Apr 9, 2014

Gardening Class Notes

The Memphis Area Master Gardeners hosted an Organic Vegetable Gardening class two Saturday mornings recently. Multiple Master Gardeners spoke on various subjects regarding organic vegetable gardening. I don't necessarily stick to organic, but I try to be green where I can. Mostly, though, I just really enjoy learning about things that interest me. And right now gardening is of a huge interest to me. So I signed up for both classes.

The first Saturday was unusually cold and windy so we met in the barn. But the second Saturday was beautiful, although still chilly and we were able to meet in the garden.

This garden the master gardeners tend and provide food for local shelters. They consider it their playground to play and try out different theories or tricks.

They switched to all cinder block gardens this year because the wooden raised beds installed in 2009 had rotted out. While not overly attractive, the cinder blocks also provide a little extra growing space for things like lettuce, herbs or strawberries. I'm now considering cinder blocks for my new garden bed along the fence line. Hmmm...

Seeing the garden in person was a great source of inspiration. I'm loving how they put the wire down the center of the bed for peas to grow up and other things on either side. This one I believe had radishes on one side and I forget what was on the right side.

For four hours of teaching I came away with a ton of information and also a ton of handouts to read in my spare time. I thought as I went through these and processed everything I learned I might as well write it here for the benefit of others. And lets face it, so I can remember this stuff when I look back over the years.

So here's my takeaways from the gardening classes:

  • When starting seeds inside, use an eggcrate (but pay attention to germination dates in putting different things in the same tray), mist with water, cover with a plastic bag to keep moist and speed up germination process. 
  • If you have some old seeds and aren't sure if they are still good, put them on a moist paper towel and wrap it up, check it in a few days and see if it's progressing at all. 
  • One master gardener makes his own seeding mixture: 1 part perlite, 1 part vermiculite, 1 park peat moss. Add water and plant. To make your own potting mix you can can do the same mixture with 1-1-3 ratio. 
  • Earthworms are good! They indicate good soil. 
  • Lasagna gardening is lazy gardening. I would like to do this with the new bed, but think I'll wait until next fall/winter to add to the soil I put in this year. 
  • Mix things up! They found success keeping pests at bay by planting beans in between cucumbers. This is something I could do better at. 
  • When container gardening, you are better off spending money towards your soil over your container. (This is one where I'm guilty. I'd rather have a pretty pot than pay money for dirt.) 
  • Look for "bush" plants for containers. 
  • The healthier the soil, the healthier the plants. 
  • Cover crops - I have not really heard much about this, but will consider it for next winter. 
  • When looking at fertilizers look at NPK. 
    • Nitrogen promote green leaves
    • Phosphorus promotes root growth, flowers and fruit
    • Potassium (K) promotes water regulation, stress tolerance, and root growth
    • Be weary if the NPK numbers add up to more than 15, this is not organic
  • Vegetables need 1" water per week, they need an extra 1/2" for every 10 degrees over 60 degrees. 
    • You can measure by putting a rain gauge or cup near veggies. 
And that's it! One thing I am really going to focus on this year is fertilizers. I have not used them in the past and think it could really help. 

What have you learned about gardening recently?

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