Planning your Michigan Fresh garden

Michigan State University Extension offers useful tips for the home vegetable gardener.

"edible flint" demonstration gardens. Photo credit: Terry McLean l MSU Extension

Early spring is the perfect time for home vegetable gardeners to plan their vegetable gardens. The Michigan State University Extension Michigan Fresh campaign offers several resources and tips for home gardeners on our website. In the winter months, gardeners prepare by ordering seed catalogs and begin selecting and purchasing seeds. If you are gardening on a budget, be sure to keep in mind what your family actually will consume and use.

In addition, when planning your seed order you will also want to determine how much planting space you have. Many successful gardeners create a scaled map of their garden with accurate measurements according to each crop’s spacing requirements. Gardeners will also need to think about the method you would like to grow your vegetables. Some people opt to start vegetables in containers, which works will if they are properly watered and monitored closely. People who are unsure about the quality of their soil often build raised beds and purchase planting soil to fill the beds. There are many sizes and designs for raised beds. Gardeners have to make a decision on what they think will work best in their space and for the crops they want to produce. For information about garden layout options, visit Gardening in Michigan.

If you do not have an established garden, but want to start one this year, MSU Extension recommends selecting a sunny location (vegetables need lots of sunshine) where water access is convenient and the soils are free from chemicals and toxins. There are many types of toxins. For example, Black Walnut trees are toxic to vegetable plants. If you need help identifying a possible Black Walnut tree near your garden area, contact MSU Extension’s gardening hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

Successful gardens are grown from healthy soil. Soil testing is very important so you know how much nutrients need to be added or if the soil pH needs to be adjusted. If you are in an urban area, you may need to test the soil for lead as this can be a dangerous substance usually caused by the presence of old gasoline and paint. Lead testing from MSU requires an additional fee and a special form. For more information about soil testing along with directions on how to purchase a soil test from MSU, visit the MSU soil test website.

MSU Extension’s Michigan Fresh campaign encourages people to purchase and prepare locally grown foods and there is nothing more local than from your own garden! Check out our vast collection of informational fact sheets, including topics on starting seeds, healthy garden transplants, growing tomatoes and healthy soils at: http://michiganfresh.msue.msu.edu.

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