Orange County Insight March 2021

Getting Started in the Vegetable Garden

By Ashley Appling Virginia Cooperative Extension – Culpeper County Horticulture Extension Agent

Location, location, location is just as important in vegetable gardens as it is in the world of real estate. The amount of sunlight that reaches your plants throughout the day is one of the leading factors contributing to success. Lettuce and other leafy greens require at least six hours of direct sunlight each day in order to develop properly. Fruiting vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes need eight to ten hours of direct sunlight to produce high - quality fruit. The accompanying photos show tomatoes growing in a sunny location. The first photo was taken in early June and the second photo was taken in late August. Drainage is another important consideration in regards to location. The vegetable garden should not have standing water and should drain quickly after rainstorms. An easy way to check soil drainage is by digging a one - foot - by - one - foot hole. Fill that hole to the top with water and let it drain overnight. The next day fill the hole with water a second time and keep track of how long it takes to drain. Well - draining soil will drain within 30 minutes. Marginally drained soil will take about an hour. Poorly draining soil might take several hours. Incorporating organic matter into your soil or building raised beds can alleviate poor draining soils. Soil samples should be taken a few months before preparing a landscape bed, lawn, or vegetable garden. This allows for sufficient time for the fertilizer and/or lime applied to make the necessary adjustments to the soil profile. Samples can be collected at any time of the year, but fall is one of the better times because it allows time for soil adjustments, and it avoids the busy spring season when most samples are sent into the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory. There is charge of $10 per sample. For more information and for a soil sampling box, contact the Orange Extension Office by phone (540) 672 - 1361, or by email at

Photo credits Ashley Appling

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