How to Start, and Maintain, Your Vegetable Garden

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

A successful garden starts long before summer-fall and winter are the time to prep and plan. Starting a vegetable garden can seem like a daunting process if you're unsure about what to plant, when to plant it and how to care for your garden. Luckily, there's a highly successful program in Franklin County that can help provide some answers.

The Franklin County Extension Service Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a hands-on program that takes volunteers through intensive courses and lengthy service hours to achieve master gardener status. We turned to them for advice for novice gardeners and how to prepare your plants and vegetables through the winter.

Test the Soil"One big mistake people make, often because they aren't aware of it, is [not] testing your soil in the fall," says Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension educator and program coordinator for FCMG. "Testing your soil ensures that you're giving the nutrients time to be available in the spring." Ohio State offers a soil sample service for $11 that gives you an instructional fact sheet on how to retrieve your soil, the type of soil you have and how to proceed with that knowledge.

Tidy UpNot cleaning up your garden or "putting your plants to bed" is another mistake first-time gardeners make, Hogan says. He suggests pulling and cutting your plants and putting them into a compost pile, which allows for waste removal to ensure maximum growing potential during the next season.

Start Simple"Knowing what to plant is crucial, too," Hogan says. "Peppers, tomatoes and squash are good 'gateway drugs' into vegetable gardens. Most greens will prosper in Ohio as well, if you're careful about when you're planting." For fall plants and vegetables, make sure to plant during the late summer season. For spring plants, begin your planting process during the late winter months.