If you don’t like the weather in Tennessee, give it 10 minutes… it will change. We’ve experienced some erratic weather this winter, but the nice days are finally starting to outnumber the dreary days. Yesterday and today were both chilly, but earlier this week and the end of last week were beautiful. Brinn and Ian took advantage of the nice weekend to get our garden started.
George Washington strongly advocated for rotational farming. The concept is simple: every year, rotate the location of the crops in your garden. One year we grow tomatoes along the western edge of the garden, and another year we plant them dead center. This helps to avoid depleting the soil in any particular area. Corn, for example, puts a terrible strain on soil’s nutrients, while green beans actually put back into the soil.
The second gardening strategy we work on is soil improvement. While it can vary, the soil of the southeastern region largely contains red clay. Packing, non-porous, hard to grow in red clay. Red clay is a terrible soil to grow in. We’re fortunate that our small piece of property has limited red clay, but it’s still there. We’re constantly working to improve this. Every year we’ve been working large amounts of cow manure into the garden, with all kinds of scraps from the kitchen (egg shells, coffee grounds, trimmings from vegetables, etc.) and peat moss. This has resulted in a rich, dark soil that will hopefully yield a big harvest this year.
So in addition to improving soil quality, and planning where to plant each item, a gardener must also plan when to plant each item. Tennessee is a good region that is conducive for a large variety of plants, but we also have some pretty distinct seasons when it comes to growing. This means that cold weather vegetables simply can’t grown in June and July, nor will warm weather vegetables thrive if you set them out while it’s still cold. But not all cold weather plants can be set out at the same time. Seeds germinating below the ground are protected from killing frosts, yet plants above the ground won’t survive hard frosts or freezing rains. Therefore, we’ve set out a things, but will have many weeks of setting out just a few things at a time.
This year’s farmer’s almanac fore-casted a good deal of wintry weather for March, so we’re hesitant to set out cabbage and broccoli plants too early. But if you put peas or spinach out too late, they won’t come up at all. We’ve decided to split the difference and not set any plants out yet, and only put out seeds. Brinn and Ian tilled just enough soil to plant our 5 items, and left the rest of the garden to minimize soil erosion. He’ll wait and till the rest as we plant it. Ian’s not allowed to touch the tiller, so he drags his plastic golf bag on wheels around the garden as if he’s also tilling.
Ian was allowed to help put seeds out, however, and had a great time playing in the dirt. We now have snow peas, lettuce, spinach, leeks, and onions planted. Next week we’ll set out a few more of those items to extend our harvest time. Before you know it, it’ll be time to get the tomato and pepper plants out!