A common question asked of the Hall County Extension office, brought to you by Wanda Cannon
April 15 — the "average" frost deadline in our area — is almost here. Until then, what can I do to prepare the garden?
Growing vegetables in a home garden has become quite popular. It can also be a rewarding and fun task, too!
While you are waiting to plant, consider your garden area and its site requirements. Preparation of your vegetable beds is essential to a good harvest. I would suggest a raised bed for planting — they are easy to build and are a great way to keep your garden free of weeds and other problems that occur from growing right into the ground.
But regardless of where you intend to plant your vegetables, amend the soil with organic materials such as compost, ground bark, leaves and manure. Work these materials into the topsoil at least 12 to 24 inches. Deep, fertile soil will provide your beds with humus-rich nutrients.
Starting vegetable seeds indoors should begin now if you want to transplant in six weeks or so, or go out and buy transplants at the time you are ready to plant. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumber and squash should all be safe to plant after the middle of April. You can plant okra and sweet potatoes in late April.
You can also prepare your garden beds for spring and summer annuals. Make sure this area is also weed free and the soil is amended with organic material. Plan your garden design and select colors that work off of each other, such as reds and yellows or purple and chartreuse.
Container gardening is also an easy and creative way to display your annuals. Think about what you would like to plant and work with your color, texture and height options. The basic concept is to add height in the middle, surround with contrasting color and use trailing plants to spill over the sides of the containers. This is an easy and creative way to display annuals on your patio or driveway. Always look for sun and shade requirements when selecting the location for your containers.
Perennials can be planted now. Plant strawberries, too! Also dahlias, elephant ears, caladiums and gladiolus can be planted now. Do not prune flowering shrubs such as quince, spirea, azalea or forsythia until after they bloom. Clean up under your camellias and euonymous bushes. Check the backside of their leaves for signs of scale and spray with horticultural oil if there are pests.
There are many things one can do now to get ready for the big date — April 15. After that, hopefully we are home free! Check out the Hall County Master Gardeners Spring Expo, today and Saturday, at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center to buy all of those wonderful annuals, perennials and veggies.
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.