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K-State Research and Extension News

Gardening: one activity, many benefits

Information to help make the most of your garden in 2016

garden veggiesReleased: April 11, 2016

MANHATTAN, Kan. – As spring arrives, many people turn their attention to the outdoors. Gardening is a pastime that can unite individuals in ways that they might not have imagined. Regardless if someone gardens for fun, for food, for a deeper connection with something or another reason altogether, it is important to get the most out of the experience.

“Vegetable gardening is probably the most common hobby that we have nationwide as well as statewide,” said Ward Upham, horticulture specialist and Master Gardener coordinator with K-State Research and Extension. “This is something that not only is pleasurable but also can help reduce the food bill.”

The first thing gardeners should consider when selecting what to plant is if they will eat what they plant.

“After deciding you will eat what is in your garden, you should take into account what your family likes,” he said. “You also have to consider how much space you have. If you have a small garden, something like a watermelon may take up the whole garden.”

Some plants take so long to grow that it is best to start them inside versus planting them as seeds directly in the garden. In some cases, if these plants were originally planted as seeds in the garden, by the time they produced, the growing season might be over. Examples of these kinds of plants are tomatoes and peppers.

“The No. 1 plant nationwide, as well as in Kansas, is tomatoes,” Upham said. “Other things that we can grow well include peppers, some of the cool-season crops such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as radishes and peas.”

However, cool-season crops should be planted early in Kansas because of the eventual heat of the summer, he added.

Radishes, peas and beans are typically grown in home gardens from seeds. Onions, however, can be grown from either sets or young plants. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are normally grown from plants. Lettuce can be grown from either a plant or seed.

Upham said it’s best to select a plant that is stocky and healthy. When a plant grows tall and spindly, it usually suggests it has been grown under poor lighting. A stocky plant will withstand Midwestern winds more effectively.

Once a garden is planted, with seeds, plants or both, make sure the soil stays moist and weeds don’t take over.

“Once the soil gets warm, you may want to consider mulching the area around the vegetables to keep weeds down,” Upham said.

For gardeners who plan to fertilize the soil before planting, it’s best to have a soil test done, add necessary nutrients and then till the fertilizer into the soil prior to planting.

Sometimes, however, vegetables need to be “side-dressed” after planting, which involves giving a plant an appropriate amount of nitrogen down a narrow furrow alongside a row or around an individual plant as it grows, depending on its needs, he said. Tomatoes, for example, are typically side-dressed roughly two weeks before the first tomato ripens. Then a gardener would treat the plant two weeks after the first tomato ripens and finally a month later.

The “Kansas Garden Guide” is an 80-page publication that covers many aspects of gardening in Kansas and provides useful tips for gardeners. This and many other gardening publications can be found online through the K-State Research and Extension Bookstore or local extension offices in Kansas.

More information is also available on the K-State Research and Extension Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources website.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Connor Orrock
K-State Research and Extension

For more information:
Ward Upham, wupham@ksu.edu or 785-532-1438