Winter may be ending but there’s no Spring Thaw this year!
Well, gardeners, we are sorry to say it, but, due to pandemic restrictions, we were not able to hold our annual community gardening kick-off event this year. The Spring Thaw, CGC’s biggest annual event has been going on for as long as anyone on the board can remember. (We got lucky last year, as it was held mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down began.)
Typically, at the Spring Thaw, newcomers are able to get connected to a new garden, returning gardeners get organized with their garden leaders for the new season, and gardeners are able to pick up seeds and how-to information. In the absence of this event, we have packaged and distributed seeds directly to garden leaders. In addition, if you haven’t told your garden leader that you want to continue gardening with us, please let them know immediately as there may be others waiting for plots! And, finally, if you or someone you know would like to start gardening at a community garden, you can request a space via this short form and we will do our best to find a plot for you!
As you get started with your garden, here are some opportunities and resources for learning more about how to grow your favorite veggies.
- The final session of the Mid-MO Expo is happening today (Saturday, March 13) online. For just a $6 fee, you can learn about “Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife.” Arrangements can also be made to view the recorded session on “Invasive Plant Identification and Removal.” Register here.
- The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture has dozens of informative how-to videos offered on their YouTube channel. Topics include: seed germination testing, harvesting, garden pests, mulching, weeds, and many more. A new video series is coming out soon for 2021, too.
- The Unite4Health community garden is planning to host a workshop later this spring with a soil scientist to discuss organic gardening and increasing beneficial microbes. Details to be announced soon.
- For a more in-depth learning option, MU Extension is offering the online course “The Beginning Gardener-Getting Started with Vegetables 2021” through April 17 for a $40 fee. Details and registration here.
The Spring Thaw has always been a fun time for all, and we are sorry to miss seeing all your excited, smiling faces this year!
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.
I am! No, you won’t ever find me at the casino. I’m talking about gardening! I think most of us who garden have a touch of the gambler in us. How else can you explain the leap of faith we take every year when we put our seeds or baby transplants out in the wild world dreaming of luscious produce to come? Sometimes things go well and some not so well. That’s just part of life.
Well, today I want to encourage the wildest gamblers out there to take a chance on REALLY early spring lettuce. You know how all the seed packages say to plant your lettuce from mid-March to mid-May? I think they’re missing the boat!
I followed those recommendations for years and what always happened was that as my lettuce finally started to head up it became bitter! The bitterness used to start around mid-June but I’ve had it happen as early as mid-May when temperatures are unusually warm. As a crazed, baby lettuce aficionado this is most frustrating.
Then about 15 years ago I was reading some book (?) where an old woman from the Ozarks said to put your lettuce seed out as soon as the snow melted. This seemed like insanity, but, again, I’ve got a gambling streak. I tried it. Yes, I ran out with a cloth sheet to protect it a few times. But I was eating beautiful baby lettuce salads by the end of March! Needless to say, I’ve been doing this ever since.
When exactly do I take this risk? It varies with the weather and snow. Looking back in my garden diary (yes, you really should keep one) the first planting has been as early as January 5th but probably averages around January 25th. Have I lost my lettuce? Maybe once, but most varieties of lettuce can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Since lettuce seed is somewhat viable for up to 6 years I usually use old seed from a previous year, so if it is lost I won’t feel quite as bad. Sometimes, when the cravings are severe I’ve been known to start lettuce seeds inside in January and plunk the plants out in early February. Again, it’s a gamble but what an incredible payoff if you succeed! Take a chance!
“Cruciferous” vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, arugula, and the list goes on. These crops love cooler weather and are known as “super” foods, because they are packed with nutrition. I don’t grow large quantities of them. It’s not that we don’t like them, but from past experience it seems like all the “heading” types become ready to harvest almost simultaneously. If you don’t have a big family or like to do serious fermenting, pickling and/or canning, it may cause more stress than pleasure. So, if you do like broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower, but have never grown them, I have a suggestion. On March 24th and 25th, the CGC will be offering transplants of these cool season vegetables at the Claudell garden. Why not ask for a couple of each? That way you can see how it goes without being forced to get 4-6 of them at the nursery or big box store. Also, please remember when picking up these plants that a donation helps us keep all of this going!
cabbage white butterflies (photo Masaki Ikeda)
Another reason for the scarcity of these types of veggies in my garden is the large number of insect pests that LOVE cruciferous plants. I don’t like to use chemicals, especially on the parts of a plant I’m going to eat. This means that for each cruciferous vegetable that I do grow I spend a lot of time monitoring it for pests.
When I walk out for my daily garden inspection I’m always wearing lightweight, flexible gardening gloves and carrying a bucket of soapy water. This allows me to crush or drown every garden pest I encounter. (Though bunnies and turtles get a pass.) For someone who has pet spiders in her home, I can be surprisingly vicious when it comes to biological control on my plants. Another possibility is row covers which will at least slow down the flying pests. Our long-time board member Bill McKelvey says that he grew spectacular cauliflower and broccoli last year using row cover, so I’m going to give it a try. The materials for row covers will be available along with seeds and the transplants at the Claudell Garden on the aforementioned dates.
Using row cover and hoops over a garden bed. (Photo by Mark the Trigeek.)
Unfortunately, I can think of twelve different species that can wreak havoc on various cruciferous vegetables. I don’t have the time, space or inclination to address all of these potential pests and chemical-free ways to grow them, but fortunately I don’t need to. Below you will find several links where someone has already done it for me.
Identification of cruciferous insect pests:
Earth friendly suggestions for control of some of these pests
(Tip: These sites all offer recommendations on other pests, too.)