IN THE YARD: Soil and sun

If you’re planting a spring and summer garden for the first time, consider drainage, condition of the soil and, most importantly, from which direction sunlight comes and how many hours a day of strong sunlight will reach your garden.

Many yards are wet from the winter rains. Recall places in your yard where water stood. Don’t plant there unless you raise the level of the garden site, plant atop rows or construct a raised bed.

See http://www.lsuagcenter.com for gardening information of all kinds.

Once dry, if the soil in your garden doesn’t crumble under shovel and hoe but sticks to the metal, add compost and peat moss. You might add some garden mix from the nursery to your unimproved dirt. Mix thoroughly.

You need a minimum six hours of direct sunlight for vegetables. All-day sunlight is required to grow veggies the size you see at the farmer’s market.

From what direction does the sunlight come? Does your house or trees block the sun. If you get strongest sunlight from one direction, plant low-growing vegetables nearest the sun. Put tall vegetables like okra, corn, pole beans and tomatoes at the back of the garden so they don’t block sun from the low-growing vegetables.

I grew the best tomatoes I’ve ever grown in “clayey” dirt in my first garden in North Baton Rouge. Whatever was in that dirt, tomato plants loved it.

Planting shallots in that first garden, I became aware of an elderly neighbor watching me from his side of the fence. He wanted badly to say something. Finally, I looked up to say, “What?!”

“You’re planting them shallots upside down,” my neighbor said.

I’ve learned at least an encyclopedia’s worth of information about gardening through mistakes.

Happy Spring!

Ed Cullen

Advocate staff writer