COURTESY • University of Florida Extension, Marion County
COURTESY • University of Florida Extension, Marion County
I have talked to many people this last week who have already started their vegetable garden. Planting a vegetable garden is an American pastime that is rapidly regaining popularity. Some people grow their own for economic savings and others for environmental reasons. 

Many people choose to grow their own for the pure satisfaction of watching their plants grow and develop, and reaping the flavorful benefits of their harvest. 

The following information is from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension fact sheet, “Getting Started with a Vegetable Garden”, authored by Heidi Kratsch, Western Area Horticulture Specialist; Leslie Allen, Commercial Horticulture Program Coordinator; Wendy Hanson Mazet, Master Gardener Program Coordinator.

In northern Nevada, we can grow an abundance of vegetables. We have three seasons during which we can grow food: early spring, summer and early fall. St. Patrick’s Day (March 18) is the traditional start to our cool-season gardens. English peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, sweet peas and spinach can be planted on this day. 

Wait another month and you can direct-seed most other cool-season crops such as lettuce, Swiss chard, beets and carrots until the end of May. After the last frost in May to early June, you can plant warm-season transplants (small plants started indoors from seed by you or a nursery) such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, watermelon and squash. You can plant a second season of cool-season vegetables starting in August. Many of these plants can be harvested well into autumn and will overwinter if protected. Garlic is best planted in the fall for a summer harvest.

The first consideration in planning your garden is climate. Climate affects what you can grow and which vegetable varieties are best for your area. In particular, knowing your frost-free period – the average number of days from the date of last spring frost to the date of the earliest fall frost – tells you the window of time you have to grow vegetables that are not frost-tolerant (warm-season vegetables). In general, our average last spring frost occurs May 15 and our earliest fall frost, Sept. 15. If you’ve lived in northern Nevada long enough, you know how variable this can be, so plan on a frost-free period of about 90 days to be safe.

The second consideration is selecting the site for your garden. Generally, choose a site that gets full sun for at least six to eight hours per day. This means planting away from buildings and shade trees. Often, the best place for a vegetable garden is the south-facing side of your property, although an east- or west-facing side can work as well. If full sun is not an option, you might consider growing your vegetables in containers and moving them around to track the sun.

It is important that the site you select for your vegetable garden has access to water. Vegetable plants need a consistent supply of water to support their growth. Plants should never be allowed to dry out or sit in waterlogged soil – these conditions will kill your plants. The site needs to be accessible to a garden hose or, if you prefer, an automated irrigation system.

Succession planting can ensure a continuous supply of produce. For example, by planting a 10-foot row of beans on May 15 followed by another planting two to four weeks later, you can extend the harvest period over the entire season. Succession planting can be done with beans, carrots, broccoli, endive, lettuce, radishes, cabbage, turnips, corn and beets.

Finally, if this is your first adventure into vegetable gardening, it’s good to start small. An overly enthusiastic gardener may plant more than the family can use, or underestimate the time it will take for thinning young plants, weeding the bed and harvesting the produce. Start with a small area of your yard: a strip of land on the south side of a garage or a sunny space near the patio. You can even tuck a few vegetable plants in your flower beds; just remember not to use herbicides or pesticides in these areas. By starting small, with a few easy-to-grow vegetables, you will increase your chances for success and may become a devoted lifelong gardener.

Source: Getting Started with a Vegetable Garden, Heidi Kratsch, Western Area Horticulture Specialist; Leslie Allen, Commercial Horticulture Program Coordinator; Wendy Hanson Mazet, Master Gardener Program Coordinator