Tuesday, April 4, 2017

5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer

This post was sponsored by The Glass Barn,
which is funded by the Indiana Soybean Checkoff.

April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like ours,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.

April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like we use,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.

1.     Crop rotation: Changing the placement of your garden plants each year is a very good idea.  Each vegetable needs different amounts of nutrients and protection from any disease left from last year’s plants.  Another plus to rotating your garden vegetables is that root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and radishes, grow deep into the soil and break up the soil so that water can come down into the ground instead of running off.  When we plant our crops, we usually plant corn on top of last year’s bean ground and beans on top of last year’s corn ground for these same reasons.

You can see the dead corn stalks on the ground where we are planting beans.

April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like ours,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.

The middle blade cuts a trough in the ground were a seed is dropped, 
and the two outer blades cover up the seed.  Easy Peasy!

April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like ours,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.


2.    Soil testing:  It is important to check your soil to see if it is lacking in nutrients.  Many garden stores sell soil testing kits so that gardeners know the contents of their soil. 




     Tomatoes usually need extra lime added to the ground around them.  Hydrangeas will change the color of their blooms based on pH.  A pH of 5.2 – 5.5 will create blue flowers.  Farmers also have farm ground tested for the same reasons. We check the pH (lime) of the soil.  We want that number to be neutral so that there is not too much acidity in the soil, and we check amounts of phosphorous and potassium to know the amount of fertilizer we may need to add or NOT add for the upcoming crop.

3.    Fertilization: All plants need fertilizer to grow; it’s their food. However, different crops need different amounts of fertilizer. Once you have tested your soil, it’s important to take these numbers to your local garden store and ask them how to fertilize the ground for the best vegetable or flower growth.  Farmers have companies that test our soils then recommend the type and amount of fertilizer we need to best grow our crops. Sometimes we livestock owners use the fertilization made right in the cow lot to spread over our bean or wheat ground.  It's a bit fragrant, but it's free!  Just try not to fall in it!


April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like ours,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.


4.    Early plants vs. later plants:  It’s most important to know WHEN you can plant seeds and starter plants.  There are many hardy garden plants and seed that you can plant very early in the growing season once you are clear of freezing temperatures.  Radishes, peas, lettuce, carrot seeds do well early as do cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and onion plants.  In a flower garden, bulb plants like crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, and some tulips are the first bloomers. Pansies are hearty flowers, but you wait on impatiens, geraniums, and other annuals until the threat of frost has passed.  On the farm, our seeds come in much bigger packages…think boxes!  

April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like ours,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.

   Each box is marked with the seed variety it contains and its maturity dates (like 109 days to maturity).  There are some varieties of corn and soybean seed that can grow in colder soils.  Soybeans are the most susceptible to cold temperatures and frost because their growing points come up first.  Farmers usually try to plant corn first because it can tolerate colder temperatures better that soybeans.  Its growing point stays underground longer.



5.    Planting pairs:  When you are planting a garden or a flower bed, there are plants that are better paired together. In the garden, we would plant marigolds beside plants most susceptible to bugs because bugs don’t like marigolds. In a flower bed, you would want to plant early bloomers with later bloomers so that you don’t have any lapse in color.  Out in our cornfields, we plant two types of corn: one that has a bug tolerance along a variety that is not.  This is so that we do have protection against bugs, but we are not creating a super bug that is immune to insecticides.  We can plant these two corn varieties a variety of ways:  sprinkled in together, in strips, blocks within the field…. You get the idea. 

BONUS TIP!  Vegetable gardeners might want to consider growing a cover crop on top of the garden toward the end of the growing season between the rows of your vegetables.   More and more farmers are adopting this soil conservation practice because it protects its top soil and lets Mother Nature rebuild microorganisms in the ground.  Microorganisms bring life back to soils naturally.  Some good cover crop choices for gardeners and farmers would be long rooted radishes and oats. Cereal rye, regular rye, wheat, and other options, are also used by farmers, and that is why you see some green fields growing from October to April.  Many farmers have the seeds "sprayed" on their fields via airplanes.
  


April is a time for planting on our farm, but it’s also a time when greenhouse parking lots begin to fill up fast with gardeners who want to start their planting too. Are you making your list of seeds and plants for your garden?  Did you spend the winter months planning out a new flower bed? Even though you might not have a 24-row planter like ours,  you might be surprised just how much your gardens are like our fields.  Let’s talk about 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer.


If you would like to try this type of soil conservation, talk to your local garden store to help you pick the one best suited for your garden.

 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer


Gardeners and farmers all look forward to the month of April.  While gardeners are working on their rototillers and sharpening their hoes, farmers are greasing up the planters and soil finishers so they are all ready once that first sign of lasting warm temperatures shows up in April’s weather forecast.  Using these 5 Tips for a Gardener from a Farmer will help you get ready for your best garden ever! 


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