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April 15 signals the start of vegetable gardens across North Georgia
0416garden
Suzanne Albright shows off some of the lettuce plants that will fill her garden. - photo by Tom Reed
COMING APRIL 23
Gardening at night? No, by the light of the moon!
Local gardener Donn Cooper explores how the phases of the moon could affect your plants and how they grow.  PLUS: Keep watching this page all summer long for updates on local vegetable gardens. Do you have a great garden or growing tips to share? E-mail them to life@gainesvilletimes.com or call 770-718-3427.

Finally, all that composting, soil amending, tool purchasing and general puttering around the garden is finally bearing fruit.

Literally.

Because as of Thursday, the garden gods say we should be frost-free until fall, and home vegetable gardeners can now start putting tender summer vegetable crops, like beans, peppers and tomatoes, into the ground. The sun is warm, rain barrels are full and hope springs anew with the start of a new gardening season.

In honor of this momentous occasion, we’ve consulted with a range of gardeners who are planning vegetable gardens this year. Readers of this page last year may be somewhat familiar with my garden — strange purple beans and all — and this year we’re adding even more gardeners into
the mix.

Along with my garden — yes, I’m back at it again — meet gardeners Donn Cooper, Anne Brodie Hill and Suzanne Albright. Cooper, who grew up around cows and chickens but recently started gardening, is growing his vegetables this year according to the phases of the moon (look for more on this next Friday). Hill decided to start a garden just this year, and Albright is a Master Gardener who has had a vegetable garden for three years.

We asked each gardener a few questions about their hopes and fears for this summer, and we’ll check back in with them throughout the growing season to see how things are coming. With any luck, August will bloom full of squash, cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.

Happy gardening!

Kristen Morales

Donn Cooper

What are you planning in your vegetable garden this year?
I always want to try out a new heirloom variety each year. This year it’s the Bradley tomato. Honestly, I’m not really sure what to expect. My seeds came from my mother’s neighbor in Pegram, Tenn., and they’ve been struggling to germinate. But I like my garden to have surprises.

What are some hurdles you’ve had in the past, in regards to crops or yield?
When I first got started, I thought I could just throw a bunch of seeds in the ground without planning or preparation. But eggplant, for example, is hard to grow and easily stressed, and I usually leave it off the planting list. Water is always an issue, especially with my marginal soil — although last year was the first time I can remember having too much. This year I’m going to be more vigilant about stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs, which did a number on my tomatoes last year. Of course, I fully expect to fight the fire ants this summer. By late last September, they were herding aphids all over my okra pods.

Do you have any goals for your garden this year?
Besides organization and plenty? Better record-keeping and observation. I’m still learning how I want to rotate crops and which bugs tend to frequent my little garden. I’ve never grown onions before, so I’m really curious to see how they develop and what I need to adjust. I’m probably most looking forward to that first juicy, rich tomato — it’s been way too long.

 

Anne Brodie Hill

What are you planning in your vegetable garden this year?
I bought several packages of seeds, all organic — I’m not sure if this makes a difference, but it’s worth a try — and bought several peat pots to start some of the seeds indoors. (They were) planted March 19; I have not done this before — always bought plants for tomatoes, peppers and herbs. I put tomato, bell pepper, eggplant, chives, basil and parsley seed in the peat pots. ... The tomatoes are real tall and skinny, but a friend told me to replant them in bigger "starter" pots, burying most of the plant’s stems in the dirt and then later planting these in bigger pots.

What are some hurdles you’ve had in the past, in regards to crops or yield?
Last year was the first time I tried to plant vegetables in Gainesville (Forsyth County) since moving from my great backyard garden in Stone Mountain in 1995, because my present home is in the woods and the dirt is terrible for planting. I do compost leaves, grass and vegetables and fruit scraps. I tried planting almost everything in big pots and plastic half barrels. The plants that didn’t get enough sun didn’t do good at all — the tomatoes got real tall, but no tomatoes. And the plants in the ground were eaten by critters.

Do you have any goals for your garden this year?
This year I hope to have better yields with my tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and squash, and if the other plants do good, that will be a bonus! I hope to get more big pots and barrels, because I have learned I cannot plant in the ground in the woods. I hope all the seeds I started indoors will grow so I can plant them outside in the pots.

Suzanne Albright

What are you planning in your vegetable garden this year?
I’m planting lettuce, tomatoes and peppers, and then I have a lot of herbs.

What are some hurdles you’ve had in the past, in regards to crops or yield?
For some reason tomatoes seem to be a problem — diseases.

Do you have any goals for your garden this year?
To have a very fruitful garden. I mean, basically, make sure it works well.

 

Kristen Morales

What are you planning in your vegetable garden this year?
I’ve started some heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and squash from seed, and I’m planning to purchase some bell pepper plants and get some various bush bean plants into the ground. But I can’t put them in the ground just yet — their spaces are being taken up by peas, Brussels sprouts and lettuce that are still growing.

What are some hurdles you’ve had in the past, in regards to crops or yield?
Tomatoes are my white whale, although last year I had a lot of success with a surprise tomato plant that produced these beautiful yellow, pear-shaped cherry tomatoes into October. Last year was a good learning experience, though, since most of my tomatoes succumbed to cracking due to the rain. This year I feel like I have a better handle on pests and, in general, conditions in which tomatoes like to grow.

Do you have any goals for your garden this year?
I would love to have a few tomato plants that give me consistent yields — typically I’ll get a few tomatoes off of a few plants, and they go downhill. I would also like to fix my irrigation system, which right now involves lugging water containers from a nearby rain barrel to the garden. Ideally, I’ll have a soaker hose option attached to the rain barrel, too, for my beans and peppers.

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