A challenging year

I think that with all of the rain that we have been receiving we might need a little reverse psychology this year. If you are like me, last year was a terrible year to establish a vegetable garden and to keep it going. Perennial flower gardens seem to just eat this type of weather up. It is starting to remind me of 1993’s weather pattern. The vegetable gardens don’t like so much water and want a lot more heat which last year did not provide. In fact, a few 70 degree days seem awful warm probably because it has been so cool. Gardeners last year had mixed results. There were just as many who were successful while others not so much. My vegetable garden fell into the not so much category. However, even with the rain we are getting, it is still somewhat easier to deal with extra water than a drought. The reverse psychology part is that as gardeners, we may still have a chance to get some vegetables in the garden and get some produce out of the garden before frost comes.

The reverse part of this is instead of looking at the last frost date in the spring, we need to look at the first day of frost in the fall. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center has a map of first fall and last spring freeze dates. In our area, we are looking at around Oct.10. So, we can count backward from this date and make sure that we are looking at the packages of seeds we are purchasing to make sure that they will mature before this date.

A good example is green beans, specifically bush beans, they need about 45-65 days to get to maturity. So, going backward from Oct. 10, we are looking at a plant date of about Aug. 1. I am sure hoping that by this time, the rain has given up and we can give it a go. You can do this with all of the seeds that you plant in your garden in order to make sure to beat the frost date this fall in order to get some vegetable out of your garden this year.

The second situation that we can often get ourselves into is that we can start to lose a lot of nitrogen from our gardens because they are usually not covered cropped. If your garden tends to have soil washing away, then you might want to invest in a soil test plus provide some sort of cover for the parts of your garden that you may not be able to put into vegetables this year. We recently talked about cover crops in a previous column but here are a few reminders. Cover crops not only work to cover the ground but they also can provide nitrogen replacement into your soil. So, it is a win-win situation. We do have a couple of seed houses in Minnesota that provide cover crops which are located in southeastern Minnesota and also one in Brookings. This seed can be applied at any time so if we go a couple more weeks and there are areas that you still can’t get into for planting your garden, you can order these seeds and get them planted in those areas. There are several kinds which include: annual ryegrass, buckwheat, rapseed, clover, hairy vetch, alfalfa, and many more. Gardeners should have a good understanding of what each cover crop brings to the table. A good example is some cover crops might inhibit the growth of other crops such as ryegrass, which could inhibit the germination of small seeds like carrot seeds. A good website to visit is https://extension.umn.edu/how-manage-soil-and-nutrients-home-gardens/cover-crops-and-green-manures#annual-ryegrass-oats-827610

It can be a challenging year especially for our farmers but if we all pull together and try to look outside of the box, we will all be OK. For more information about gardening or becoming a Master Gardener, please contact me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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