2019 South Side Spring Gardening Workshops

While these classes are to support the South Side community of The Buckeye ISA, they are free and open to the public so bring your friends and your questions.  Families with children that want to grow their own food may be eligible to enroll in the Buckeye ISA and get materials and educational support.

Click HERE to print the flyer –> 2019 Spring Gardening SS ISA

Central Ohio Grower’s Report and Weather Update for Winter 2019

The next week has a period of intense cold coming to central Ohio.  Grower’s who planted spinach under low tunnels using row cover should make sure that they have a second layer of frost blanket covering the planting and that the row cover is weighted securely against wind shear.

While there is a good chance that a full harvest amount of spinach is present, we have not had a warm enough day to break the micro-climate to check.  Be patient,  there is usually a chance for a significant harvest in February.

 

The period of warm and wet weather we had earlier in winter provided a chance to get good growth on winter cover crops.  If you were unable to get cover crops planted this year, as you make your 2019 planting plan, try to add cover crops into your rotation to keep a living cover on your ground.  It adds organic matter, prevents soil erosion and builds fertility.

A mix of winter rye, forage radish, crimson clover and hairy vetch. This mix is cold hardy and will persist into spring, starting a period of intense growth when the weather warms up.

The winter rye mix will require intensive management in the spring.

 

 

This plot contains a mix of oats and Austrian winter peas. This mix is cold tolerant but not hardy. It should die following the upcoming period of intense cold. The residue will act as a ground cover protecting the soil that will incorporate easily into a seed bed via tillage in spring.

 

Right now is a good time to start seeds if you have a seed start station.  You can start the following:

  • Artichokes –  a tender perennial not generally grown in central Ohio,  this crop can be grown as an annual if started early indoors.
  • Perennial herbs such as thyme and oregano.  The seeds are extremely tiny and take weeks to germinate.
  • Lettuce, cabbage-family – this assumes some risk due to weather pressure.  I will start a small amount now looking to plant outside around late Feb under season extension.  Start another small batch every two weeks for the next month or two to have a steady harvest.
  • Leeks – seed takes awhile to germinate.  Transplants will be ready to go outside in March if started now.

 

Central Ohio Weather Update 

The three month forecast for temperature and precipitation is calling for colder and dryer than normal weather.   There is a 65% of an El Nino weather phenomenon to form in spring.  That will certainly affect backyard growers, community gardeners, and urban farmers in Central Ohio.

 

CLICK HERE for the NWS/NOAA Weather link.

Keep an eye on Growing Franklin for further updates as we progress through the growing season.

 

 

2019 Spring Gardening Workshops @ Howard Recreation Center

The first round of workshops to support the Buckeye ISA program to teach families with children how to grow their own food has been approved for release.   All of these classes are free and open to the public so bring your friends and your questions.

Click Here for a PDF of the flyer to download –>  2019 Ag Lit ISA Spring Workshops

Fall Garden Projects

 

It is common to not really want to think about additional work at the end of a gardening season, especially one that had as many heat and water challenges as this season did, but fall is the best time to do many things in the garden that if you wait for spring, you lose your best chance.

The best things to do in Fall to prepare for Spring include:

  1. Remove the old/dead/unwanted plants
  2. Soil Test an amend the soil
  3. Make a compost pile
  4. Start or expand a new garden
  5. Clean your tools
  6. Plant a cover crop
  7. Keep good records and assess what worked

Lets go over them one at a time.

  1.  Removing the old/dead/unwanted plants is common sense, but I commonly see leftover plants come spring time and that can set you back when you want to plant.  Remove all plants that will not be overwintered,  pitch any that have disease or seeds or might be a problem in a compost pile(like thistle, dandelion, or bindweed)  Most diseases are fungal and produce spores.  These spores will become next years disease if left alone.  Do yourself and your plants a favor by removing them.

    Most of the problems affecting tomatoes are fungal diseases. The spores can live in the infected plant material. This needs discarded and not composted. Crop rotate from this spot for three years.

    Clean up is not only for disease management, but also for weed management. The tomatoes that have fallen on the ground, if ripe, will become next year’s weeds.

    The fence and plasticulture will be left in place to solarize for a week or so for disease management then cleaned and stored for next year’s use.

  2. The next thing to do after you have cleared the garden is to think about what soil amendments you can add will help for next year.   Their are several things that can be added:
    • Lyme
    • Compost
    • Leaves
    • Wood Ashes
    • Fertilizer
    • Manure
      • The best way to determine what you need is by doing a soil test.  We have soil test kits for sale in the office.
      • CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW TO SAMPLE YOUR SOIL
      • soil testA soil test shows what you need to add to grow what you need.  It is helpful to get accurate amounts by letting them know exactly what you are planting.  Some fertilizers are helpful to add at planting, some like Lyme need to be added in advance.
      • Soil Testing Factsheet from Ohio State Extension
      • Once your soil test results come back let me know and we will sit down and discuss them.
      • I am a huge fan of adding leaves and wood ashes in the fall.  Adding leaves and wood ashes basically adds the sum total of nutrition from an entire tree over its life of digging deep for minerals.  Leaves have 2X the minerals per pound vs. manure.
  3. Start a compost pile
    • Composting is easy and fun.  It happens two ways.  Hot and Cold.  Hot composting gets hot enough to kill weeds, seeds and diseases while cold composting takes longer, does not get hot, but requires much less work.
      • It is important for the pile to be just wet enough and have enough carbons(brown things) and nitrogens(green things) to make the magic ratio of about 25 to 1.  Click Here for a list of compost item ratios –>compost-materials
      • As you can see by my pile I am a cold composter
      • s18
      • Manure is a great addition to a garden or a compost pile.  The overwintering time in the soil or in a hot compost pile will speed the breakdown of any potential pathogens in the manure and it makes a great nitrogen addition to offset the carbons like leaves.   Here is a table of the C:N ratio’s of common manures –>manure-table
  4. Fall is the best time to start a new garden.  That will allow you to get started planting in spring when everything is at its busiest garden wise.  Pick your spot, lay down some newspaper over your new spot or the addition to your current garden and cover with organic matter deep enough to smother anything growing on the surface.  After a winter’s worth of time, you will be able to directly plant into your new garden.  Consider adding some lyme, sulfur,  or fertilizer based on a soil test of your new spot to make sure spring starts off on the right foot.
  5. Clean your tools.  This is self-explanatory although I will be the first to admit I am horrible at this.   My hand tools are rusty and look like garbage.   They should be cleaned of dirt and lightly covered in oil to prevent rust.
    • This chore includes running the gas out of mowers and tillers.   Those cost money and even I remember to do that on occasion.
  6. Plant a Cover Crop   Regular readers of this website will know I love cover crops and use them in multiple applications.  A cover crop can do many things for you like suppress weeds, add biomatter, dig through hardpan and increase fertility.  You can pick your crop based on what you need.
    • Winter rye, oats, Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, hairy vetch and brassicas are common choices for winter cover crops to use this time of year.  They all have their management challenges, although winter rye can be the hardest to manage in spring.
    • Click HERE for How to Manage Winter Rye in Spring

      earth5

      Winter rye will start rapid growth with spring rains and increased warmth. Having a plan to manage this crop is critical.

A great place to read about cover crops is from SARE, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.  They have a Learning Center Online with great information and free publications.

Try to spend some time this fall working on making your garden better for next year. What worked for you this year and what did not?  Take pictures with your phone to document the garden so you can use that for crop rotations.  I try to add a new plant species each year and get rid of one that was not successful.

Tangerine tomatoes (an heirloom) were a stellar performer for me this year and will go into permanent rotation. Besides being delicious, they were productive, disease resistant, crack resistant, and were the last variety producing for me deep into September.

In spring time when you want to get planting you will be happy to have a new garden with great soil, some compost to add, and clean tools.   That way you can start planting right away.

 

SUPER FUN BONUS SECTION: Want to make an easy cheap compost pile you can move anywhere?

dr-mcd-easy-compost-pile

 

Fall Projects to Prepare the Spring Garden Class at Grandview Heights Public Library on Tuesday October 16th @ 7:00 pm.

There will be a class on projects that can be done in the fall that will make your spring garden easier to start and more productive during the season.  Topics will include soil health, composting, garden expansion, cover crops, soil testing and more.  Bring your friends and your questions to this free event presented in partnership with The Grandview Heights Public Library.

 

Click HERE for flyer to download and print –> GV Library Fall to Spring Garden

Central Ohio 2018 Fall Weather Predictions and El Nino Update

The most recent edition of OSU Agronomy’s C.O.R.N. newsletter published by my Extension colleagues gave the September and October weather predictions that will impact harvest of agronomic crops.  The backyard grower, community gardener, and urban farmer can use this data to make plans for season extended plantings by applying frost dates and predicted temperatures and rainfall amounts into the planting schedule.

September/October Temperature and Precipitation Forecasts

(credit Jim Noel, C.O.R.N Newsletter, 2018-28)

  • September
    • Temperatures will be a little warmer than normal, with normal predicted rainfall
  • October
    • Temperatures and rainfall are both predicted a little above normal
    • Frost and freeze dates are predicted to be in the normal range

 

What does this mean for plantings? 

  • Make sure to keep row cover or other season extension fabric on hand and monitor overnight temperatures carefully as we reach the October 10th – 20th time period to allow maturity and harvest of summer plantings of green beans or zucchini.
  • General above average temperatures should allow for harvest into fall of late summer plantings if protected as needed.
  • Watch for frost or freeze events to plan harvest of sweet potatoes prior to overnight cold temperatures which may damage tubers and decrease storage life.
  • Timing of over wintered spinach plantings should target early to mid-October for completion.

 

El Nino Update (8/9/18)

El Nino winters in central Ohio average warmer than normal temperatures with less than normal snowfall.  Current the National Weather Service has an El Nino Watch in place.

  • Fall – 60% chance of El Nino formation in September – November
  • Winter – 70% chance of El Nino formation in winter.

 

Source: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Growing Spinach Over Winter Using Low Tunnels and Row Cover

Ohio is a FOUR season growing environment.  Winter is often under utilized by the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer  as viable production time.  Using inexpensive equipment with a little planning allows for production of spinach over the winter under row cover with surprising success.

Site selection and preparation is very important for over wintered crops.  These crops will be challenged by weather and sunlight issues.  Areas with shade from deciduous trees in the summer can often be used as an over wintered production location when the leaves fall.  Soil enriched with organic matter will hold on to water and nutrients better as both of those inputs are not easily added over the winter season.

Spinach is an excellent choice for over winter production as it is extremely cold hardy.  As the temperature decreases the plant increases the sugar content in its vasculature.  This essentially acts as an “anti-freeze” to protect the plant.  Growth is greatly slowed by temperature and lack of sunlight.  Growth will pick back up with the arrival of spring.  Seed can be difficult to source in fall if none is left from spring planting.  Make sure to plan to have extra seed for next fall’s crop.

Planting  needs to be completed prior to Mid-October in most years to allow for decent germination and root growth.  Follow the weather prediction models carefully as this can affect timing of planting by several weeks in either direction.

Prior to planting:

  • Remove any prior season plant material
  • Amend the bed with compost and fertilizer based on prior season crop use
  • Observe crop rotation
  • Create a seed bed to ensure adequate germination

 

 

Row cover was applied immediately after planting.  This may or may not need to be done depending on location and security.  This row cover was applied as the location will be checked infrequently and deer pressure is a constant concern.  Row cover is fairly effective at preventing this predator.

 

Germination of spinach seed typically takes about 7-10 days.  Water as needed to maintain enough moisture for good germination.

 

 

If the weather allows, the row cover can be carefully lifted off,  making sure not to drop soil or debris onto the leaves, to inspect the planting.

 

 

Carefully monitor the weather predictions so that you know when to add or remove additional layers of row cover.  The ten day weather prediction showed that the weather would drop from a high in the 50’s to lows in the teens.

 

A second layer of frost blanket was added to ensure that the micro-climate under the row cover would be adequate to protect the spinach plants.  Spinach is extremely cold hardy and will make it through intense cold with proper protection in most cases.  Deep cold may terminate less cold hardy crops like lettuce if the temperatures drop very low for any period of time.

 

 

Extreme cold, wind, ice and snow were experienced over the end of December 2017 and through the beginning of 2018.  Snow is actually helpful to over wintered plantings, providing an extra layer of insulation.

 

Picture taken on January 16th. Note that the video shown next was taken approximately one week later showing the extremes that are common in Ohio weather. Removing the row cover inappropriately, even for a short time, can interfere with the micro-climate under the row cover and cause damage to the spinach plants.

 

As the weather allows, once temperatures have risen to at least the 40’s or higher, the row cover can be lifted to inspect the plantings and take a small to moderate harvest.  Make sure to replace the row cover with enough time to allow the temperature under the cover to rise prior to any over night cold periods.

 

 

Growth will be rapid once spring warmth and sunlight return.  The grower will be able to take many harvests during warm days at any point after February in most cases.

 

 

As long as harvest is taken before flowering and temperatures have not risen too high, harvest can continue.  A large volume of spinach can be harvested from a small area using this method.

Garden Walk on the South Side @ Family Farms Urban Farm on Wednesday August 22nd

There will be a garden walk to discuss weeds, pests, disease, fertilizers, cover crops, season extension and more on Wednesday August 22nd at Family Farms Urban Farm at 1269 Wilson Ave.  @ 6:30 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.  Bring your friends and your questions!

 

CLICK HERE for printable flyer –> Summer Garden Walk SS 1269 Wilson

CLICK HERE for Directions

 

 

Central Ohio Garden Notes and Weather Predictions Mid-Summer 2018

The one and three month temperature and precipitation projections for weather in central Ohio call for increased chances of above average temperatures and near normal precipitation.  This is favorable for maturation of vegetables planted to take advantage of the fall growing season.  The fall vegetable timeline indicates that right now is a good time to plant another round of multiple vegetables including cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, peas and potatoes.  Keep in mind when planting potatoes, the flowering occurs before formation of the potatoes under the ground.  This means that if the weather turns colder at night and the producer wishes to prevent frost damage to the leaves, a row cover can be applied without worry about inhibiting pollinators.

I gave an update on the ENSO/El Nino phenomenon last month in Growing Franklin.  An update was posted on NOAA/NWS recently that has upgraded the chances for fall to 65% and for winter to 70%.  El Nino winters in central Ohio have an increased chance of warmer weather.  This is important for planning for over wintered vegetables under season extension as well as timing of cover crop plantings.

There are three classes upcoming on the west, south and east sides of Columbus that address winter cover crop selection and season extension:

 

Season Extension methods can be used in summer as well as to protect plantings from cold in cooler months.  CLICK HERE for a link to Using Shade Fabric for Summer Season Extension of Cold Weather Crops. 

 

Multiple problems have been reported by central Ohio growers regarding cucurbit family crops, specifically summer squash and cucumbers.  Powdery mildew has become widespread in the area recently, showing up as white patches on the cucurbit leaves.

 

These patches can eventually cover the entire leaf surface.  They are not generally fatal to the plant, but can kill the leaves, weaken the plant, and decrease plant productivity.

CLICK Here for OSU Veggie Disease LINK for Powdery Mildew on Cucurbits.

 

Another problem noted in cucurbits is squash bug nymphs are hatching from egg clusters laid recently and are approaching infestation levels on many plantings.

The adult was disturbed in the act of laying these eggs prior to the picture being taken. Eggs darken in color after being laid.

 

Extremely large numbers of nymphs are commonly noted. Feeding damage to leaf is evident

 

Do not let large numbers of squash bugs reach infestation levels trying to ripen a last, small amount of cucumbers or zucchini.  Eliminating the infested plantings, not composting, can remove large amounts of squash bugs now to decrease the burden faced by fall planted cucurbits.  Take care to factor in impacts to pollinators if pesticides are being considered for control.

Squash Bug Fact Sheet – Organic Systems

Squash Bug Fact Sheet – Penn State