Garden Ready: Tips for Spring Vegetable Prep and Planting From Clemson University

A gardener handling soil.

Having fresh produce available at any time is easier when you can grab it straight from your own garden.

Home gardening is not a new trend, but it’s continued to pick up steam in recent years, with the pandemic bringing a new level of interest to the subject. Everyone has the ability to plant a garden, regardless of space – an herb box makes for a perfect addition to any windowsill option. Vegetables can be grown in a variety of ways, from traditional in-the-ground planting and raised beds to pots and yes, even straw bales.

The first step to building the vegetable garden you’ve been waiting for is to start with a few basic questions:

Who will be doing the work (tending the garden)?

Will the garden be a group project with family members or friends who will work willingly through the season to a fall harvest, or will you be handling the hoe alone in between camping and swimming? Remember that a small weed-free garden will produce more than a large, weedy mess.

What do you (and your family) like to eat?

Although the pictures in the garden catalog look delicious, there is no value in taking up gardening space with vegetables that no one eats. Make a list of your family’s favorite vegetables, ranked in order of preference. This will be a useful guide in deciding how much of each vegetable to plant. Successive plantings of certain crops, such as beans, can be harvested over a longer period of time and increase your yield. As you plan, list recommended varieties and planting dates.

How do you plan to use the produce from your garden?

If you plan to can, freeze, dry, or store part of the produce, this will be a factor not only in planning the size of the garden but also in selecting varieties. Some varieties have much better keeping quality than others. Care should be used in choosing the seeds, making sure the varieties you select are adapted to your area and intended use.

How much space is available and what is proximity to water source?

How much area can be converted into usable garden space, and how much garden do you need? Do not plant more garden than you need.

How close is the water source? Make sure your garden has an accessible water source, whether you can set up irrigation or simply drag a hose over when the inevitable dry weather arrives.

Once you’ve answered the above questions and determined what you are going to plant, plan your garden out on paper before planting – showing the arrangement and spacing of crops, grouping plants by the length of growing period. Remember, place tall and trellised crops on the north side of the garden so they will not shade the shorter vegetables.

Now that you’ve planned out your garden, it’s time to plant. You can start with seeds or transplants (purchased at your local home and garden store), keeping in mind that you want to plant after the last freeze in your area.

Additional Tips

– Keep your garden as small as possible to cut down on unnecessary work.
– Get a soil test to determine the nutrients in your soil. A fact sheet with details on soil testing can be found on the HGIC website.
– In South Carolina, gardens should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day (leafy vegetables can tolerate partial shade; vegetables that produce fruit, such as peppers and tomatoes, must be grown in full sun).
– Avoid planting your garden close to or beneath trees and shrubs because shade and the competition for nutrients and water may reduce vegetable growth.
– Plants grown for their leaves or roots can be grown in partial shade.

For additional tips and information please visit the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences web page.

Prepared by Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.