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Maintaining a Home Garden Isn't Just for the Pros

For those who need something to do, this hobby is the answer

Shay Burk Staff Reporter
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4 min read
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I know the interest in it has picked up since this whole thing has started. The seed companies can’t keep up. They’re so backlogged, it isn’t even funny.
- Roger Peterson, gardener


In a world where even going to the grocery store seems daunting, growing vegetables in a home garden have become a much more appealing prospect for many people.

In fact, a quick glance of social media shows people digging out buckets and pots, tilling up sections of their lawns and combing through seed magazines. And most of those people have never attempted a garden in their life.

“I know the interest in it has picked up since this whole thing has started,” said gardener Roger Peterson. “The seed companies can’t keep up. They’re so backlogged, it isn’t even funny.”

Peterson said growing a home garden in a bucket, a raised bed, or the traditional garden is something anyone can do when they know the basics.

Gardening Basics

When picking your plants, it's important to know the growing cycle of your individual plant.

Peterson said the Internet and smartphone apps are full of information about individual plants along with giving new growers the chance to talk with seasoned experts.

“The Internet is full of information on where to buy seeds and plants,” Peterson said. “There’s so much information available for people.”

For instance, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a chart that lays out the planting times and growing cycles of numerous plants. Some plants can go into the ground even several weeks before the last frost of the spring while others can’t go in until a week or two after.

Some of the hardiest plants, according to the almanac, include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, peas, spinach, and radishes. The tender vegetables include corn, tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins.

A Tomato Expert

Peterson, a longtime gardener known to some as a tomato legend, started growing the tender plants 35 years ago. He switched from the traditional hybrid to heirloom tomatoes about 7 years ago.

While tomatoes are sensitive to cold temperatures, Peterson said they are the most common vegetable plant people start out with because they’re fairly easy to grow.

“They’re relatively easy,” he said. “They’re by far the most popular homegrown vegetable. “

Elizabeth Killinger, an extension agent with an emphasis in horticulture, said the first thing to do with tomatoes or any plant is to determine where the plant will live.

“One thing we need to look at is mature size of plant and size it is going to need,” Killinger said. “That cute little tomato plant is going to need a 3-foot by 3-foot square just for itself.”

In addition, the best method for watering is to use soaker hoses and have the water hit the plant at the stem and root level. Water left on the leaves and fruit of a plant can cause disease to set in and kill the plant.

“If you can only do overhead watering, it’s fine,” Killinger said. “Do it early in day so leaf tissue has time to dry. Soaker hose can’t measure water as much but it gets the water closer to the ground.”

With tomatoes, Peterson said you shouldn’t wait until they look dry to water. However, he doesn’t typically water more than once every 4-6 days, depending on the amount of rainfall and temperatures that summer.

“Usually I go every 4 days and run 45-60 minutes at a time and gives a good soak for them,” he said. "Kind of like your lawn, you don’t want to water every day a little bit. It’s less often for more time.”

Ground Covering & Sunlight

Speaking of lawns, both Killenger and Peterson agree the best covering to put around plants for preventing weed growth and holding in moisture is grass clippings.

Indeed, Killinger said wood chip mulch is unnecessary. Some people will lay down newspaper and put grass clippings over the top. Peterson recommends 3 to 4 inches of grass clippings.

One thing to research when it comes to individual types of plants is the amount of sunlight required.

Peterson said tomatoes need as much sunlight as they can get.

“If the house is going to shade them in the afternoon, that’s not a good place," he said. “Some vegetables can get by with less sun but tomatoes need as much sun as they can get.”

By comparison, carrots actually need a shady space to hold in moisture during the germination process. That’s why Peterson said many people will plant radishes and carrots together. The radish will provide shade for the carrot in the early days and be harvested by the time the carrot needs more direct sunlight.

Essentially, Killinger said growing plants should be fun and easy. That’s why she encourages people to try container gardens if a larger garden isn’t available or seems daunting.

“If you’re leery about a big garden, get containers on your patio and start small like that,” she said. “I love my containers cause I can work them early in the spring.”


About the Writer

Shay Burk

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