If you are ready to try your hand at raising a vegetable garden this year, you are in luck. Metro Atlanta has a growing season that spans 260 days annually, giving you plenty of time for the effort. As for when to get started, you want to wait until after the average last frost date. In this area, that falls on April 10, so you can start planting your warm weather veggies.
Besides providing the family with food, a garden can be a great learning tool for the youngsters in the household. Helping with the garden gets them outdoors, acquaints them with nature and provides a sense of accomplishment as they watch the seeds they plant blossom and mature.
Here are five tips to keep in mind as you get started.
1. Pick your veggies. On your first try, you don’t want to get too fancy. Go with some basic, hearty vegetables that do well in our climate. Tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, okra and yellow squash are all well suited for our weather and soils.
2. Pick out your garden area. You don’t want it to be too shaded. A good rule of thumb is the plot should be in the sun for at least six hours per day. Also, don’t pick a low area where water can stand.
3. Fertilize. You may need to fertilize your garden area, depending on the soil composition. You can contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent for advice on types of fertilizing needed. There are offices in all metro counties.
4. Water. Plan on having to water your garden. As our bouts with drought in recent years have proven, you can’t always depend on mother nature. For the most part, you want to water plants around the root rather than splashing it on the plant. Soaker hoses that can be stretched along the row of plants are ideal for allowing moisture to seep into the soil without wasting a lot of water.
5. Tools.Finally, you need some basic tools to tend your plot. A good hoe and a rake come in handy. And don’t forget to pick up a pair of gloves. Even the most tender of plants can still find a way to rough you up.
Backyard Feed & Seed
1565 Roswell St. SE
Smyrna, GA 30080
Hours: Tues to Fri – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat, – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun to Mon – Closed
Backyard Feed & Seed has been in business since 1999, quite close to the redeveloped downtown of Smyrna. Expect helpful personal service from owners David and Beverly Whisenant. Stop by to pick up seeds, fertilizers and plants for your vegetable garden, and you will feel like you have stepped back to an earlier, friendlier time.
Standard Feed & Seed
2339 Brannen Road
Atlanta, GA 30316
Hours: Tues to Fri – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat – 8 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Sun to Mon – Closed
Founded in 1976 and family-owned, Standard Feed & Seed is Atlanta’s in-town, independent option for garden and farm supplies. Visiting the premises is an experience, since they offer live chickens and rabbits (in season) for sale, along with other goods usually found only in rural areas. It’s a good place for picking up fertilizer, no matter how big or small you plan to make your garden.
Marietta Square Farmers Market
65 Church St.
Marietta, GA 30060
(770).499.9393 – Johnny Fulmer
Hours: Sat – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The Marietta Square Farmers Market is held on the town square on weekends beginning April 8. Find more than 60 vendors on most weekends, selling virtually anything that can be grown in our area. If you want to jump start your own garden, several vendors also offer seedlings for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans and other plants. These are particularly good if you get a late start at putting in your garden.
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Jimmy Jacobs is an outdoor and travel writer that has spent the past two decades exploring the region from the Southern Appalachian Mountains to both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Along the way he has won numerous Excellence in Craft Awards for writing and photography from the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. He currently resides in Atlanta. His work can be found at Examiner.com.