Finding Help in the Garden from WSU Extension Publications | Life

Spring is here. The days are getting longer and the snow line is finally moving away.

So let’s talk gardening. Specifically, let’s talk about vegetable and herb gardening.

But first, a little background.

Last fall, I finally bought a little corner of the Palouse and with it, a little space to garden. I had always wanted a vegetable garden and couldn’t wait for it to be ready for spring. However, I had little experience in landscaping a garden.

Luckily, I’m an agricultural librarian at Washington State University, which means I interact with practitioners in WSU’s extension programs and the resources they create. So even if I knew little about the layout of a garden, I knew where to find the answers to my questions.

This article will talk about these useful resources. You can access all of these resources for free by using your favorite search engine to search for the name of the publication. You can also find links to the resources I mention, and many more, using the WSU Libraries Open Gardening Guide: libguides.libraries.wsu.edu/openhort

My goal is to grow lots of tomatoes and herbs, as well as an assortment of other vegetables. I did the math, and the money I spend each year on tomatoes and basil is significant. Such are the dangers of growing up in an Italian family.

Knowing what I wanted to grow, my first task was to find the sunniest part of my yard. There are several ways to track the sunshine in your garden. You can make a sun map based on your observations. There are even a few apps to help you out. For me, finding the sunniest space in my yard was simple because so much of it is shaded.

Then I had to choose between building raised beds or planting directly into the ground. I found the WSU extension fact sheet “Raised Beds – Deciding if They Benefit Your Vegetable Garden (FS075E)” to be a fantastic resource.

After reading this document, I decided to build raised beds, mainly. My yard is on a slope which could cause drainage and erosion problems if I planted directly in the ground. Also, I have an apple tree not too far from my proposed garden and I didn’t want to risk damaging its roots.

I wanted to build my beds as cheaply as possible and went for non-chemically treated wood. There is an ongoing and very lively discussion regarding the use of treated wood in vegetable gardens (see FS075E for more information). I found suitable materials to use in a few places, including the Habitat for Humanity store in Moscow.

Finally, after measuring twice and cutting more times than I care to admit, I had built a set of patio planters.

To complement these garden boxes, I also decided to use containers for gardening, as suggested in the WSU Snohomish Master Gardener Extension newsletter, “Growing Vegetables in Containers.”

To fill my beds and containers, I had soil from a previous project that I combined with compost. The extension resource, “Backyard Composting” (Home Garden Series) (EB1784E) provides the information needed to ensure successful composting.

I am also interested in the conservation and canning of my harvest. The WSU Extension Bulletin, “Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington” (EM057E) is a very helpful resource regarding each stage of canning planning.

In addition to the materials provided by WSU’s extension programs, there are also opportunities to take classes and interact with expert gardeners. WSU’s Master Gardener Extension Program exists in every county in Washington. The University of Idaho also has a Master Gardener Extension Program.

Luftig is the agricultural librarian and Washington State University. You can reach him at [email protected]

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