Attendees swap gardening tips at Ready U sessionWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
About 25 people recently gathered to hear area horticulture experts offer basic gardening tips for the beginning backyard, community and container gardener.
The free Ready U presentation, “From Plant to Plate: Planning Your Victory Garden,” was held Feb. 13 in Maumee.
Ready U, a yearlong series presented by the Red Cross of Greater Toledo and the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, is designed to educate the public and prepare individuals and families for potential emergencies in Northwest Ohio.
Presenters were educators Amy Stone and Lee Richter and program assistant Patrice Powers-Barker, all with the Ohio State University Extension office in Lucas County. Kristin Emery of 13abc served as host.
A follow-up Ready U session, “Using Your Victory Garden,” is set for 7 p.m. April 30 at The Andersons Activity Room, 1833 S. Holland-Sylvania Road in Maumee. The session will cover what to expect as your plants grow, when to harvest, food preservation, what to do with any extra produce and more, Powers-Barker said.
Stone said she hopes attendees left excited for the upcoming growing season and armed with the information and resources to turn their ideas into reality. She said she was happy attendees, which included both beginning and experienced gardeners, shared about their own gardening successes and struggles.
“I love the sharing of the participants,” Stone said. “When they hear it from the person sitting next to them, they think, ‘If that person can do it, so can I.’ That encouragement is really cool.”
Connie Hoye of Toledo said she came seeking tips on raised-bed gardening.
“All the information was good, like when to start planting, but especially all the contacts so when you have questions you’ll know who to call,” Hoye said.
The OSU Extension’s horticulture hot line, (419) 578-6783 or firstname.lastname@example.org, is staffed by master gardeners from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Martel and Kristina White of Toledo, who came with their 1 ½-year-old son George, were also happy to learn about the hot line and other community resources. The couple recently purchased a home and is excited to start their first vegetable garden.
“We had some ideas, but now we have more guidance,” Martel said.
To open the session, Powers-Barker passed four containers around the room, asking attendees to shake them and guess the contents. Inside were the four ingredients all plants need: water, soil, air and sun.
Cool-weather plants, like lettuce, peas, spinach, radishes, broccoli and beets, can be planted as early as March and then again in the fall, Richter said.
Warm-weather plants, like peppers, tomatoes, tomatillo and basil, should not be planted until after the last frost, usually around May 15.
Because of Ohio’s short growing season, transplanting seedlings rather than starting from seeds is often recommended.
When transplanting, keep as much original dirt around the root system as possible, spread out the roots in the hole, pack down the dirt and then water it right away, Richter said.
Tomato and broccoli plants can be placed into the ground up to their first leaves because they are able to grow roots off their stems, providing more stability, Richter said.
It’s best to water plants early in the day if possible and to direct the water stream at the base rather than onto the leaves, Stone said. Plants need about an inch of water a week, but just after planting and during fruit development are crucial times when more water may be needed, Stone said.
Mulching helps retain soil moisture, Richter said. About 2 inches is the recommended depth. Untreated grass clippings, straw, black and white newsprint and black plastic work as well, but be careful not to let mulch touch the stem because it can cause rotting, Richter said.
To check sunlight, place a paper plate on a spot and check back regularly, noting any shadows, Stone said.
If your location doesn’t get enough sun for a plant you want to grow, try partnering with a friend or neighbor to trade produce, Stone said. Another option is container gardening, which can be moved as the sun moves.
Containers should have holes in the bottom for excess water to run through, Stone said.
“Otherwise you’ve got water that’s just going to sit there,” Stone said. “Especially if you have new plants that might not have a whole lot of roots to absorb the water, you can get some root rot issues.”
Other gardening methods include hydroponics, vertical and community gardening. Lettuce, spinach, celery, eggplant and peppers work well in a hydroponics system, in which plants get nutrients from a water system not soil, Stone said.
Soil testing is recommended, especially for first-time gardeners and new locations, to learn the exact nutrient content of the soil. Soil should be retested about every five years, Richter said.
“It’s not a big expense and it will give you a lot of good information,” Stone said.
Soil samples can be sent to the University of Massachusetts Soil Testing Laboratory in Amherst, which specializes in home gardens, Stone said. A standard test costs $10. More information can be found at lucas.osu.edu.
Keeping a journal in a mailbox or other weatherproof place near your garden is a common tip from master gardeners, Stone said.
“How often do you think of something when you’re out in the garden? ‘Hey, this is the first time I’ve picked a ripe tomato this year,’ or ‘Boy, the weeds are becoming a real issue,’ and you think ‘I’ll remember that next year,’ or ‘I have to remember to write that down,’ but by the time you get back to the house, the thought is gone,” Stone said.
Keeping an eye on your garden will help you notice trends or potential problems, Richter said.
“It’s really important to scout your garden,” Richter said. “If you do it every day, you will notice when something weird is happening, whether it’s disease or insects. It will also help you know when to harvest.”
Other upcoming events include:
• The Toledo Botanical Garden’s annual Seed Swap: Noon-3 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Erie Street Market, 237 S. Erie St. More information: (419) 536-5566 or toledogarden.org.
• Lucas County Master Gardener Speakers Bureau Lecture Series. Topics will include straw bale gardening and square-foot gardening on April 17, vertical gardening, herb spirals and raised-bed gardening on May 15 and mixed container gardening and community-supported agriculture on June 12. Sessions will be 6:30-9 p.m. at the Toledo Botanical Gardens Conference Center, 5403 Elmer Drive in Toledo. Cost is $15 per class or $35 for the series. More information: (419) 578-6783 or lucas.osu.edu.
Tags: Amy Stone, emergency preparedness, Gardening, Lee Richter, Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, Ohio State University Extension, Patrice Powers-Barker, Ready U, Red Cross of Greater Toledo, Sarah Ottney, Victory Garden