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Preparing Your Vegetable Garden

Arkansas gardeners can produce tasty, nutritious vegetables year-round.

Hot Springs, Ark. –  Home gardening continues to grow in popularity.  Arkansas gardeners can produce tasty, nutritious vegetables year-round.  To be a successful gardener you need to follow a few basic rules and make practical decisions.  Now is a good time to plan your garden, order your vegetable seeds and have your soil tested.  Remember soil tests are still free at your local Cooperative Extension Office.


Garden Site Selection


Gardeners may have little choice in selecting a garden site, but the garden site is extremely important.  Many garden sites do not have the deep, well-drained fertile soil that is ideal for growing vegetables.  If yours is one of them, you will need to alter the soil to provide good drainage and aeration.  If you modify certain cultural practices and select the right crops, almost any site can become a highly productive garden.

Arkansas soils range from coarse sands to heavy clays.  Each presents a special situation to the Gardener.  The type of soil is an important consideration if there is a choice.  Sandy loam or loam soils are well adapted to vegetable production.  Vegetables can be grown on heavier soils if they are well-drained. 

Clay particles are smaller than sand and become quite hard when dry.  They are usually productive if they can be managed properly.  Material such as sand, finely ground bark, vermiculite or perlite can be added to clay soil to improve soil conditions and provided better air space for roots. 

Composted organic matter and organic mulching materials also help.  On the other hand, sandy soils are quite workable but do not hold water or fertilizer nutrients as well as clay soils.  Adding large amounts of organic matter such as organic compost and manures will greatly improve the nutrient and water holding ability of these soils.  Organic matter that is not well composted can be very harmful since the rotting materials will compete for nutrients with the growing plants.

Growing plants in raised beds is a logical choice for gardeners with heavy, poorly drained soils.  Raised beds permit plant roots to develop in soil held above the water-logged or compacted zones.  This provides a more optimum soil environment for root growth.  As beds are built up, compost or other forms of organic matter may be incorporated, further improving soil structure, drainage and nutrient-holding capacity.


Crop Selection


One of the first things you must do is decide what vegetables to grow. Plant the vegetables your family will enjoy most.  You want to grow vegetables that return a good portion of nutritious food for the time and space they require.  Vine crops such as watermelons, cantaloupes, winter squash and cucumbers need large amounts of space, but if you plant them near a fence or trellis you may need less space for vine crops.  Some crops require full sunlight, or at least six hours, while others may tolerate partial shade.  It is important to select the right variety of each vegetable. Between February and April, you can plant the following items: kale, leaf lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach, turnips, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, endive, onions (plants), onion (sets), Swiss chard, and Irish potatoes.

 If you plant the wrong variety for your area you may not get a satisfactory yield no matter how much care you give the plants.  Recommended varieties for Arkansas can be found at the University of Arkansas Cooperative extension web site at under yard and garden.    


For more information on Preparing Your Vegetable Garden, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703, email Allen at, or visit our website at


4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at

EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email

Master Gardeners

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge.  You may also call the Extension office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

By Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.