Health Department


by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director
April 10, 2012

March has been an exceptionally warm month and people are itching to get into their garden. Many people are turning to growing their own food, and you may be one of them.

During March and the first week in April you should think about planting cool weather plants. Broccoli, cabbage, spinach, onions, potatoes and most greens should be in the ground.

Good soil is the key to a great garden and if you haven’t planted yet, you will need to spend time with your soil. Good soil should provide nutrients for plants and have adequate drainage without drying out too much to prevent root rot. Soil should be rich, have a sweet smell and sift through your fingers.

Whether your soil is clay or sandy, it is important to add compost to your garden. Compost is decomposed matter and will add nutrients to the soil. Leaves, untreated grass clippings, or manure feed your soil. Using compost is a great way to enrich the soil as it retains just enough moisture and provides all the fertilizer your plants need to grow and thrive.

If you wait to plant your garden until summer growing season, your garden space needs a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. That should include full, midday sun and some direct afternoon sun.

Choose vegetables according to the room you have in your garden. Squash, pumpkins and other vegetables that spread along the ground will cover your smaller produce. For example, pumpkins and melons can grow 10 feet or more in all directions. Give these plants plenty of space.

On the other hand, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, or beans do well in raised beds. Build a trellis at the corner of a bed for bush beans or cucumbers.

Lastly, plant your vegetables in rows from north to south in order to expose plants to the full sun. Plant your taller vegetables such as corn, beans, or tomatoes to the north and lower growing vegetables to the south.

Summer vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, corn, eggplant, melons, peppers, and pumpkins. It is important that you wait until after the any chance of frost before planting summer produce.

Gardening has many advantages. You have the opportunity to save money by growing your own food. Daily physical activity is available for you when you garden, but most importantly, you know where your food comes from. If you don’t garden, it is not too late to start.

The Independence Health Department has been working in conjunction with the Independence Community Garden Association and Independence Garden Club this spring to sponsor classes and distribute seeds and plants. The classes have been well attended and we have handed out a lot of plants and seeds.

Coordinating the gardening projects for the Health Department is Joanie Shover, Independence Community Garden Coordinator and Health Educator. You can contact her for information on raised bed gardening.

For more information call the Independence Health Department at 325-7185 for resources or gardening information.