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Starting your first vegetable garden requires a little bit of knowledge and planning and a whole lot of can-do attitude. You have to be willing to learn as you go, but before you grab that shovel and say “Let’s do it!”, review these warnings. They’ll ensure your first garden rewards you with the sweet taste of success.

Fertilizer Mistakes

Beefing up your soil is a good thing, but adding fertilizers at the wrong time, or adding too much of it, can ruin a crop. Pay close attention to the instructions for amounts and timing. It’s better to test your garden soil months before planting so you can add the specific amendments it needs.

If it’s late in the season and you need to plant right away, you’re not out of options. Give a new garden site a boost by adding several inches of compost. Organic fertilizers are slower to release their nutrients, but will last longer. Most can be added close to or at the same time as planting, but as with synthetic fertilizers, pay close attention to instructions. If your soil is not ideal for a garden in one way or another (bad drainage, very poor soil), consider raised beds to which you can add purchased rich topsoil.

Overwatering

Many beginners wrongly assume that there can’t be too much of a good thing. Water, like fertilizer, should be applied correctly to produce healthy vegetables. Deep watering with sufficient intervals will coax plants to develop deep root systems. In general, a vegetable garden needs one inch of water per week. Avoid overhead sprinkling, which can promote fungus and mildew. The ideal watering system is a slow-drip method, as with a drip-irrigation system. If you can’t afford an installed system, water with a hose by moving it around the garden, positioning a slow flow of water at the base of plants.

Shade and Overcrowding

Choosing the right location for your garden is very important. Healthy vegetable plants need at least six hours of full sunlight per day, and most plants will do better with more hours of direct sun. When you plot out where each variety will be placed in the garden, make sure one tall crop won’t completely shade it’s neighbor. Plant in rows that align east to west, and place the tallest crops on the north and the shorter crops on the south. It also helps to space plants adequately, according to the directions on a seed packet or seedling container. Use trellises for vining plants to take full advantage of garden space.

Biting Off More Than You Can Weed, Eat, or Store

When it comes to fresh produce, it’s easy to get a little carried away in the planning stages. Resist the urge to buy every variety you love, or a whole flat of tomato seedlings. Tending a large garden can consume a lot of time and energy. Your first year of vegetable gardening is a chance to learn the basics and a few pest-battling strategies. If you did get carried away, consider donating excess produce to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.

As you enjoy your first season of vegetable gardening, keep a journal of what you’re learning, and what you might want to try next year. When you bite into that first home-grown veggie, you’ll be thoroughly hooked.

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How to Provide the Best Prenatal Care for Your Pregnant Goat

My goats are more than just livestock, they are beloved pets. But, in order to get milk, they have to be bred. When I breed my does, I want to give them the best care possible during their pregnancy. The closer my does my get to kidding, the more nervous I get, but I have found that problems happen very rarely, as long as I follow a few simple guidelines and know what to be prepared for during the various stages of their pregnancy. Here’s how I care for the pregnant does on my homestead:

Before Breeding

First things first! Your doe should be in the best condition possible before she is bred. If your doe is young and she is just being bred for the first time, it is recommended that she weighs at least 65% of her expected adult weight. Personally, I like to wait until my does are about a year and a half old before I breed them for the first time.

My does already get grain twice a day, but if yours do not, you should start giving them grain about 2 weeks before breeding and continue for about 2 weeks after. Don’t breed a doe that is already underweight. She should also have unlimited access to loose minerals with a ratio of 16% calcium and 8% phosphorous. Give her as much hay as she wants and it’s best if she can have access to quality pasture and forage, too. Sadly, we don’t have a lot of pasture space on our little homestead, so our does get grain year-round to help keep their body weight up.

If you have ever been pregnant, you know that growing a baby can be exhausting. The last thing your girl needs is to have a heavy worm infestation while she is pregnant. However, I prefer not to de-worm unless it’s necessary, so I will usually have a fecal sample checked by my vet a few weeks before breeding. For me, this makes the most sense because different de-worming medications are more effective for certain types of worms than others, and my vet can tell me the best course of action. Wait about 2 weeks after treatment before exposing her to the buck.

You should also talk to your vet about Selenium deficiency. If you live in an area where selenium deficiency is a problem, you or your vet should administer a BoSe shot or gel(Selenium + Vitamin E) before breeding. I also take care of any needed hoof trimming before breeding so that it doesn’t need to be done while she’s pregnant.

From Conception through 6 Weeks Before Kidding

The average gestation period for a goat is 150 days, so don’t forget to mark your calendar! During the first three and a half months of gestation you might not see many physical changes in your doe. The embryos grow rather slowly at this stage, and I’ve often found myself wondering if my does were pregnant at all during this time. To avoid the risk of birth defects, do not give a doe any medications during the first 25-30 days of pregnancy.

During early gestation, it is also important that your doe is not stressed. Don’t try to move her to a new location and don’t bring in new animals she doesn’t know, if at all possible. Try to keep her routine consistent with what she is used to. Does that get stressed during this time have been known to reabsorb the embryos or miscarry.

As long as your doe has access to good pasture, she doesn’t need grain during this time. Free choice minerals and as much hay as she wants are all she needs. If there’s not enough good pasture, or if you are milking during this time, or if she is losing weight instead of maintaining or gaining weight, then you will want to give her grain twice a day. If I am milking a doe during this stage of her pregnancy, I dry her up at least two months before I expect her to kid.

The Last 6 Weeks Prior to Kidding

Now is the time when you will start to see drastic physical changes. The kids will be growing very rapidly at this point. However, I have had one doe that showed no signs that she was pregnant right up until kidding. And then, surprise…you’ve got a baby goat! Goats are perplexing creatures!

Now is the time to increase her calories and nutrition, so you’ll want to slowly introduce a 15% protein goat pellet at this point. The amount of grain you give her will vary from goat to goat, but it should be slowly increased to at least twice her normal ration, and possibly more if she’s pregnant with multiples. You’ll need to use your judgement here. If she doesn’t seem to be gaining weight steadily, you’ll need to increase the amount, but you don’t want to give her so much grain that the kids get too big and cause problems for her during delivery. Continue allowing access to free choice minerals, as much hay as she wants, and pasture.

This is also the time when things can get dicey fast. Keep a close eye on her for signs of ketosis, hypoglycemia, or pregnancy toxemia. Act quickly at any sign of depression, grinding of the teeth, rapid breathing, staggering, or muscle tremors. I keep blackstrap molasses and propylene glycol on hand for emergencies, but don’t take any chances. These conditions can become fatal quickly, so call the vet at the first sign of trouble. For more detailed information about these pregnancy complications, read this article by FiasCo Farm.

About four weeks before she is due to kid, your doe should have a CD&T vaccine so that the kids will have protection from tetanus. They will get the immunity from their mother’s colostrum at birth. In selenium deficient areas, another dose of BoSe injectable or gel is also given at this time.

At one week prior to her due date, it’s a good idea to have another fecal sample checked for worms. Worm loads can suddenly increase at a rapid rate in the late stages of pregnancy. De-worming now protects not only momma, but the kids as well. Make sure your kidding kit and kidding stall are ready to go at least 1 week prior to her due date.

With proper care, most pregnancy problems can be avoided completely or taken care of before they become serious. If you are new at this, don’t hesitate to call your vet with questions or concerns. Goats can go downhill fast so acting quickly is always the best course of action.

In the next post, we’ll talk about what you should have in your kidding kit, the signs of labor, setting up your kidding stall, and the birth itself!


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