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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Beautiful weekend weather meant plenty of people were starting to think about planting vegetable gardens. 

Some avid gardeners have already started their seeds inside. A handful of others are growing plants outside in raised beds. The raised beds made from wood or galvanized metal are all the rage because the seedlings are off the ground, easily watered, and small, vulnerable plants are protected from rabbits and many insects.

James Worley, often known as the “Tomato Whisperer” for his ability to grow a wide variety of the tasty summer fruit, highly recommends the raised beds. His business, Yum Yards, is helping people all over the metro learn the art of growing their own vegetables.

“You have to start with good soil. Really quality soil is light and fluffy and it smells good. It is great for roots to grow in. Building soil out of compost with some amendments like pearlite, peat and vermiculite is key. Start as early as March for cool season crops like lettuces. They do not like hot weather. We start the first week of March to plant lettuce plants, but you can still plant now,” Worley said.

Planting in succession is another trick Worley uses to keep the crops coming all summer long. He will plant seeds several weeks apart so that when one variety is waning, the next is already ripening. 

Trellises are another trick, even in a raised bed.  You can make them of string, wood or metal.

“Some plants like to grow vertically like peas, cucumbers and beans.” Worley said. 

Start now by planting peas or beans in the soil beneath the trellis and in May replace them with cucumbers.

When you have a raised bed, the soil is easier to irrigate. 

“We use a drip irrigation system here with a timer, so your plants get exactly the water they need,” Worley said.

On Worley’s advice you can start your salad gardens now, but wait on tomatoes and peppers until after Mother’s Day.  

The final thing you need if you are planting early is a good row cover. It allows sunlight and even some rain in, and keeps insects bunnies and squirrels out, all while giving the vulnerable starter plants in your garden a chance to get a good healthy start, so they will be robust within a few weeks.

By the way, if your green thumb could use a little help, Worley and his crew are available for hire. 

They will come build your bed, fill it with compost, plant and even set up and irrigation system. All you have to do is maintain the garden and harvest the bounty.