Garlic slide show, Mother Earth News Fair, Louisa backyard gardeners workshops, seeds germinating!

Last weekend (3/11-3/13/2016) I was at the Organic Growers School in Asheville, NC. I presented Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale to about 240 people, and my newly updated Growing Great Garlic to a much smaller but no less interested group at the very end of the weekend.

logoOn Saturday 3/26/16 I will be giving my presentation on Succession Planting at New Country Organics in Waynesboro, Virginia.10am to noon, including book sales and signing

fair-logoAnd then I’ll be at the Asheville, NC Mother Earth News Fair April 9-10 2016. I’m doing two workshops,Fall Vegetable Production, Seed Stage, Saturday 10-11 am, and Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production,  Grit Stage, Saturday, 4:00-5:00 pm. This will be followed by booksigning: Saturday 5:00-5:30 p.m. at the MEN bookstore. I will also be demonstrating how to string weave tomatoes with a tinsel table top model at the New Society Publishers booth at various times throughout the weekend (consult the schedule when you get there).

MGHeaderFor backyard gardeners close to Louisa, VA, The Central Virginia Master Gardeners (CVMG) present their 3rd annual spring workshop series, FREE and OPEN to the public! No prior gardening experience needed, all are welcome. Take any or all classes and get ready to grow your best garden ever in 2016. All classes start at 9:30a.m. and run till noon.

Speakers include Krista Rahm, Jackie Rowe, Ira Wallace and John Skelly

Pre-registration is strongly advised but walk-ins are welcome. To register and for
further information call 540-894-8822 or on-line or by e-mail at See the flyer here for details of dates, locations, topics, and speakers.

Flame weeding carrots. Photo Brittany Lewis
Flame weeding carrots.
Photo Brittany Lewis

Meanwhile, we had a good taste of spring, and have been sowing and transplanting. We flame weeded our first two beds of carrots, and they started to germinate the next day. Beets and spinach have also germinated, but our snap peas are not up yet. We have transplanted early cabbage, kale, spinach, collards and senposai. We’re still working our way through the fruit plantings, weeding, composting and mulching. We have almost finished the younger blueberry patch, we’ve weeded the older blueberry patch, started on the grapes, and still have the rhubarb not yet started.

Today we will be preparing the beds for broccoli and main crop cabbage, raking and picking rocks and rolling hay mulch. We have held off from moving more plants from the greenhouse to the cold frames over this cold snap, but tomorrow is forecast to be back to warm. Spring warms up pretty quickly here, and this can be hard on cool weather crops like cabbage and broccoli. To help keep the soil cooler and damper, as well as to reduce the weeds, we transplant into hay mulch. Straw would be better (fewer weed seeds0, but we don’t live in a grain growing region, so there’s no local straw. We use our own hay, so we know it is not sprayed with herbicides which can persist and kill your vegetables.

We bale in big round bales, and the poorer condition hay is what we use for mulch. Our cows get the best hay. We set the hay bales at the higher end of the plot to be mulched, if it has any slope at all, remove the twine, then figure out which way to unroll. We have several people study the pattern of the coiled stems in the end of the bale and see if it will unroll if we just start pushing, or if we need to turn it round first. it’s not always so easy to tell. Once the bales are unrolled, we use wheelbarrows to move hay from places with extra to places with not enough.

Next we make “nests” – holes in the hay at each place we want to transplant. We plant two rows of broccoli or cabbage in each 4ft wide bed. We aim to have the rows about 16″ (a third of 48″) in from each edge. One person uses a measuring stick to find the spots for the row on their side. The other person eyeballs the intermediate spots for the row on their side, so that the plants end up in a zigzag offset pattern.Using our hands, we tease apart the hay until the soil is visible at the bottom of the nest.

Once the nests are made we bring the flats of plants out to the field, and plant and water in all the nests. After watering we tuck the hay back around the stems of the plants. This acts as a visual cue to ensure we water all the plants: if the plants don’t have hay tucked around their stems, they still need watering. We cover the beds with row cover of ProtekNet for a few weeks, to keep harsh weather and harsher bugs off the plants.

A broccoli transplant one week after planting into hay mulch. Photo Kathryn Simmons
A broccoli transplant one week after planting into hay mulch.
Photo Kathryn Simmons