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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
The urban farmer (05/09/2012)
by Vicki Englich

No, not burger or taco joints. Iím

thinking about radishes, spinach, lettuce, and chard. Now is the time to plant the vegetable seeds that will germinate fast and grow fast. The weather is cool and the spring rains have begun, so this is the right time to plant. Many seedlings, such as cabbage and broccoli, will also be available at local plant nurseries and at the Winona Farmersí Market.

What is so nice about having a kitchen garden is that you can step outside your backóor frontódoor and snip or pull what you need at that moment. In my first column I shared my plan to build raised beds in the back yard once the massive maple tree and the hedges were removed. They are now gone, and the backyard currently looks like ground zero. ButÖthe lumber has been delivered and we are starting to build right now. Because it will take a while, I have planted my snap peas, spinach and lettuce in my community garden plot. My plan is to use that plot primarily for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants this summer since that space receives ample sunshine. After my beds are built and filled with soil, Iíll then plant them with more greens, brassicas, and bush beans.

Many vegetables, especially in the nightshade family, need 6-8 hours of sunshine daily in order to thrive. Because greens grow fast, I can harvest the lettuce and spinach before the tomato plants go in the ground. Another trick is to take advantage of the space in between your tomato or pepper seedlings by inter-planting fast food greens or radish seeds, so by the time the tomato plants are large, you have harvested the greens.

An additional benefit of fast food plants is that they donít necessarily need 6-8 hours of sunshine. They will grow just fine in partial shade, so if you have a space that only gets morning sun or short afternoon sun, you can grow lettuce, spinach, parsley, arugula, mustard and even the brassicas like broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, and Brussels sprouts.

If you plant lettuce, spinach or chard, you can treat these plants like cut and come again annuals. Rather than pulling the plants up, roots and all, snip the leaves at the base. The leaves will grow again without your having to plant new seeds. Likewise you donít have to pull up a broccoli plant once you have harvested the main head; side shoots will continue to grow and you can snip these off as needed.

No plot or raised bed? Grow these plants in containers! I like redwood tubs and large terra cotta pots, and they will hold lots of greens or a broccoli or cabbage plant. Or, tuck plants in your flower beds or window boxes! Lettuce, spinach and Swiss Chard look beautiful next to other annuals. Whatís fun about gardening is that you can be creative!

Next time Iíll discuss Slow Food.



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