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Sassafras Hill Offers Vegetable Gardening Tips

Apr 16, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Although spring arrived feeling more like winter, rest assured that chill indeed shall pass … all in good time. At Sassafras Hill Farm in Barnegat Township, they’re enthusiastically beckoning real spring weather’s arrival.

“With spring at our doorstep, let’s continue cleaning up and preparing planting beds by adding organic compost, perhaps mushroom soil (use only organic as conventional mushroom soil is heavily contaminated with chemicals) and soil amendments or fertilizers based upon your soil test results,” says owner Tina Mueller. “It’s not unusual for our coastal soils to need lime to balance their pH or bonemeal for phosphorus. Remember, our soils typically require the addition of lots of organic matter to compensate for the lack thereof.”

Mueller said mid-April to the end of the month is the time to transplant indoor seedlings of lettuce, leeks, kale, onions, broccoli and cauliflower to outdoors.

“Be sure to make provisions to cover transplants with plastic and/or garden fabric row covers on those particularly cool, windy days and cold nights,”she said. “The same holds true for seeds now ready to plant directly in soil, such as parsley, peas, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, beets and radishes. They, too, may need tucking in when temperatures drop and the wind howls.

“As you thin these direct seeded rows of vegetables, the culled baby greens make tasty additions to salads. Try also intercropping carrots alternately with radishes in the same row. By the time carrots develop their ferny tops, harvest the radishes, leaving the carrots plenty of room to grow.”

Mueller said it is also a good time to plant potatoes. She advised people to purchase potatoes that have the North American Seed Health Certificate or its equivalent, and negative test results for Dickeya dianthicola. Dickeya is a devastating, seed-borne bacterium, causing the potato tuber to rot. This bacterium spreads quickly through a crop.

In May, she went on, plan to direct seed cucumbers, okra, snap beans and summer squash. She said these seeds could have been started indoors for transplanting as well.

“On Long Beach Island and the mainland, vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and the like prefer the warmth of indoors until round May 20 to Memorial Day,” said Mueller. “Even so, you must still pay attention to any forecast of cool weather and prepare to cover them if temperatures drop. Tomatoes detest cold. A chill oftentimes permanently stunts their growth and retards their fruitfulness.”

Mueller said that often neither space, time nor experience allows for starting your vegetables from seed. Reputable growers and neighborhood farms provide reliable sources of vegetable transplants. At Sassafras Hill Farm, extra vegetable and herb plants are often for sale.

In establishing your plant beds, she suggests trying to establish a three- or four-year crop rotation so as not to plant the same family of vegetables in the same spot for consecutive years. For instance, in year one plant all types of beans, peas and lentils (Leguminosae family); year two plant nightshades – tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, okra and potatoes (Solanaceae family); year three, carrots, turnips, beets, onions, sweet potato (Umbeliferae family); and year four, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard, Swiss chard, radish (Cruciferae family). Such planning increases soil fertility and nutrient values, while greatly reducing both insect and disease pressure.

“The Sassafras greenhouse is brimming with thousands of tender seedlings: beets, kale, Swiss chard, tomatoes and peppers,” said Mueller. “Already, we have the likes of arugula, baby kale, spinach, radishes, Japanese salad turnips, garlic and lettuce. We’re already harvesting sunflower, pea, radish and basil microgreens. Microgreens are nutrient powerhouses possessing a crisp, refreshing flavor, great on salads, sandwiches, flash sautéed and as a garnish.”

For more information, call Sasafrass Hill at 609-698-1110.

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

 

 

 

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