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

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.

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.

Free Fruit Tree Workshop

apple treeYou are invited to a FREE fruit tree pruning workshop at Bethel Church Community Garden (201 E Old Plank Rd.) February 19 at 4 pm. Come learn from Jim Quinn, MU Extension horticulturist about how to get the most out of your fruit trees with pruning.

No RSVP or registration required. In case of bad weather, the back-up date is Feb 22.

Free Gardening Forum

Alice LongfellowHere’s another great, free opportunity to expand your gardening knowledge in the off-season. The local Discovery Garden Club and the Columbia Public Library are sponsoring a forum with Alice Longfellow and Ann Wakeman.

Winter Garden Forum
Sunday, January 31 › 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room

You’ll learn about mixing edible plants with ornamentals and about Missouri native wildflowers. Light refreshments served.

Act Fast: Master Gardener Class Registration Ends Jan. 19

If you’ve thought of becoming certified as a Master Gardener, now’s your chance to register for this spring’s sessions, but act quickly because they’d like all registrations in by Tuesday, January 19. Classes start Jan. 26 and go through April. Learn more at this link.
MO Master Gardener logo

Who are Master Gardeners? Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

Master Gardeners are adults of all ages who love to garden. They are members of the community who are interested in lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers, gardens & the environment.

You don’t need to know everything about gardening; this program is all about learning and then sharing your knowledge with others through volunteer service. Check it out!

Help Save a Unique Local Tomato Variety

Check out this great project from some local Mid-Missouri folks:

The Ivan Tomato Rescue CrewThe Ivan Tomato Rescue Project is dedicated to saving the Ivan Tomato, the healing power of gardening and preserving food diversity. The Ivan Tomato is a fantastic, resilient, delicious, high yield Missouri Heritage Heirloom Tomato that is on the brink of extinction. Our goal is to get the Ivan tomato back into the gardens, on the plates and into the marketplaces of our communities. Our campaign supports the power of gardening by dedicating 10% of proceeds to programs that incorporate Agricultural Therapy in the treatment of people with PTSD, including veterans returning from service.  Your help is appreciated. Check out our IndieGoGo.