Tips to get started raising vegetables and chickens

| March 31, 2017

COSHOCTON – If you are thinking of starting your own backyard garden or raising chickens so you can have fresh eggs, here are some tips to get you started.

“Watch the weather before you decide to plant,” said Tammi Rogers, program assistant, ag & natural resources & county master gardener volunteer coordinator. “It will be your guide for a frost free date, but remember Mother Nature is really in charge. Leafy vegetables and root crops like your spinach, kale and cabbage can usually go in after April 20 though. They can handle cooler weather, but a hard frost can still hurt them so you will still want to protect them.”

May 15 is usually a good frost free date, but Rogers said you might even want to wait until the first week of June for plants like tomatoes and peppers that like hot weather.

If you are starting your garden from scratch you will want to clear the area of existing vegetation, rocks, sticks and other items that might be in the way.

“I recommend a soil test, but it’s not required,” Rogers said. “If it’s your first year you can always wait and see how it goes.”

You also don’t want to plant when the soil is too wet.

“It’s compact and harder for the roots to grow through,” Rogers said. “You want a nice hospitable place for your roots.”

Another tip to remember is to locate your vegetable garden in full sun.

“It needs six hours of sun at least, but eight or more is better,” Rogers said. “Tomatoes and peppers like hot long days.”

Gardeners should plan to try to spend at least a half hour every day in their garden to pull weeds and look for insects and bugs or diseases that might have taken hold of their plants.

“If you see a bug, don’t immediately assume its bad,” Rogers said. “Get it identified. You can always take a picture of it and e-mail it to me or post it to the master gardeners’ website. You also can bring it in.”

Another essential part of having a healthy garden is remembering to water it.

“It’s helpful to have a rain gage,” Rogers said. “You need one inch of water per week and if you don’t get that you need to sublimit by watering your plants. Try to water in the early morning and get as close as you can to the base of the plant. It’s the roots that need the water.”

Crops also need to be rotated.

“If you plant, say your tomatoes in the same spot every year, you may want to move them every couple of years,” Rogers said. “Diseases can linger in the soil and down the road you may have problems. A good thing to do in the winter is to plan your garden. If you usually plant your tomatoes on the west end of your garden move them to the southeast corner. If you plant sweet corn one year, the next year plant green beans or peas where it was to help with nitrogen in the soil.  Every little thing you can do helps.”

Vegetables also can be grown in containers.

“They key to doing this is watering often because roots can’t spread out to reach for water like they can when they are in the ground,” Rogers said.

Think about your plants root system and make sure you don’t put too many in a container.

“Anything that has drainage can be used as a container,” Rogers said. “You don’t just have to use a pot. People can use five gallon buckets, Rubbermaid totes and small plants can even be put in teacups.”

Another backyard farming project could be chickens.

“If you live in the city limits the first thing you want to do is make sure it’s legal for you to have chickens,” Rogers said. “You don’t want to get them and then find out you’re not allowed to have them.”

You then want to make sure you have a place for them to live, a way to keep them warm and food and water.

“They are living creatures,” Rogers said. “A lot of people get them when they are cute and fuzzy and then don’t want them anymore. If you are getting chickens for eggs, most breeds don’t start producing until six months or so and most don’t lay one egg per day. Some breeds are better at laying eggs than others and some are dual purpose for eggs and meat. There are lots of different breeds and some are even better for smaller areas. You have to think about how you want to use them and if you want to replenish your stock because generally speaking they only lay eggs pretty good for a couple of years.”

She offers a backyard chicken class to give people a better understanding of what they are getting into. This year the program will be offered at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 in Room B100 of the Coshocton County Services Building. Lessons will focus on basic-level information for the new or prospective chicken owner. Topics include: “So You’ve Got Chicks, Now What?” and will cover food, shelter, breeds, health, predators and chick-related issues and will move on to discuss full-grown bird issues like food and shelter, bird health, predators and Avian Flu.

This class is hosted by the OSU Extension Coshocton County Office and the cost is $5 per person. Registration is needed by Friday, April 7 and the registration flyer can be found online at or at the OSU Extension Office at 724 S. Seventh St. Additional questions may be referred to Rogers at 740-622-2265.

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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