Planning for the Home Garden is part 1 of The Alabama Vegetable Gardener series.
A successful home garden comes with planning and constant attention! Select the site carefully, plant at the right time, use the right amount of fertilizer, use adapted varieties, control pests; then, harvest at the right time.
Select a site with full sun. You cannot grow vegetables in competition with trees or in shade. The soil should be well drained and free of harmful chemicals or debris.
Improve your garden soil by adding organic matter—compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted sawdust—in the late fall.
Lime and Fertilizer
A soil test is the only way to determine lime needs and the best way to figure fertilizer needs. Get information for soil tests at your county Extension office. Test at least every 2 years. For most vegetables, the soil pH should be around 6.0 to 6.5. Mix lime into the soil a month or two before planting to be effective.
Long-season crops such as tomatoes, cabbage, pepper, okra, and potatoes need more fertilizer than short-season crops. Close observation is the best guide for additional sidedressing.
Seed and Plants
Seed are inexpensive; get the best available. Don’t seed too thickly. Plant small seed, such as turnips and carrots, about ¼ to ½ inch deep. Plant larger seed, such as beans and cucumbers, about 1 inch deep.
Use only stocky, healthy, fresh plants. Set them at the same level they originally grew in the pot. Always water transplants to settle soil around roots. Set tall tomato plants deeper than they grew originally.
To control weeds, cultivate frequently but shallowly. Chemical weed killers are not usually recommended for home gardens. Before using, get full information on how to use and what crop to use them on.
Water is essential for a top-notch garden. During long dry periods, soak the garden thoroughly once a week; don’t just sprinkle daily. Light, frequent irrigation helps only during seed germination. Overhead irrigation, especially late in the afternoon, can spread certain diseases. If you use overhead irrigation, do so earlier in the day so plants dry before night. Consider using drip irrigation.
The best practices are rotation, clean seed, resistant varieties (when available), early planting, plowing under old crop debris, and seed treatment. Chemical fungicides, such as chlorothalonil and maneb, may be used to control some common leaf diseases of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and cantaloupes. If the garden is heavily infested with nematodes, you might need to move your garden.
For a successful garden, you must control insect pests in a timely manner. Many low-cost insect monitoring traps are available. These pheromone-based traps give accurate information about pest activity and season-long monitoring. Once pest insects are detected and identified, use a three-tiered, integrated pest management (IPM) approach of cultural controls, mechanical barriers, and insecticidal intervention, if needed. Note that all pesticides are poisons and must be used in their prescribed manner to minimize effects to nontarget insects, such as honey bees.
USE ALL CHEMICALS FOR INSECTS, WEEDS, OR NEMATODES ACCORDING TO DIRECTIONS ON THE LABEL. It tells you the amount to use, the crops to use it on, and the days between application and harvest. The label is one of the most important pieces of garden literature. Read and heed it for effective use and safety.
The main reason for having a garden is fresh, high-quality vegetables. Harvest often to get vegetables at the proper stage of maturity. If beans, cucumbers, or okra are left to mature fully, the plant will stop producing. Early-morning harvest is best for most vegetables. Freeze or can the surplus to enjoy your garden all year.
Alabama Vegetable Garden Planning Chart
†Between rows x in the row. *Transplant.
|Vegetable||Spring Planting Dates||Fall Planting Dates||Seed Per 100 Ft. Row||Spacing (inches)†||Average Crop Per 100 Ft.|
|Beans, snap||April||August 5–20||¾ lb.||36×2-3||120 lb.|
|Beans, pole||April 10–30||July 20–August 5||½ lb.||36×6-8||150 lb.|
|Beans, lima||April 10–May 10||July 20–August 5||¾ lb.||36×3-6||25 lb. shelled|
|Beans, pole lima||April 15–May 15||July 15–August 1||½ lb.||36×6-8||50 lb.|
|Beets||February||August||½ oz.||30×2||150 lb.|
|Broccoli||August 1–15||½ oz.||36×18||100 lb.|
|Brussels sprouts||August 1–September 1||½ oz.||36×18||75 lb.|
|Cabbage||January 1–February 15*||July 25–August 10||½ oz.||36×12||150 lb.|
|Cantaloupe||April||1 oz.||60×24||100 fruit|
|Carrots||March||July 20–September 20||¼ oz.||30×1-2||100 lb.|
|Cauliflower||January 1–February 15*||July 25–August 10||½ oz.||36×12||150 lb.|
|Chinese cabbage||August 1–15||½ oz.||36×12||80 heads|
|Collards||February 1–March 15||August 15–September 15||½ oz.||36×12-18||100 lb.|
|Corn, sweet||March 10–June 30||8 oz.||36×15||10 doz.|
|Cucumbers||April 15–May 15||July 1–20||1 oz.||60×24||120 lb.|
|Eggplants||April 15–May 15*||July 1–20*||50 plants||36×24||100 lb.|
|Kale||August 15–September 15||½ oz.||36×10||100 lb.|
|Lettuce||January 15–February*||August 15–September 1||1/8 oz.||30×12||50 lb.|
|Mustard||February 1–March 15||August 15–September 15||½ oz.||30×2||100 lb.|
|Okra||April 10–June 30||1 oz.||36×12||100 lb.|
January 15–March 15*
|September 15–October 15||½ oz.|
|100 lb. |
|Peas, garden||February||1 lb.||36×2||20 lb.|
|Peas, southern||April–July||½ lb.||42×4-6||50 lb.|
|Peppers||April 1–May 10*||July*||50 plants||36×24||60 lb.|
|Potatoes, Irish||February||August 1–15||12 lb.||36×12||100 lb.|
|Potatoes, sweet||April 10–June 30*||100 plants||42×12||100 lb.|
|Radishes||February 1–April 1||September 1–October 15||½ oz.||24×1||100 bunches|
|Spinach||February 15–March 15||September||1 oz.||30×2-3||40 lb.|
|Squash, summer||April||August 1–15||1 oz.||36×15||150 lb.|
|Squash, winter||April||July 15–August 1||½ oz.||60×36||100 lb.|
|Tomatoes||April*||July*||35–50 plants||60×24-36||100 lb.|
|Turnips||February 1–April 1||August 10–October 1||¼ oz.||30×2||100 lb.|
|Watermelons||April||June 15–30||½ oz.||96×96||40 fruit|
Read the complete Alabama Vegetable Gardener.
- Part 1—Planning for the Home Garden
- Part 2—A Well-Drained Soil
- Part 3—Acid Soils Create Gardening Problems
- Part 4—Excessive Phosphorus in Garden Soils
- Part 5—Wood Ash for Lime and Potash
- Part 6—Garden Fertilizer
- Part 7—Fertilizing the Organic Garden
- Part 8—Weed Control in the Home Garden
- Part 9—Growing Tomatoes
- Part 10—Bitter Cucumbers
- Part 11—Home-Grown Seed
- Part 12—Vegetable Information
- Part 13—Control Diseases for Top-Quality Tomatoes
- Part 14—Nematodes Could Be the Reason Garden is Unproductive
- Part 15-Vegetable Garden Insects
- Part 16-Garden Problem Guide
- Part 17-Harvesting Your Own Groceries