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June 1, 2013

The plot beckons

Experts offer tips for first-time gardeners

It is time to plant a garden.

According to most experts, the rule of thumb in this region is to put in a vegetable garden around Memorial Day weekend.

It can be done in a weekend, but if this is the first time the ground has been cleared for a garden, it takes some planning.

“There are a couple of options,” said Carrie Hewlett, who co-owns Gretna Garden greenhouses in Otego.

“You can do a raised bed. That is the easiest way, but it is more expensive, too,” Hewlett said. “You have to buy the wood to frame it and the dirt to fill it, but you don’t have to worry about taking out the sod.”

Gardeners who want to till a garden should mark out the spot and make sure there is plenty of sunlight. A outside watering system is helpful. The sod must either be removed or tilled into the soil. It is possible in most areas to dig out the sod with a shovel.

If gardeners want to use a tiller, there are many available for rent at hardware stores. Before tilling, larger rocks should be removed. For grassy areas, a mid-size tiller is most useful. After tilling, gardeners should pick or rake clods of sod and rocks out of the garden.

Many people mix supplemental soil, manure or compost into the garden after tilling.

“You should always test your soil,” said Tony Annutto, who owns Annutto’s Farm Stand. “I had a man in here the other day. He said his blueberries were not doing well. He tested the soil and saw he needed some more acid. He added some fertilizer.”

Soil types run from acidic to alkaline. Some plants do better with a higher content of one or the other.

When trying to decide what to put into a garden, the Cornell University Cooperative Extension has a user-friendly website that has information on most vegetables that are generally grown in upstate New York.

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