Saturday, February 13, 2021

February 2021

This is the first installment of a monthly newsletter for and about the Williamsburg Community Growers. Thanks to Gardener Janet Hawanczak for suggesting the current title. The purpose of this newsletter is to share information of interest to its gardeners, including such things as planting and growing tips, organic pest control techniques, trends in the garden, etc. Thanks to the following Gardeners who have consented to be contributors to this effort: Elvin and Kay Clapp, Carol Fryer, Barbara Loesch, Darlene Hinman, and Ken McCleod. Please feel free to send suggestions of topics or questions for subsequent issues to me, Barbara Arnold at barbara@growwilliamsburg.org.


  • Plant Sale: We will be offering plants for sale this season to our Gardeners and at the Farm Stand! The first sale will be on March 13 and will feature cold-weather crops. We are currently growing kale, collards, chard, broccoli, and lettuce in our basements and in the greenhouse. A second sale date is TBD, but will feature warm-weather crops, including specialty tomatoes and peppers. Our prices will be better than the Big Box stores and our plants will be organically grown. Proceeds will go back into the Garden. We appreciate your support. (Jessica Stephens and Barbara Arnold)


  • Reminder: Membership dues are due February 15. Bring checks and signed paperwork to the garden or mail to WCG, P.O. Box 622, Lightfoot, VA 23090 or bring to the orientation at the Garden on February 20th.


  • What do I plant and when?

Virginia Tech has developed a recommended planting and harvesting guide at https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/426/426-331/SPES-170.pdf. Our area is considered Hardiness Zone 7a. This is an excellent guide but can be a little tedious to interpret. Here are the recommended crops to plant between mid February and April 5:

As seeds: beets, carrots, peas, potatoes, radish, turnips

As transplants: kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, cabbage, 

cauliflower, leek

As seeds or transplants: swiss chard, kale, collards, onions, spinach, lettuce

 

  • How to plan your garden plot: Winter is the time to plan for your garden plot, and Google is your friend. For example, this website discusses planning for a 10 x 10 garden.

10x10 Vegetable Garden Ideas (gardenguides.com)


And this one gives Garden layout plans –

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/layout-options-for-gardens.htm


  • Where to find gardening help and information: The Virginia Cooperative Extension website provides a wealth of research-based, non-biased information from your land grant college’s Agriculture Department. You can start with Home Vegetable Gardening | Virginia Cooperative Extension | Virginia Tech (vt.edu) There is an excellent search function that can get you to whatever information you are seeking. Remember, when searching on the internet, your first/ best sources will be here and at other .edu websites. They are not trying to sell you anything but are required to disseminate to the public the results of the research they have undertaken using your tax dollars through the Extension Service.


  • Last killing frost date for our area: The planting guide says that the last killing frost for our area ranges from April 5 to April 15. The microclimate of our garden is very exposed and windy. Gardeners would be advised to consider the later date as more appropriate. Last season, some of our gardeners ended up planting three crops of tomatoes – one wiped out by an early frost and a second wiped out by an unseasonable late frost. You can extend the season by use of row covers.


  • Seed-starting at home – Many gardeners find that not all of the plants that they want to grow are available for sale at the garden centers or big box stores, so they want to start plants in their homes. Below are several guides for advice if you choose to grow plants from seeds at home.

    • A webinar from Fine Gardening magazine on Feb. 18th

https://www.finegardening.com/article/seed-starting-tips-and-techniques?source=W4489ENL&tp=i-1NHD-BC-H1V-1JagkA-1o-1W6h-1c-133W-14BU67-l5esKRKqXs-2lyea&sourcekey=W4489ENL&utm_source=eletter&utm_medium=eletter&cid=65441&mid=1205627334



  • Bunnies and Beans – Last season many of us had issues with bunnies and rodents eating our beautiful plants. Here is Gardener Barbara Loesch’s detailed account of her struggles, along with fellow-Gardener Darlene Hinman, as they try to harvest beans despite the hungry bunny that plagued them. Recommended solutions are included. 


Bunnies and Beans

By Barbara Loesch

Last year Darlene Hinman and I shared 2 garden plots and were excited thinking about all the flowers and vegetables we were going to gather, perhaps even having enough to share with the community.  As the saying goes, best laid plans often go awry!  Our flowers did beautifully but beans suffered and bunnies benefited.  Our first batch of Blue Lake bush green beans grew beautifully and the beans we gathered were exceptional – sweet and tender.  We gathered enough to even have some to put in the freezer for future enjoyment.  However, the 2nd planting suffered the invasion and insult of the dreaded bunnies.  Cute though they may be when they are not in one’s garden, they decimated our second bean crop.  We managed one spindly little bean before the bunnies nibbled the plants to the ground.


So, hoping to find ways of defeating those “wascally wabbits” as Elmer Fudd tried without success, I spent a good amount of time researching how to keep rabbits out of the garden and here are some of options I found which I have listed below.  We need to be mindful that anything we use in the garden needs to be organic.

  1.  Enclosing the bean plants with chicken wire that needs to be 2 feet tall (rumor has it that they can’t jump higher), buried anywhere from 3-6 inches below ground to discourage burrowing, and the mesh holes should be ½ to 1 inch.  The top would be open to facilitate harvesting.

  2. Use an organic spray of water, soap, hot sauce and garlic that would be sprayed on the plants or the ground around the plants and, ideally, would be done twice a day.

  3. Putting dried blood or bone meal on the ground by the plants.

  4. Hanging little bags of Irish Spring soap near the plants. The advantage of this is that you can use the soap to wash your hands when they get dirty.

  5. Invest in a Pest Away or Yard Gard device which would be a little pricey but would perhaps discourage other pests like rats and voles from the garden.

  6. Putting whirly gigs in the garden to make noise.

  7. Attaching tin pie plates to sticks to make noise. Evidently rabbits dislike noise so avoid areas that are noisy.

  8. Finally, invest in a commercial critter netting system that covers the plants and has zippered sections that can be opened to allow for harvesting. 


Darlene and I will try some of these options and wonder what other gardeners are doing to defeat these little rascals.  Let us know.




What's Happening!

April Newsletter

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