Many of you already have plans about what you will be planting in your vegetable garden, whereas others may be contemplating a first attempt at growing vegetables.  I know I’m already thinking about those luscious garden tomatoes and vitamin rich green and red peppers.  Rising food costs makes vegetable gardening more attractive as well as giving you the assurance of produce that is grown without pesticides.

Some helpful tips will get you off to a good start.

First of all, your vegetable garden needs to be located in a spot that receives full sun.  Choose a place that is located at least 50 feet from black walnut or butternut trees.  This will help prevent walnut wilt on tomatoes and other sensitive crops.  To make your garden more manageable, start out small so you aren’t too overwhelmed the first year.  The grassy turf needs to be removed.  This is rather easy to do now as the ground is very soft from the plentiful rainfalls we have recently received.

Once the soil is exposed, I would suggest tilling the area to be planted.  This is also a great time to incorporate some well rotted manure or compost into the ground.  This will help the soil hold water during dry spells.

There is a wide variety of vegetables to plant.  Beans, peas, cucumbers, and squash can be planted by seeding.  Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cabbage are purchased as small nursery plants.  It is important to plant high quality seed and disease resistant nursery stock.  Some vegetables require a lot of growing room thus it is important to have a plan before you select the crops you want to raise.

Many garden vegetables thrive in our early cool spring weather.  Peas, onions, lettuce, radishes, potatoes, broccoli, and spinach are a few crops that can be planted in early to mid spring.  They will tolerate cool spring nights.

Tomatoes, peppers, and many seeded vegetables need a much warmer soil in order to get off to a good start.  Our last frost date in southern Wisconsin is usually around May 10, so the third week in May is a good time to begin planting some of these warm weather crops.

Young garden crops are quite appetizing to rabbits, so you might want to consider some chicken wire fencing around your vegetable patch.  This can be done by inserting garden stakes through the fencing wire in order to secure it firmly in the ground.

It might seem like a lot of work for a vegetable harvest, but it is well worth your efforts.  Home grown produce is exceptional in flavor as you are able to pick it at the peak of ripeness.  Vegetable gardening can also be a great family endeavor as children can easily take part in weeding and harvesting.  Excess produce can be frozen, canned, or given to friends.

I moved to Monroe in the mid 70’s.  I was a city gal from Green Bay with very little knowledge of rural life and gardening.  Monroe had a community garden plot during that time.  It was located where Parkside School now stands.  I still have vivid memories of my first attempts at vegetable gardening.  The interest and love of working the soil blossomed into a hobby that still gives me great satisfaction.       Until next time . . . happy gardening.

Nina Binkley

U.W. Extension Master Gardener Volunteer