Discover more from Dr. John's Blog
Deciding Where To Grow Vegetables
Deciding Where To Grow Vegetables:
Your kitchen garden should be as close to your kitchen as possible. You will see what is ready to harvest and cook, and you will see weeds that need pulling, and what the garden needs. It's also very nice to look at your vegetables growing.
To successfully grow vegetables to be a substantial part of your diet you should ideally have 400 square feet or more, which is more than 20 feet from a tree, perhaps farther from any large tree, with a southern exposure to get adequate light for plants. Light builds our food through photosynthesis/ Less light makes less food. Fertile soil, which does not pool water, but that you are able to keep well watered. A drip watering system with a timer works well in central Texas.
Some areas may have fertile soil and regular rains, but you need to be certain that you can always give the plants what they need to live and grow.
If you are considering the sun exposure of another site, you can look at Google Maps, and pick the overhead view with "overlay", which will show the north at the top of the screen, south at bottom, trees and houses. This can be a time saver, helping to eliminate places that won't be able to meet the needs of the vegetable garden.
Your house might not have a south facing open area without nearby trees. Some people build raised beds to avoid tree roots, but tree roots seeking water will find their way into the beds unless there is a thick, unpunctured waterproof layer These are easily punctured when working the garden soil.
Some places have community gardens, but there may be a waiting list, and access to water may not be ideal. It will be much more of a chore to travel to a garden that you don't see. This is a difficult way to start. Out of sight, out of mind.
"Allotments", "victory gardens", "dachas" (in Russia) and community gardens have helped determined people to grow food away from home, especially in hard times, especially if they had done it before.
You might have a neighbor who has a good location for a garden, who would like to garden with you there, but territorial and food-allocation disputes can easily arise, especially if you have not already cooperated closely on projects.
Your area probably had agriculture before it had a city. You might be able to locate an old USDA soil survey from a century or more ago, which detailed what crops people readily grew without irrigation. I found this for Lavaca County, Texas, a detailed view of post civil-war agriculture from 1905: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth19773/
You can find current USDA maps of soil types here (Web Soil Survey): https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm
Click on the big green button to begin.
You can collect a soil sample from your prospective garden site and send it to your local agricultural extension service for analysis. I usually find that the Basic test, plus Trace Minerals, plus Organic Matter Content gives me a good idea of what amendments might be needed, or what should be avoided.
Here is the list of soil analysis sites by state:
You can determine if your soil is clay, loam or sandy by feel. Clay and loam are typically rich and fertile. Sandy soil will need more frequent watering, as it does not hold water well. It may need more organic amendments. Clay soil often cracks when dry, and water may pool after heavy rains. Experienced landscape or nursery professionals in your area may be able to tell you what soil types are good and bad for growing vegetables in your area.
This may seem like a lot to consider before even beginning, but there is no virtue in trying to grow a vegetable garden in a setting where the plants will not have what they require to produce food for your kitchen. I have experimented enough to know this, and you may also have had garden disappointments. There is no such thing as a "green thumb". There is only giving the plants what they need.