It is time to prepare garden for planting

04/04/2014 10:36 AM

04/05/2014 10:11 AM

You have to love it when you go to a gardener’s house and a plant stand is blocking your entry inside the front door.

I didn’t even need to get close enough to get the gist of the pink note stuck to the storm door: Come around back.

There I found Everett Price busy, as usual, in the garden, getting ready to plant onions and tend to the never-ending chores that come along every spring – and, in his case, that are multiplied this year because he and his wife, Michelle, are going to be on the master gardeners’ garden tour in May.

Everett’s vegetable garden is nestled at the back of his yard, just off Riggs Park in Haysville. A fence encloses the garden, and blackberry vines climbing on the fence will soon turn it leafy.

This early in the cool spring, Everett has planted arugula, kohlrabi, mustard, red leaf and Stonehead cabbage, Bright Lights Swiss chard and collard greens. This week he added onions – both those that will grow large and sets that will be grown for green onions.

To plant the big onions, he raked aside the some of straw that covers the garden floor, then hoed a couple of furrows, tucking the onion bulbs into the soil that had been loosened rather than going underground with them.

Instead of planting the larger slicing onions underground, Everett, himself a master gardener, took a rake to gather up some soil on top of a row, and then placed each onion bulb into that loose soil, mounding it up around each bulb. He placed the onions 4 to 5 inches apart.

For the green onions – which he calls table onions – he will pop the sets into the ground, more like 2 inches apart – and closer to the garden gate, so he can pull them up and eat them alongside most any meal once they get big enough. He’ll also plant them once a week for several weeks to spread out the harvest time.

He encircles most of his leafy plants at planting time with cylinders made of wire and plastic utility fencing to keep out rabbits. As the heads get big, he’ll remove the cylinders and move them over to new pepper and tomato plants while they’re getting started.

The Prices use straw to pad the vegetable garden and break down into the soil. An arch of livestock panels is moved each year so that cucumbers that climb the outsides and tomatoes that are planted inside are rotated, providing for a more disease-free environment.

We’ll be visiting Everett through the spring and summer to watch how his vegetable garden grows. And all of us can visit in person during the master gardener tour May 16 through May 18. You can see videos of Everett’s onion planting and straw mulching at kansas.com.

While it’s still too cool to plant many things, it is time to get the garden ready for planting. As you plan your own garden, consider planting an extra row for donating to the needy through Plant a Row for the Hungry, and also as insurance against pests or diseases or weather that can take out plants during the course of the growing season.

On Saturday at the Tree Festival, you can see the beginnings of the master gardeners’ demo garden outside the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road. Among the themed gardens being planted there this year: taste of India, heirloom tomatoes, salsa garden, spring/fall Italian garden (beyond tomatoes and basil), and master-gardener favorites.

Spring continues to lag a bit as we wait for sustained warmth. See the accompanying calendar of approximate times to plant particular vegetables, and stagger your planting times like Everett does to spread out the harvest.

About Annie Calovich

Annie writes about home and garden, including her Bit of Earth column on Saturdays. She has been at The Eagle since 1985, working as a copy editor, a nation/world editor and a reporter. She’s a KU graduate who started out at The Coffeyville Journal.

Contact Annie at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com

Follow Annie on Twitter: @AnnieCalovich

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