Backyard Gardening: Is It For You?

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    Soon after planting, seeds will pop through the earth.

    The growing popularity of backyard gardening has been consistent for several years. You’ve come to that time of year when you consider it… again. Let’s look at this idea from a journalist’s point of view and answer questions from the 5 W’s and 1 H: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.

    WHO

    Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration. ~Lou Erickson

    The first answer may be obvious: You.

    Gardening can be as simple as one tomato plant in a container on your back patio. You choose the best looking plant and get all the supplies, plant the tender vegetable and begin to dream of luscious tasting additions to your salads this summer.

    Then again, you consider your vacation, time running the kids back and forth to their activities, that extra time you build in for the unexpected things that always seem to come up, a couple of business trips….

    You’ve already googled where the closest farmer’s market is located. The decision is still to be determined, but if you’ve chosen to be a backyard gardener, then read on…

    WHAT

    You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

    Consider these questions…
    Do you have favorite vegetables you prefer to eat fresh rather than store bought? If so, which ones? Do they grow well in this climate? How do you know? The Farmer’s Almanac 2016 is an excellent guide. Here’s a link to flowers and vegetables you might want to grow: almanac.com/plants

    Do they grow better started from seeds or from a young, tender plant purchased from your neighborhood nursery?

    Would you rather have organic and heirloom seeds/plants or does it matter? A lot of companies produce organic seeds and often their catalogs are free. Use google.com to research.

    What supplies do you need? Do you have any of these now or will you have to buy everything? In addition to buying new, check local thrift stores for gently used bargain tools and supplies.

    WHEN

    Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans. ~Marcelene Cox

    Once you’ve chosen which vegetables to plant, review the following facts.

    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map (thevegetablegarden.info/usda-hardiness-zones)
    Wichita is in Zone 6a (or 6b, depending on the resource you use), meaning plants need to withstand low temps as low as -10F.

    The average last spring frost is April 11, with the latest on record being May 13. The last spring hard freeze is March 29, with the latest being May 4. Stay tuned to the local weather reports to know whether to protect your tender plants or if they will be ok during nighttime temperatures.

    WHERE

    I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden. ~John Erskine

    Plants can grow in five-gallon containers, water troughs as well as traditional garden beds. Does your backyard get enough sun? Will hoses reach your gardens?

    Does your neighborhood have covenants that prevent using containers? Garden beds? Check your HOA rules first before investing in materials and plans.

    WHY

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. ~Author Unknown

    Do you want to grow a garden because it’s the trending thing to do? Check your reality to make sure you have time to plan, plant, and harvest.

    If you cannot get the thought of a tasty, garden fresh tomato out of your mind, then start small this year and write a journal of your experiences. Set a goal next year to grow your garden space.

    HOW

    In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~Margaret Atwood

    If you want to tackle the plans and buy all the materials, great for you! If you’d rather someone else handle all the details, check with the Better Business Bureau or yelp.com to find a trustworthy landscaping or gardening business.

    You can also check with the Sedgwick County Extension Office at 21st Street and Ridge Road, 316-660-0100, sg@listserv.ksu.edu. They offer classes throughout the year for gardeners of all expert levels. Some are free or at a minimal cost. You have to register to attend, but these can be invaluable. sedgwick.k-state.edu/events/

    Their Rapid Response Center assists individuals with issues ranging from insect identification, to disease diagnostics of trees, plants, flowers and lawns to advice on water-wise landscaping. They also have an on-site Learning Center that is free to visit. Have a question whose answer you cannot find online? Call their hotline at 316-660-0190, March through October.

    All of this information might raise more questions than give answers, but gardening can be a lot of fun and very worthwhile. Family members of all ages can be involved. What will your gardens grow this year?

    I know the pleasure of pulling up root vegetables. They are solvable mysteries. ~Novella Carpenter, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

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