Pre-planting 101

Thinking more about the fascinating CGC vegetable garden planning class.

Plants live in cycles of 28 days.  Plant physiologist Charles Griffin says, “For plants, a day is a breath.”

One planning goal should be to try for as long a growing season as is possible for each crop.  Soil temperature is a crucial criterion for successful planting.  In the second week of Mar soil can now be projected to be 40 degrees F.  That same week used to be 30 degrees, the change the likely affect of the earlier seasonal warming we all notice.  The first week in May is expected to produce soil temps around 50 degrees.

Some crops actually have better growth in cooler weather, thereby allowing for 3-season growing.  This is why it’s vital to understand which plants are annual, which are biennial and which are perennial.

Annuals are plants that have a one-season life cycle.  There are huge numbers of annuals, both in flowering plants and in vegetable plants.  Examples of annuals are corn, wheat, rice, lettuce, peas and watermelon.

Biennials are flowering plants (yielding flowers, fruits or seeds) that take two years to complete their biological cycle.  In the first year, a biennial plant grows vegetative structures (stems, leaves, roots).  It enters a period of dormancy, or vernalization, over the cold winter months.  I learned about vernalization when Billy Webb at Sheltowee Gourmet Mushrooms helped me understand how the shock of refrigeration can catalyze mushroom plugs to believe they’ve just wintered.  Vernalization in outdoor plants works the same way.  Examples of biennials are parsely, parsnips, radishes, spinach, European cabbage and celery.  Some biennials that are grown for their edible leaves or seeds can be treated as annuals.  True biennials flower only once.

Perennials are plants that live for more than two years.  As it relates to flowering plants, I strive to use perennials when creating a schematic for my blooming garden, with only small supplementing of annuals for specific color punctuation.  I prefer a blooming palette of purples, pinks and yellows, and can easily use what I know about plant height, color and scale when designing a flower garden I’ll enjoy each year.  As it relates to vegetable or fruit plants, many perennials are treated as annuals.  Examples are tomatoes, sweet potatoes and bell peppers.

We’re taking next-steps into understanding “day-length”, “succession planting” and seed-starting techniques.

Have you designated a spot for a garden this year?

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