What are some of the vegetables and crops that people grow in their backyard gardens? “Tomatoes, greens (spring and a fall crop), beans, corn, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, peas, any vegetable that grows well in our area, can have two crops during the season,” explained David Richmond, WVU county extension agent for Raleigh and Summers counties.
“When growing potatoes, backyard farmers should water the plants during the summer. We’ve not had a severe drought in recent years; we get pretty good average rainfall.”
How large is the average garden?
“Thirty boxes (4 by 8 feet) with raised beds should do it.”
What are the benefits of backyard gardening in the 21st century?
“One big reason is the flavor and freshness of crops and produce. They are cheaper than buying. Growers should not pick corn until ready for the pot, that way it’s always fresh,” Richmond explained.
“Start the water boiling and go after your corn, nothing like fresh produce, best you can do at a farmer’s market, know what is in the food, you don’t want pesticides and if you want organic you can do that. We use very little fertilizer, coffee grounds, egg shells and horse manure; we don’t ever buy fertilize.”
What is the hardest part of gardening? Harvesting entails a lot of work. Canning food, of course, is work intensive but really rewarding, with shelves full of food and cellars full of produce, many vegetables to can, but you must just enjoy doing it.”
What is the advantage of owning and operating a greenhouse?
“Lot of it is pride, take a seed and produce a beautiful plant that you can harvest. Save seeds from year to year: hot peppers, dry and pull the seeds out, best part of it is growing things day to day. Open it back up or you will roast and kill your plants:tomatoes, hot peppers, green peppers, kale, lettuce, corn, and the beans in the greenhouse. Use every space in the garden for something, no wasted space, no corn, or beans, very few things we plant without transplanting them from the greenhouse, even onions.”
What do growers do with all of the vegetables they grow each year?
“We give to our family,” explained Debra Stewart of Jumping Branch. “We often can a lot, and eat the rest. We don’t sell ours;we keep and use everything we grow: blackberries and raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, grapes, which we cut back and mulch them in the fall. We take care of them each year.”
What advice would you offer to someone getting into gardening for the first time?
Talk to somebody who gardens, you can read all the books, but there’s no substitute for experience. We both come from gardening backgrounds, no gimmicks, simpler is better, don’t have to buy fancy boxes. Talk to your county agent who teaches a master gardening class.
How many hours per week do you estimate you put into your garden?
Stewart said: We work every morning, work every day, there isalways something to do. Thirty boxes is pretty big, includinglots of work. Most backyard gardeners do seven or eight, still have to do a limited amount of weeding, shred the newspapers,and use them for mulch.”
What is the actual growing season in Southern West Virginia for gardens?
May through September can extend to October, according to Richmond. “You can have some things like greens up until Thanksgiving if you are willing to cover them with hoops and plastic over the top in the late fall. That extends the season. We start our plants in the greenhouse as early as March by keeping the heat on with a baseboard heater.”
What should gardeners avoid when growing a garden?
“You cannot neglect your garden, takes work every day, you have to be very aware of the plants to make sure they are not being attacked at their roots by some kind of insects above and below the ground,” the county agent advised.
How important is compost and catching rainwater for the garden? “Very important,” he said. “Compost a great fertilizer. You can make compost tea to pour on your plants, which has lots of benefits and advantages.”
Top o’ the morning!