If you’re like me you’re probably receiving the 2016 garden seed catalogs. With snow and cold temperatures on the horizon, it seems like gardening should be the last thing on our minds but now is the time to begin to plan for the 2016 garden.
Having a successful garden this year, begins with these seven steps:
• Select a good gardening site. Make sure it gets plenty of sunlight, is well drained, and close to a water source.
• Plan your garden on paper before the season begins. Make a scale drawing of your garden area and show where you want to plant different cultivars.
• Prepare the soil and add fertilizers and lime according to a soil test.
• Plan only as big a garden that you can maintain. The garden will require weeding, insect and disease inspection, and water. If you plant too large of a garden the tasks may become overwhelming.
• Grow vegetables in the maximum amount of space available.
• Plant during the correct season for the crop.
• Harvest your vegetables at their proper stage of maturity. Store them promptly and properly if you do not intend to use them immediately.
A well maintained garden can produce up to 700 pounds of produce per 1,000 square feet and will also yield many different crops.
A garden favorite you may want to think about now, are onions. Onions are a good crop for Kentucky gardeners. Typically in late winter it takes eight to 10 weeks to produce a reasonably sized transplant. If you want to plant in late March or the beginning of April, you need to seed your transplants this month.
When buying onion seed, be sure to buy intermediate day-long or day-neutral onion varieties. Onions can typically be categorized into short, intermediate and long day types.
Onions will bulb in response to day length. Short-day varieties need 11 to 12 hours of sunlight per day to bulb, intermediate-day varieties bulb with 12 to 13 hours of sunlight, and long-day varieties bulb with 13 to 14 hours.
The types of onions grown during the winter in the Deep South, such as Vidalias, are short-day types. Unfortunately, Kentucky is far enough north that if planted here short-day onions will bulb very early in the spring when plants are still small. The result will be small golf-ball or tennis-ball size bulbs.
Instead, try to buy intermediate-day types such as the popular Candy onion. These will begin to bulb in mid-May and should mature by early- to mid-July.
Many growers report bulbs the size of softballs when growing Candy onions. If you decide to plant a long-day variety, such as Walla Walla or Sweet Spanish, your plants will begin to bulb in June and continue until early August when they will be mature. Although long-day types yield well in Kentucky, high temperatures during the summer, may lead to an increased disease risk.
Jeremy Williams is the Harlan County extension agent for agriculture & natural resources. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.