To the uninitiated, it sounds simple. Plant a few seeds, add a bit of water, let the sun do its magic and pretty soon you’ve got a refrigerator full of enough vegetables to rival the produce section at Shaw's.
The truth of the matter is that, like most everything else, there are “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to planting a proper vegetable garden. And, especially for beginners, the best way to begin their gardening endeavors is to consult an expert.
Would-be Medfield “farmers” had an opportunity to do just that as Master Gardener, Betty Sanders, presented a program on “Getting Started With a Vegetable Garden,” held April 16 at Medfield Library.
Sanders, who oversees the Medfield Community Garden, shared her knowledge and expertise with an audience of approximately 40 during the two-hour presentation.
The group exhibited its enthusiasm by peppering Sanders with a variety of questions early on in the program. So much so, that Sanders was forced to ask that they hold their queries until the end of the presentation, in the interest of time.
As the handout, prepared by Sanders, indicated, there was a lot of information to cover. From tips on choosing a location and deciding the size of the garden, to information on planting, weeding and fertilizing, it was obvious that the program would offer a detailed “how to” for novice gardeners.
“I put this program together to help people get vegetable gardens started,” Sanders told the group, “because that’s the whole idea behind our ‘Garden to Table’ program.'”
Using personal references to make her point, Sanders offered that a friend of hers calls gardening “the most meaningful of all work.” A successful garden, she hinted, was one that resulted in “wretched excess.” “That’s having so much that your neighbors lock their doors when they see you coming with a bag [of vegetables],” she joked.
She relayed that she and another friend have found a way to overcome that excess. “I grow corn … I have a friend who doesn’t. She grows things like garlic and shallots. I keep her supplied with corn in August and September and she keeps me in garlic and shallots all year.”
Though, as the evening would prove, a successful garden demands a lot of planning and nurturing, the end result, as Sanders stated, would be well worth the effort.
“If the only vegetables you’ve eaten in the last umpteen years are from the supermarket, you’re going to be in for such a shock when you pick your first vegetables and try them. The taste is so different,” Sanders said.
The planning phase of gardening, according to Sanders, includes “choosing your location, carefully,” “deciding on the proper size of the garden,” “testing the Soil,” “choosing a garden design” and “choosing what vegetables to grow.”
Most important on that list was the choosing of the garden's location. An area exposed to at least 8 hours of sunshine was deemed “vital.”
“You cannot convince yourself that if you’ve got four or five hours of sunlight in the afternoon (that you) can grow vegetables there, you can’t," Sanders said. "I don’t care how hot it is, how nice the soil is, how convenient it is to your house … it’s not going to grow vegetables. You must have eight hours to grow most vegetables. The exception to that is that with about six hours you can grow things like lettuce, but truthfully, you need eight hours to grow [vegetables such as] tomatoes, zucchini, corn, eggplant and melons ... and for the rest of them, if they don’t get eight hours, they’re going to be smaller,” she said.
“Good drainage” and the availability of water were also important considerations when choosing a location.
The size of the garden directly affects the yield of vegetables, Sanders said. A plot 20 x 30 feet will keep a family of four in vegetables all summer, with enough left over to share. Sanders said that “I still have green beans, ochre and corn in my freezer. I have eight winter squash in the basement and I grow it on a 20 X 30 foot lot.”
She induced a moment of levity when she said “my husband probably wishes I had brought them as door prizes today.”
As the presentation continued, much of the audience busily took notes, hoping, no doubt, that Sanders' expert tips would aide in them producing their own successful gardens.