Monthly Archives: March 2009

How Cold is Too Cold?

Today’s question: should I cover anything in the Demonstration Garden?

(Before going any further, let me warn you that my position on plants is this: In general, that they can tolerate quite a lot of abuse, and there needs to be a really good reason for me to go to heroic measures to “save” them from the weather.)

Lettuce growing under the row cover last fall.

Lettuce growing under the row cover last fall.

The biggest question in my mind right now is: How cold is it really going to get and for how long? Local weather seems to indicate that the low will be around 27 degrees, which is very tolerable for most cool season vegetables.; however, indicates that the low will be 24 degrees. That’s a little bit too cold, I think.

Let’s look at what we have growing right now:

Strawberries – very cold tolerant, they aren’t blooming yet. No reason to cover them. Even if they get nipped by the cold, it won’t do any long-term damage.

Blackberries, Raspberries, Currants, etc – These have started leafing out for the spring. I could cover them, but I’m not going to. They are very hardy plants, and even if they get nipped a bit in the cold, it won’t set them back very much.

Spring Flowering Bulbs – Yeah, we’ve got some daffodils, tulips, and grape hyacinths out there. In my opinion, they aren’t worth worrying about. They tolerate the cold well, but if it shortens their bloom time this year, oh well.

Pansies – Same as above. They’ve survived the whole winter without protection, I’m not going to start now!

Peas – The peas we planted last week are not even out of the ground yet. They are very tolerant of cold weather, and I expect whatever snow we get to insulate them. Not covering them!

Herbs – These are just perennials that have started growing. Nope, I’m not going to cover these either!

Brussels Sprouts & Kale – These plants should easily tolerate temperatures down to 27 or 28. But 25…? They’ll probably make it, but they’ll take some damage. The brussels sprouts are just coming out of the damage from 2 weeks ago…should I let them take another hit? I’m tempted to cover them, but…we can always plant something else!

Lettuce, Spinach, Radishes, etc – All of these are seeds that we planted a week ago. They are just barely starting to poke their leaves up out of the ground. I really don’t want to lose them, but it would only set the garden back about a week and a half. That being said, I really doubt that the weather will hurt them much. If we get snow like we are supposed to, I think that will provide enough insulation should the temperatures get colder. After all, these are early spring crops that should tolerate the cold!

So, my decision is that we will let the garden grow and see what happens when the cold and snow hit! If anything, it will be an interesting demonstration of what will tolerate how much cold.

UPDATE: Actually, I’m rather excited as the projected snow totals keep rising. We desperately need the moisture, although the cold temperatures are less than ideal! (Besides, we haven’t had enough snow this winter! Am I betraying my Wisconsin upbringing with that sentiment?)

The First Time Gardener: Getting Started with Raised Beds

Wheelchair Height GardenIn the past few days, I’ve talked about starting a new garden and preparing the site. But what about using raised beds? Are the steps the same?

The answer is yes and no.

You should still clear the area of existing plants before putting in a raised bed. Don’t expect the raised bed to stifle all the weed growth, particularly if you have bermudagrass in the area!

I would recommend that you lightly till the soil in the location. This will encourage better drainage and allow roots to grow down into the lower soil if they need to.

Next, build your raised bed out of whatever materials you wish. (Treated lumber is now considered safe because it is no longer treated with a compound containing arsenic. The raised bed should be at least 6″ high. It should be no more than 4-5′ wide, because you want to be able to reach to the center of the bed. It can be as long as you have space in your yard.

You can fill the raised bed with soil from your yard or you can buy topsoil. If you buy topsoil,  wait until this step to do your soil test. You can also add lots of great compost to the raised bed to increase the organic matter content.

You are now ready to start planting! (Welll…maybe after this weekend!)

Friday PhotoEssay – A Bit Late

I apologize for this post being late. I had it scheduled to post last Friday, but apparently I haven’t worked all the bugs out yet. Enjoy these pictures now, and look for another round of photos this Friday! Daffodils

Daffodils are growing well, but not yet blooming.

Brussel Sprout with Cold InjuryThe purple brussels sprouts didn’t withstand last week’s cold spell very well because I didn’t harden them off before planting. If they die, we’ll plant something else!

Redbor KaleThe ‘Redbor’ Kale wasn’t bothered by the cold. It’s been growing all winter under a row cover.

Green SnakeA green rubber snake that resides in our garden year-round. He’s been living in the grapevine all winter. Watch for him around the garden – and the blog!

Yellow PansiesThe pansies are beginning to grow and flower.

Have a great gardening weekend!

First Time Gardener: Preparing the Soil to Grow

If you have missed the first two installments of The First Time Gardener, check the following links:

The First Time Gardener: Planning a Garden for a Family of Four

The First Time Gardener: Preparing the Site

You got your soil test report back. Now what do you need to do? The soil test report should tell you if you need to incorporate lime to raise your soil pH or incorporate sulfur to lower your soil pH. Most of us in Kansas have alkaline soils, so we need to apply sulfur. Most vegetables do best with a pH range of 6.3 to 6.8, so we try to get our soils within that range.

If you need to apply sulfur or lime, you should do that about 6 weeks before planting, if possible. Because these products should be incorporated 6″ into the soil, this is a great time to till the garden site.

Unless it is a very small garden, you will probably want to borrow, rent, or buy some type of tiller.

Once the garden site is tilled and the lime or sulfur is incorporated, you are almost ready to start planting!

Are You a Vegetable Gardener?

There have been a multitude of stories about how vegetable gardening is increasing this year all across the country. What category do you fit in?