Growing your own produce is an adventure that changes from one year to another.
Even the best of gardeners will have great luck one year and lousy luck another, said Tampa resident Ron Jirak, primary operator of Jirak Brothers Produce. The family business got its start with his father and is now operated full-time by Ron with help from his relatives.
Growing good produce depends on several things, Jirak said.
Specific crops do well one year and poorly the next, Jirak said. For every one crop you do well with, there’s another one you don’t, Jirak said.
Timing, whether in planting the crop, watering, or harvesting is an important element, he said.
“I do a lot of experimentation,” he said. “That’s the fun of raising vegetables. You try something and it works. For every three or four things you try, maybe one of them will work well.”
The most important thing is having well-drained, rich soil, he said. Compost or fertilizer might need to be added.
It’s also important to choose vegetable varieties that grow well in this area. To find out which ones do well, the Kansas State Extension Service website is a good reference, Jirak said.
Most vegetable plants should have full sun, Jirak said, and spacing between plants is important as well.
“The bigger the plant, the more space it’s going to need,” Jirak said. “Just don’t overwater it. It’s better to keep a plant too dry than too wet.”
Certain blooming plants can repel insects and it might be a good idea to plant some of them, he said.
Some crops, like potatoes, should already be planted, he said.
Others, like peppers and tomatoes freeze easily and gardeners should wait until probably May to plant them, Jirak said.
Gardeners should also keep an eye on the weather. If a late freeze happens, plants should be covered to keep the heat in so they aren’t killed off.
Jirak Brothers Produce markets in-season produce to grocery stores in Marion and other locations such as farmers’ markets and roadside stands.