This winter has definitely been the snowiest that we have seen for a while. And while I enjoy playing in the snow and admire its beauty, I still prefer spring and summer months. In order to fight those winter blues, looking through seed catalogs and ordering garden seed helps to lift my spirits and reminds me of the warmer weather ahead.

Gardening seems pretty simple if you have never done it before, but it is often a bit more complicated than expected. Here are a few pointers if you are new to gardening.

• Pick a good location. Most vegetable plants require six to eight hours of light a day, so you need to stay away from trees or shrubs that may cause shading. Walnut trees can also be toxic to garden plants.

• Start small. If you are a first time gardener it’s best to start small (100 sq. ft.). The first year you will learn a lot and you can expand as you gain more experience.

• Soil sample. This will help you identify any nutritional or pH issues with your garden space. Soil sampling in the fall is the best, so if there are issues you will have more time to address them, but you can sample in the spring as well.

• Draw a sketch of your garden and make a garden binder. Sketching out your garden will help with identifying how many plants you have space for. This can also help with crop rotation in future years. Crop rotation is very important for disease and insect management.

• Do your homework and have a plan. Do research on the different varieties of plants and see what is most desirable to your garden. Know what you want to do with produce: eat fresh, can, freeze, sauce, juice, or a blend of these. Also, make sure to understand how to safely preserve produce to prevent food-borne illness. For example, tomatoes are very popular, but some will produce over a longer time but may be eight foot tall, whereas others may produce over a smaller window but plants will stay around four foot. Depending on the size of your garden you may need to use more compact varieties.

I hope these resources help get you started with a successful 2021 garden! For additional information, Purdue has numerous garden publications, but the Home Gardener’s Guide is a great starting point and can be found at https://tinyurl.com/PurdueHGG or contact the Purdue Extension-Knox County office by calling 812-882-3509 or by emailing clingerman@purdue.edu.

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