From pests to pots, soil amendments to design strategies: HPGC members had an opportunity to explore edibles in our gardens at a workshop sponsored by the Conservation Committee on Oct 17 th which drew a crowd of 15 participants.
Jill Volat, the Urban "Farmista" led the group through some thoughtful considerations in planting vegetable gardens. While most participants have grown or are growing vegetables and herbs, they had a multitude of questions and suggestions about what works and what doesn't when undertaking or own urban farm plots.
In no particular order, the following list are some of the 'considerations' one should take into account when undertaking a revamping of one's vegetable garden or starting a new garden:
Veggies may be planted in-ground, in a raised bed or in pots. Pots are the cheapest way to start but need to be watered more. Raised bed boxes should have no bottoms, allowing for better drainage (though some weed cloth maybe required at bottom.) In-ground planting may require special protection regarding pets, pests.
Amend your soil, water, amend some more, water again, amend some more. Better soil makes for healthier larger and tastier plants. Once you have a good base started you may need to amend with more compost every 3-4 months but at this point don't turn the soil, instead just add on top.
Be aware of the time of year. Vegetables are nuanced and remind us what time of year it is. Plant winter veggies (kale, broccoli, lettuces, chives etc - the nutrient dense vegetables in the winter when it is cooler.
Sun exposure is critical be it summer or winter. Look at the area surrounding your vegetable plot. Is there sun bounce off a wall or a concrete driveway? That could raise the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees which may work well for tomatoes but not for lettuce.
Look at the area around where you are planting - are trees shading garden, will there be good or toxic leaf litter?
Irrigation's nickname is irritation. It always needs work. Closely configured drip systems, watering 2 times a day for 15-20 minutes, usually give the best results. Overhead spray sprinklers weigh the plants down with water and often promote mildew. Use mulch to help retain soil moisture.
Try to plant sequentially so everything isn't ripe for use at the same time. The life cycle of most vegetables is only about 12 weeks so you may plant different varieties given the season and thus have 4 crops a year.
Design your garden so that large sized plants may shade those that might need more protection from direct sun and heat.
Root vegetables, beans and peas should be planted from seeds, while planting all other vegetables from starter plugs will save you several weeks of waiting.
Pest management is a constant and may change from season to season, year to year. Use safe organic soap sprays.
Thank you to Wendy Guzin and Meg Paskal who put together the vegetable workshop in Wendy's glorious Windsor Square garden.