Cover Crops in a Community Garden

As some of you know,  I garden in a community garden here in Columbus, called Wallace Gardens.  Wallace is a Victory Garden remnant from long ago when folks fed their families with what they could grow themselves.  I am happy to have the space as my yard is deep shade under Walnut trees.

Unfortunately, having a garden in one spot with many plot owners and gardeners in various states of interest and plot management has selected our community garden for an amazing array of pest, diseases and weeds that have all naturalized in this spot and will easily out-compete any planted vegetable.  I posted a pic recently of weeds that developed over about a month or so of work related neglect.

weed6 Amazingly enough, this spot is one of the least weedy spot in the garden.  This bed had tomatoes last year under a deep hay mulch for most of the whole season.  The plow however spreads each plot into each other plot so this is what you get.  Mix into this poor fertility, little organic matter and an impermeable hardpan from 70 years of same depth plowing and you have a piece of ground in need of help.

I decided this year to take one-third of my garden space out of production and cover crop it instead.  For those who are unfamiliar with this, a cover crop is a planted crop, could be grass, legume, brassica, etc.  that brings a set of benefits to the ground to keep the ground in use and to improve it depending on what you need improved.

I have hardpan, weeds and low organic matter.  My choice is Brown Mid-Rib Sorghum X Sudan grass

seed about quarter inch round

seed about quarter inch round


In the Logan Community Garden, approximately one-third of the ground is open and so the plan is to cover crop with Buckwheat.  This garden has weeds, but is not yet at hardpan and just needs to keep the soil working, weed suppress and add organic matter.  Buckwheat is elite at that.


Next year I will move the cover crops over to the spot with peas and mixed summer veggies and the third year I will cover crop the tomato and spring vegetable section.  This will allow for a three year rotation and add hundreds of pounds of biomatter as well as *hopefully* taking care of some bindweed, morning glory and mint problems I have had the last few years.  I am going to track progress of organic matter addition using some new soil testing methods going on at OARDC and will keep you all in the loop.


Do you want to learn how to incorporate these techniques in your garden?  I will be teaching a FREE class on Fertilizers, Soil Health & Organic Matter and will be talking about cover crops as part of the class.  I hope to see you on Tuesday June 14th at 7pm


Southeastern Ohio Hay Day – June 23rd

On Thursday  June 23rd  from  4 -8:30 pm  at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station Ohio State Extension will host Hay Day.  This event is FREE and open to the public.  A broad range of Hay production topics including mowing, tedding, raking and baling hay will be discussed with an emphasis on wrapping bales for storage.


The event is FREE and dinner is included if you reserve by June 9th for planning purposes.  I will be there so say “Hi” if you see me.

CLICK HERE for PDF of Registration —–>hay day 2016

Weed control on a wet day in the garden

Finally got some rain yesterday.   Probably about an inch.  It was much needed for the spring vegetables.  In Columbus we have not gotten the water that the rest of the state has.  I need to get my tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the ground but it was too wet to do so today so I did the only chore that is best for a day like this.  Pull weeds.  My least favorite chore.  However, when the ground is saturated there is one type of weed that every gardener needs to specifically target – The taprooted ones like thistle.  You may never get a chance like this again for the season so make use of it.

I have been pretty busy with work, this is what greeted me today.  Sheesh.


No way this plant (comfrey?) is coming out in July.



Do not waste those weeds.  The taproots from these plants have grabbed minerals from deep in the subsoil.  If you throw them away you are losing fertility and organic matter.  Best not to put them in the compost pile, they may root into your pile and then you have a real problem on your hands.


So I compost/mulch them in place.  In spots in my garden that I am not using where they will weed suppress and breakdown to be added later as biomass.

L: The green bean experiment from a month and a half ago.  They did get some frost damage.  I will not pull them, they should recover.  I am planting more beans this week

R: Big pile at the end of my Sugar Snaps.  There is not a weed on this planet that will grow through that mass.


A final pass with my weedeater and this bed will be ready to plant in a day or two.  If I do not get anything into it this week and we get the 80 degrees all week that is forecast it will harden to a big rectangular brick.  Love that Ohio clay.


My back is toast, but it was worth it.  Getting the chance to remove the perennial taprooted ultra-weeds out only happens a few times all season. make sure you take advantage of it.

How to grow Leeks, part 5.

For a recap of the prior posts from square one:

The last couple few weeks I have been slowly pulling soil up from the sides of the trenches that I planted the leeks in.  Remember, the best part of the leek is the white part that becomes blanched to that color by avoiding sunlight.

Once the soil is level I deeply mulch the plant.  I had mostly hay with some straw laying around.  This does a good job of blanching the leek as well as keeping the soil moist and suppressing weeds.



Leeks have a long growing season.  It is important that you water them if you do not receive an inch of water per week.  This will allow for a continuous amount of growth until harvest.  I put a balanced slow release granular fertilizer in the planting hole originally but due to the long growing season the leeks will need at least one more, if not two,  rounds of fertilizer.  Due to the deep mulch I will use a water soluble fertilizer sometime in early summer and then maybe once more in late summer.  The mulch will help with weeds, but keep an eye out for any trouble.

Want to learn more about what fertilizers to use.  You need to attend the Free class on Tuesday June 14th at 7pm at the Youth Center.

Save the Date! June 14th – Fertilizers, Organic Matter and Soil Health

The next class in the Seed to Storage curriculum will be held on Tuesday June 14th, at 7 pm, at the Youth Center at the Hocking County Fairgrounds. fert montageThe number one most important thing you can do to benefit your growing is to work on making your soil the best it can be.  We will talk fertilizers and what the numbers mean,  pH and Lyme, compost and organic matter and how they all relate to soil health.

This class is FREE, bring your friends and your questions.


Zika Virus in Ohio

A topic that I have been getting questions on and is a currently making headlines globally is about the Zika virus.  I will attempt to provide as much information as possible as it relates to Zika virus here in Ohio.

Here is a map of the United States with laboratory-confirmed  Zika virus infections. (Data as of May 4th, 2016, Source – CDC)


Ohio as of 5/4/16 has 12 confirmed cases of Zika virus, none of which was contracted locally, all of which were contracted via travel.

Currently, per the CDC, Zika virus disease and Zika virus congenital infection are nationally notifiable conditions.

The Ohio State University experts have done a great job of keeping us Educators in the loop and pertinent on the progress of this disease.

Volume 20, Issue 2 of PEP-Talk:

Zika Virus Special issue.

This issue of PEP-talk summarizes information about the potential Zika virus threat to Ohioans that was presented at an April 26, 2016 conference sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health.  Credit to the authors:

Mary Ann Rose, Program Director;  Chrissy Kaminski, Program Coordinator;  Adam Ziadeh, Program Assistant; Chad Kramer, Program Assistant

 The Disease and Current Status in Ohio

The disease is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The illness is mild in most people, lasting for several days to a week with most common symptoms including one or more of these: fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. As many as 80% of those infected do not realize they have the disease. However, if infected during pregnancy, the disease may cause microcephaly, a very serious birth defect, and more rarely, severe effects may occur in adults. Currently there is no treatment or vaccine for the virus. As of April 26, 2016 there were no local mosquito-transmitted cases of Zika in the continental U.S., but there had been approximately 380 travel-related cases, with 12 of those cases in Ohio. In addition to mosquito transmission, the virus can be transmitted by men to sexual partners, and by blood transfusion.
Full Printable PDF of research findings———>The Disease and Current Status in Ohio – ZIKA
Knowledge of the disease, mosquito types, and transmission are important.  Keep up on your repellants and make smart choices.  Contact me if you have any more questions about this disease.

Lilyfest 2016

Bishop Educational Gardens will host the celebratory 25th year of Lilyfest this year on July 8th, 9th, and 10th.


Celebrating 25 Years!


Lilyfest’s history dates back to 1992 when Bobbi and Bruce Bishop first hosted the event at their home in the Hocking Hills, Ohio. Bruce Bishop’s lily gardens were showcased and five artists displayed and marketed their works. Lilyfest has grown to over 60 artists, with live music throughout the three acres of beautifully designed gardens, showcasing ponds and a variety of unique garden sculptures. Look for plant sales and ask a master gardener your garden-related questions. Enjoy the Butterfly House and stroll through The Lost Viking Hoard Encampment. See you there!

Volunteers are needed!

Anyone who wishes to volunteer to make this festival happen CLICK HERE to access the volunteer page.

Master Gardener Volunteers and Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists are encouraged to staff their program booths to answer questions.

Earth Day!

At the fairgrounds, right after you enter the grounds on the left is a series of raised beds, a compost bin and a water catchment barrel.  This is the location of the Demonstration Garden that was developed by the Hocking Soil and Water Conservation district to teach local students about growing, composting, organic matter and soil health.  This past friday a couple hundred Logan-Hocking 6th graders arrived on a beautiful sunny day to celebrate Earth Day with a varied program involving stations about many topics.   (Sorry no kid pics, not allowed)

I manned Station 2 – Vegetables


The garden is full bore in spring vegetable gardening mode

L. Early March,  transplants from Four Seasons Garden Club program

R. Yowza!

L. Cover crop station – winter rye, vetch and red clover planted in fall to enrich the soil

M. Raised beds along the fence for trellis planting – planted Sugar Snap Peas on friday

R. New spring transplants (leeks/cabbage) ready to go into the ground


All in all, a great day.  I hope the kids had fun and learned a bunch.  One benefit I enjoyed was a harvest.  There were several heads of lettuce, some mustard and some radishes that were at the peak of their growth.


Feel free to take a look at the Demonstration Garden when you visit the fairgrounds.  As I told the students, please use your manners and consideration, the plots are used for teaching and the food is meant to be eaten.

Hops Day in Athens

Ohio used to be a major producer of hops back in the late 19th century and early 20th century, being grown at that time throughout the state. For several reasons including both pest and disease, the hop industry gradually migrated out west to where such pressures were less.

The last several years have seen a resurgence of craft beer brewing and that has led to an increased interest on growing hops in Ohio.

The Extension Educators of the Buckeye Hills in concert with Hops experts from the OSU South Centers will have a Hops Day in Athens on May 20th.


Hops Workshop




Want to learn more about growing hops.  There is great information on the HOPS PAGE AT THE OSU SOUTH CENTER


Seed to Storage Summer dates are set. Save Many Dates!!

The Seed to Storage backyard food production program topics are up through August.  Grab your friends and your calendars and get your questions ready to go.   All locations and times are 7pm at the Youth Center at the Fairgrounds except the August date.  All classes are FREE and ALL are welcome.