maybe plant some fruiting trees and bushes. Whatever the case, it is time to make sure you plant in the right areas, the soil is the correct pH and everything is in order to obtain the maximum satisfaction of your endeavors.

For you vegetable garden lovers, this is the time to get your plants started whether you have raised beds or you are planting directly in the ground. We are safely past the last average frost date, so now is the time to get started.

Warm weather crops are heat loving and are most productive in the warm summer months. Most people love to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, beans and herbs. Everything can be planted by seed with the exception of tomatoes, which should be started indoors in February and March. Honestly, I would rather buy transplants because I am a little impatient (beans have to be sown by seed), but most vegetable seeds can be sown directly into a well prepared garden full of rich composted soil. Remember good drainage is a must.

When planting different vegetables, consider your space requirements. Most vegetables need adequate room to grow. Squash and cucumbers grow along the ground, so give them room or train them up on a trellis. Beans need to be on a trellis or teepee-type structure. Tomatoes will need to be staked or put in wire cages to be supported or they will get top heavy and break. Most peppers can become top heavy also.

Soaker hoses are a great way to water your garden. Put the hoses down as you begin to plant, and this will give your plants a slow balanced amount of water when they need it. Then you are off to a great start.

It is that time of year when you may also have established edibles that will be producing in the near future. If you have strawberry vines and blueberry bushes in your garden, now is the time to inspect them and make sure they are healthy and strong.

Strawberries are an easy to grow fruit crop that rewards the gardener with an ample harvest year after year. Each strawberry plant can produce up to a quart of strawberries. June bearing and Everbearing strawberries are the most commonly grown plant. June bearing produce a single flush of flowers and many runners. Everbearing plants produce two to three harvests of fruit during the spring, summer and fall and they produce few runners.

Strawberrries need full sun and well-drained loamy soil. They do best if planted away from vegetables that have been grown recently because they can pick up soil funguses. A great way to plant strawberries is in big container pots. Share some of them with your neighbors. They are easy to divide and children love to grow and pick them.

If you have established blueberry bushes, you should be seeing blossoms and even fruit at this stage. If you are planning on setting out some new bushes, late winter to early spring is a good time to plant. As before, full sunlight is a must for maximum fruit production.

Plant blueberries 6 to 8 feet apart and make sure you have more than one variety for cross pollination. Blueberries require a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.3. Have the soil tested where you plan on planting to make sure the pH is correct. Climax and Tifblue are two common rabbiteye varieties for this area. Remember with blueberries that it takes two to three years to produce fruit, but by the sixth year, a healthy bush will produce up to 2 gallons. Blueberries are virtually pest free and are the almost perfect fruit.

Whether it is in containers, raised beds or in the ground, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to eat from your own backyard. If the weather is nice, plan on getting out. Enjoy this beautiful Easter weekend.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.

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