Design your garden to meet your needs. Careful planning reduces work and can make the garden more productive. Planting seeds and plants at random frequently results in waste and disappointment.
Consider the selected method of cultivation in designing your garden. Where the work is done with a tractor, long rows are practical; but when cultivation is by hand, short rows give a sense of accomplishment as work on each is completed.
Consider the slope of the land; run rows at right angles to the slope, especially on sandy-textured soils that tend to wash and erode. Where the land is uneven, contour the rows.
Rows for vegetables with small plants (carrots, onions, radishes, and others) can be closer together for hand cultivation than for power equipment. Planting double rows or a broad band on a bed can increase the yield from a small garden plot. Closely spaced rows and vegetable plants help shade out weeds, but the close spacing makes weeding difficult when plants are small.
Closely spaced plants reduce water loss from the soil surface by protecting the surface from drying winds and hot sun. The reduced air movement, however, may increase chances for diseases.
Plant perennial vegetables like asparagus where they won’t interfere with yearly land preparation. Plant season-long vegetables like tomatoes, okra, peppers, and eggplant together where they won’t interfere with short-term vegetables and replanting. Plant corn, okra, pole beans, tomatoes, and other tall vegetables on the north side of the garden so they won’t shade or interfere with the growth of shorter vegetables.
Sweet corn produces fuller ears when planted in a block of rows than in a long single row because of better pollination. When possible, group vegetables according to their lime and fertilizer needs, and treat accordingly. Southern peas, lima beans, snap beans, and peanuts do not require as much nitrogen fertilizer as some other vegetables.
Successive Planting, Long Season Can Reduce Garden Size
Gardening in Mississippi provides the opportunity to have something in the garden almost every month of the year.
The long growing season combined with successive plantings (growing more than one vegetable in the same space during the year) enables gardeners to reduce the size of their gardens.
As soon as one vegetable is harvested, clear the space and prepare to plant another vegetable. Empty row space produces nothing and provides a place for weeds to grow, while a small garden intensively planted and managed can be very productive.
For example, follow a spring planting of English peas with a late spring planting of cucumbers; then replant the space with fall bush snap beans, leafy greens, or late southern peas.
Another example is to follow early sweet corn with winter squash and pumpkins in early July. Spring Irish potatoes can be followed by lima beans or southern peas, which are followed by fall greens.
Practice crop rotation (planting nonrelated plants in the same location in successive plantings) where garden space permits. Crop rotation is a good practice to follow when you use the same garden site for several years because it helps prevent the buildup of diseases in the garden soil.
When growing only for fresh use, make small successive plantings of vegetables like snap beans, sweet corn, lettuce, radishes, leafy greens, and southern peas. Planting at 2-week intervals provides continuous fresh vegetables.
Plant only as much as your family can eat before the next planting begins to produce. If you plan to can and freeze as well as use fresh vegetables, plant more vegetables at one time to provide enough at harvest for preserving.
Expected yields are given for the different vegetables in the Planting Guide. Keep in mind that the yields given for some vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, okra, pole beans, and eggplant, for example) are for multiple harvests over a period of time.
Vegetables with extended harvest periods require only one planting during the season. However, with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, a second planting made in midsummer provides good quality vegetables for harvest in fall.
A second planting of okra, about 6 weeks after the first planting, has some benefit for late-season harvest, but you can get the same benefit by cutting the first planting back to a height of 3 to 4 feet in late summer.
Plant your garden according to a detailed plan on paper. A finished garden plan shows these things:
- which vegetables to grow
- number of different plantings of each vegetable
- time and location of each planting
- distance each row is to be planted from one end of the garden.
onions, cabbage, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant
lima beans, squash, cucumbers, peas, okra
spinach, mustard, turnips, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, beets
Related Vegetable Groups
If you read this Southern Gardening column frequently, you realize that I grow much more than pretty flowers in my home garden. Besides ornamental plants, I love to grow vegetables that my wife and I can enjoy for dinner.
If you’re anything like me, I find any excuse to get outside. The warmer temperatures and colorful blooms are refreshing, especially after the cold winter we had! Working on outdoor chores is a great excuse to get some fresh air. Here are a few tasks you need to cross off your checklist during April:
Don’t believe everything you hear. That piece of advice can be applied to gardening as well. We’ve all done something because a friend said that it works.
Pat yourself on the back. You made it through the historic February ice storm! The weeklong event probably set you back on your garden chores and likely created more work for you to do. Tidy up any damage and get your spring garden in shape with these garden tasks.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Each February marks the occasion for producers to share their research and programming needs with Mississippi State University agricultural specialists in person.
To comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the opportunity will be extended virtually this year.