As spring arrives, school is moving to online instruction/opportunity and to help with food issues, now might be a great time to consider taking up gardening.

This pastime 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.

Gardening is a very popular hobby. It can also help reduce the family food bill.

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

You also have to consider how much space you have to use in your garden.

If you have a small garden, something like a watermelon may take up the whole garden.

You need to know how long it takes some plants to grow.

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. Some examples of this are tomatoes and peppers.

It is better to plant those as plants and not seeds.

Tomatoes are a popular garden plant. Other things that we can grow well include peppers. Cool-season crops such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as radishes and peas do well early.

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.

When selecting plans, select plants that are 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 or Southwest Kansas 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.

Mulching the area around the vegetables with hay or newspaper will help to keep weeds down and moisture in.

While it is best to take a soil sample prior to planting to determine fertilizer needs.

Vegetables can also benefit from a side dressing fertilizer application after planting.

This involves giving a plant an appropriate amount of nitrogen down a narrow furrow alongside a row or around an individual plant as it grows.

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 printed online from the Ford County Extension Office website at

Other gardening questions can be e-mailed to Andrea Burns at the Ford County Extension Office at