Posts Tagged ‘frost’

Class: Planting the Spring Kitchen Garden

I took this class mostly as an informational class for me. After all, I’m all about food, and learning about how to get food out of my garden before regular gardening season sounds like a good idea to me. However, my community garden plot won’t be available until May, and Showcase 1 is currently buried under a large pile of composting manure. It turns out, though, that gushing about this really cool class you just took is a good way to get your hands on more gardening space. I visited what will be Showcase 2 on Sunday, to check out the space she would like to turn into her spring kitchen garden.

The class was taught by Patti O’Neal, a horticulturist in the Jefferson County Extension office. If you happen to be there, they have a walk-in diagnostic clinic that will be re-opening in mid-April. Unlike calling on Mom or Googling the answer, you do have to pay for it. However, you actually get a professional’s assistance. It’s definitely something I’m tucking away for future reference.

Before I take another one of her classes, I might want to take a class in shorthand. However, had she spoken any slower, I don’t think she could have gotten that much information into a mere two-and-a-half hours. She began by asserting that if you haven’t killed any plants then you weren’t really trying to grow anything. This theme was continued as she later tells us that we need to keep good records in part so that we can forgive ourselves for our failures. Some things will be our fault, and our records will help us to not make those mistakes again. However, there are a lot of things that aren’t our fault, like animals and weather, that we just need to accept and not take too hard.

The first question to be addressed is, what is a kitchen garden, anyway? It is a garden, preferably just outside the kitchen door, that has the things you will be using in the kitchen. That would be everything from your herbs and vegetables to the cut flowers for the dinner table. The closer you can plant it to your kitchen, the easier it is for you to pop out there to check on things and harvest what you need. The second question is, what makes it a spring kitchen garden? The techniques she was showing us are to extend the use of the garden beyond the traditional summer gardening. In fact, she was harvesting spinach all winter out of her garden due to the mildness of the winter.

65 years ago, 40% of our veggies were grown at home and another 40% were from local farms. In the spring of 2009, seed sales were up 30%, indicating a rising interest in growing our own food again. In 2010 it was up another 10% indicating that people were trying again and more people were trying for the first time. I’m very excited about the idea of people beginning to understand where their food comes from again.

Depending on what you have for room for, Patti prefers raised beds, but you can also plant directly in the ground or in pots. For the spring garden, it is about soil temperature, not daytime temperatures as it is later in the year. The raised beds warm faster than an in-ground garden and they don’t have to be wrapped against frost like pots. No matter what you use, once the soil has reached the appropriate temperature for a couple of days in a row, 50-55 degrees works to plant most that you would be planting in this garden, you can direct-sow most of the plants. The soil can be warmed either naturally or with some 4-6 mil clear plastic. The clear works better than black for trapping the heat in the soil instead of the plastic.

You will be planting vegetables that can germinate in soil between 40 and 60 degrees and can stand air that is between 40 and 50 degrees. They tend to like cool and moist soil as they tend to be higher in water content. Leafy crops that make up the bulk of them lose quality in heat as the water transpires out of the leaves too quickly to keep them sweet and tender. Once they have been planted, you can use a variety of things from plastic, to greenhouse or coldframe constructions, to the horticultural fabric Remay to protect the seedlings from frost and any inclement weather.

This is one of those classes that I am going to be referring to the notes and digesting it for a while. I am really looking forward to seeing what I can put into effect in Showcase 2. After all, I find that my retention of information relates to how quickly I can actually put it into use. The more useful it is, the more likely I am to remember it. I expect most of this information will be useful once I’ve had a chance to process it.

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