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Wake up: Consider this your gardens alarm clock
Its time to till the soil and put in the plants
Farm tools hang on the back of the shed belonging to David and Anita White in Lula. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

Boy, a sun-ripened, garden-fresh tomato sure would taste good right now.

And every year, many home gardeners think, "This is the year I’ll finally grow those tomatoes."

Well, now’s your chance to get started.

Hall County farmers have been busy prepping their fields for the spring growing season, and they have some tips for the home gardener just getting started in the vegetable garden.

While farmers like David White work on a large scale (he grows vegetables, fruits and flowers not only for the Hall County Farmers Market but also for customers who buy shares of his farm, too), the techniques they use are the same no matter how big your garden grows.

Right now, White said, the most important thing is to be patient.

Even though you can find plants ready to put in the garden at your local home and garden center, it’s still a little too early to put them in the ground.

"You could go ahead and buy the container plants and bring them inside, keep them protected from night temperatures and just don’t put them in the ground," White said.

At his farm, they start plants in the greenhouse in January — but, he said, many home growers won’t bother with starting from seed.

"They’re still selling (tomato plants) at the local lawn and gardens, but just because it’s at a local lawn and garden don’t mean you ought to put it in the ground. If you put it in the ground and it freezes, they get to sell you another one."

Both White and Bob Bradbury, a master gardener who farms a little more than a half acre in Flowery Branch, said they wouldn’t start planting summer-harvest crops until late April.

By the Farmer’s Almanac, White said, the best time to put the plants in the ground is April 20-23.

"My grandmother who lived to be 99 years old swore by that," White said of the book.

But there are some plants that you can have in the ground, and need to plant soon before the really hot weather sets in — greens.

Bradbury said collards, turnips, spinach, beets and brussels sprouts are all "early starts." He also urges gardeners to start a compost pile, and add that to the garden before planting anything.

"The quality of your soil is exceedingly important for the end result," he said. I have a bucket I keep out on my back deck that is there 365 days a year. ... There’s no aroma, no foul smell; I’ve been doing it since 1963."

Bradbury said when the bucket is filled he adds it to his compost bin in the back yard, and puts some leaf or grass clippings on top to help "feed" the process.

Plus, he added, it helps reduce the amount of trash going into the landfill, too.

It’s also important to break up the garden soil too, White said, and Bradbury recommended getting a soil test done before adding any fertilizer or organic material.

"You don’t break up your ground the day before you plant; you’ve got to break it up and give it time to lay to give the grass and weeds in it to dry in the sun and die," White said. "It’s called breaking the ground, and what you’re doing is breaking up the root systems of anything that’s grown over in your garden."

Since we’re still about three weeks away from planting, he said, it’s a chance to really wake that garden up.

"That gives you plenty of time to break it up and add in some compost," White said. "(Gardeners) can start amending their soil with any kind of organic matter they want to put in their soil."

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