I sat in on Just Food Co-op’s first of two classes on vegetable gardening last night. Conducted by Laura Frerichs, co-owner of Loon Organics, the class covered the basics of getting started with a vegetable garden, from picking a sunny spot (a must) to prepping the soil (healthy soil = healthy plants) to using row covers to extend the season. The room was packed and the crowd looked to be a mix of experienced gardeners and beginners.
Here are three new things I learned at the presentation:
- The best time to weed is before the weeds emerge. If you turn over your soil with a hoe, you may notice little “white hairs.” These are weeds-to-be. Expose them to air and sun and they die, saving you lots of trouble down the road,
- Consider investing in a soil thermometer. I don’t have one of these, but plan to pick one up. Lettuce, spinach, chard and other cool season crops can be planted when the soil temperature is as low as 45 degrees F, and like being planted before soils temps get into the 60s. In contrast, beans, tomato starts and other warm season crops, don’t want to be planted until the soil is near the 70s.
- I’ve always been a little confused by “days to harvest” listings on seed packets and Laura offered a clarification. Here’s the scoop: For cool season crops that you direct seed in the garden, the days to harvest means days from planting the seed. However, for warm season crops that need to be started indoors or purchased as plant starts (something Laura recommends for beginning gardeners), the days to harvest means the number of days from the date of transplant. She advises northern gardeners to look at those days carefully. If a melon takes 110 or 120 days to produce edible fruit, and you cannot get the plant start in the ground until June 1 — well, you know what your odds are.
This is the first of two gardening classes the co-op is offering. Next Thursday (Jan. 29), Erin Johnson and Ben Doherty of Open Hands Farm will lead a discussion of “What to Plant,” beginning at 5 p.m. in the co-op meeting room. Ben and Erin produce wonderful organic vegetables and a knock-your-socks-off salad mix that they sell at the Northfield Farmers’ Market. Should be a great event.
If you don’t live in Northfield, check out the MSHS calendar for other vegetable gardening classes.