Tips for Watering Community Gardens

This year, the City of Columbia is raising water rates during the summer months to encourage water conservation. This may impact community gardens to a great extent. The Community Garden Coalition and others have worked with the City to successfully create an exemption to protect some community gardens from the highest water rate tier.

Regardless, we all want to make the best use of the water we use and not waste it. Following are some tips for efficient and effective use of water.

  1. Most plants need about an inch of water a week. In very hot and windy weather, they may need two inches of water in a week. Raised beds will need more water than regular garden plots. 
  2. It is best for the plants to water deeply once or twice a week. This will encourage the roots to move deeper into the ground and will make more efficient use of the water in the soil. When you are starting seeds, it will be necessary to keep the soil moist, so you may need to apply water more than once a week until the plants are established.
  3. Many of our soils in central Missouri are high in clay content. Adding organic matter will benefit plants and also increase the water holding capacity, making better use of water. Compost is one of the best ways to add organic matter.
  4. Applying water to the base of plants will make the best use of water. Ideally soaker hoses or drip irrigation is the most efficient, but that is not practical in most of our community gardens. Directing water to the base of plants will help in water conservation. It will also keep water off the leaves of plants and reduce the chances of diseases.
  5. Watering in the morning is better than watering in the evening as leaves of plants will have a chance to dry off during the day and will reduce disease development.
  6. Mulching plants will help conserve water. Leaves and grass clippings and straw make good mulch and can be turned into the soil in the fall to improve organic matter. The Community Garden Coalition provides some straw during the season. (Ask your garden leader if you don’t know how to obtain straw.)
  7. To make watering easier, group plants that require the most water together. These include lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage. Group plants that require less water together. These include beans and corn.

At some gardens, there have been times where water was left on all night, soaking the garden plot and running onto other plots. This is very wasteful and we hope you will make an effort to see that this doesn’t happen at your garden. If you find water left on and unattended, it’s best to turn it off.

Water is essential for plant growth. The CGC and garden leaders want you to be successful in growing your garden and encourage you to use the amount of water needed for plant growth. Following proper watering techniques will result in the best plant growth and production.

Prepared by guest contributor Don Day with assistance from members of the Community Garden Coalition board of directors. Don is a garden leader of the Broadway Christian Church Community Garden

Warm Season Plants Still Available May 12

It’s time to plant all those delicious heat-loving veggies like tomatoes, peppers sweet potatoes and eggplant! For community gardeners, the CGC’s plant and seed distribution continues Sunday, May 12, so make some time to come by and get what you need to fill out your garden and fill up your plates this summer.

ripe eggplant on its plant

Sunday, May 12
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Claudell Lane Garden
711 Claudell Lane

Plants are free to member gardeners, but we welcome donations of 50¢/plant to help offset the cost. Row cover and hoops will be available for sale. Plus, we still have lots of seeds to offer you for various vegetables and herbs!


ESPAÑOL

Jardineros/as: Tendremos una distribución de plantas para la temporada cálida el domingo 12 de mayo de 10-12. Las plantas estarán disponibles por una donación de 50 centavos cada una en el Jardín de Claudell. Tendremos tomates, pimientos, berenjenas y camote.

When to Plant Your Warm Season Vegetables

When should you plant your warm season vegetables?

This weekend, May 11 and 12, the Community Garden Coalition will offer warm season plants like tomatoes and peppers to gardeners. See times and other details.

So, we thought we’d take a moment to explain why we chose a date in mid-May despite some long periods of warm weather in April.

Weather in Mid-Missouri is highly variable, as anyone who has lived here for more than a month knows! When gardening experts discuss freeze dates for our area there are two critical time periods. The first is the average frost-free date. The second is the final frost-free date.

Although these dates shift over time, a recent report by Pat Guinan the state climatologist lists April 10 as the average frost-free date for Boone County. However, local factors can impact this. For instance, valleys tend to be cooler than hilltops, and urban gardens are usually warmer than rural ones because all the concrete holds the temperature higher.

The latest frost on record in Columbia was May 9, 1906. That may seem like a long time ago, but we were close to freezing this year on April 27. We want to give our gardeners, especially eager new ones, the best chance for success. Distributing sensitive plants a little later can avoid the sad circumstance of a late frost killing everything.

garden plants protected wih buckets and sheetsHere’s what my vegetable garden looked like in preparation for the cool weather at the end of April. As an experienced gardener, I am a gambler and my heirloom tomatoes were getting too big for my indoor pots. As you can see, protecting those transplants from frost was a lot of work, and not many gardeners are up to that sort of challenge—material and time wise.

Another consideration is that many warm season plants, especially eggplant and peppers, don’t like “cold feet.” They want warm soil to send their roots into, and can become stunted and drop their flowers when temperatures dip below 50 degrees.

It’s always a guessing game to pick the optimum time to plant in mid-Missouri, but these are some of the factors we try to balance when we plan our events. Hopefully the warmer weather will hold for the rest of May and your garden will grow happily.

Warm Season Plants for Community Gardeners This Weekend

It’s time to plant all those delicious heat-loving veggies like tomatoes, peppers sweet potatoes and eggplant! For community gardeners, the CGC will host a plant and seed distribution this weekend, so make some time to come by and get what you need to fill out your garden and fill up your plates this summer.

ripe eggplant on its plantSaturday, May 11
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunday, May 12
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Claudell Lane Garden
711 Claudell Lane

Plants are free to member gardeners, but we welcome donations of 50¢/plant to help offset the cost. Row cover will be available for sale. Plus, we still have lots of seeds to offer you for various vegetables and herbs!


ESPAÑOL

Jardineros/as: Tendremos una distribución de plantas para la temporada cálida el sábado 11 de mayo de 10-2 y el domingo 12 de mayo de 10-12. Las plantas estarán disponibles por una donación de 50 centavos cada una en el Jardín de Claudell. Tendremos tomates, pimientos, berenjenas y camote. Si necesita semillas, estas estarán disponibles los mismos días a la misma hora, o puede contactar a Mira a su email: mirabai911@hotmail.com.

The Boone County Buzz: How to Foil Flea Beetles

Does it look like a tiny shotgun has blasted the leaves of your eggplant? (See Figure 1 for an example.) Chances are you have a flea beetle infestation. First of all, don’t worry, “flea” beetles only bite plants! These are not like the fleas on your dog or cat. That’s a whole different order of insects. These are very small (1/10 inch) leaf-feeding beetles that are called “flea” beetles due to their large hind legs which enable them to jump much like fleas (Figure 2).

Eggplant with flea beetle damage.

Figure 1. Eggplant with flea beetle damage. Photo, Ali Eminov [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Adult flea beetle

Figure 2. Adult flea beetle

There are several species found in Missouri but the only species I see regularly is all black. Depending on the species, they may feed on cruciferous vegetables, spinach, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, beans or eggplant. The good news is that the adults die off in July. The bad news is, they can have two generations per year, meaning they can come back for your fall crops. Generally speaking I ignore flea beetles and their damage except when it comes to young seedlings. (Mature plants can usually sustain a bit of flea beetle damage to leaves and still provide fruit.)

For years, flea beetles have severely damaged my eggplant transplants. If I’m lucky, a couple plants survive, and, by late summer, I finally have plants that are large enough to produce. I have tried row covers to no avail. The problem here is that the adults overwinter in your soil and leaf litter. Despite clearing the plant debris from my garden in the fall there are still plenty of hungry adult flea beetles just waiting in the soil for some tender eggplant leaves.

Last year I tried an experiment. Since I only grow four eggplant every year, I went out and purchased some hard plastic domed frost guards. Eggplant are notoriously cold sensitive, so why not? In addition, I thought they might act as a physical barrier to hungry flea beetles. I figured if I found any beetles under the dome, I would shoo them off and quickly replace it since flea beetles jump when startled. In practice, I never needed to do this as the domes worked quite well. After a week I checked and the transplants were hole-free. To test my experiment, I uncovered one of my eggplants. Three days later, when I went out to compare it to the still-covered plants, I found that the unprotected plant was COVERED with flea beetles and feeding holes. The domes worked!

FRGD Frost Guards from Gardener’s Edge

Then, in an effort to save my sacrificial eggplant, I tried spraying it with organic neem oil. WOW! Another real find! It took several sprays, but apparently the flea beetles think it tastes as bad as it smells! They either died or left. My eggplant grew up, became highly productive, and I ended up with a freezer full of tasty ratatouille which my sweet husband enjoys.*

While I think I’ve cracked the code on safe ways to control flea beetles, there are some good suggestions on the websites listed below for other earth-friendly ways to lessen flea beetle damage:

* I have the BEST recipe for ratatouille. Email me at kathy@comogardens.org if you’d like it.

Cool Season Plant Distribution 

TOMORROW: Saturday, April 6, 10 am – 2 pm

Claudell Community Garden (711 Claudell Ln.)

head of broccoli in the gardenSuggested donation of 50¢ per plant. There is a limited supply of plants and when they’re gone, they’re gone, so we suggest you arrive as early as you can for the best selection!
Cool season plants will include broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuce, chard, and kale. There will also be row cover and hoops available for purchase for 25 cents/row cover foot and 25 cents/hoop. And, we have bales of straw for mulching at member gardens (suggested donation of $3).
Also, please understand that this distribution is intended for community garden members only. While others will not be turned away, sending plants with non-member gardeners means less for members, and they are our primary responsibility.

Spring Gardening Workshop March 9

Each Saturday morning, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and community partners will be offering workshops for beginning gardeners at Parkade Center (the temporary home of the Farmers Market).* You can check out “Planning & Planting a Spring Garden” next Saturday, March 9 at 9 a.m. and again at 10:30 a.m.

See details and a full list of workshops here.

*Please note the location has been updated from the original posting.