Jump to a month:
The reasons for using various
gardening strategies for
combating climate change follow
Now is the time to order seed for
the cool season crops, and if you
want to plant a fall garden you
might make your spring order double.
If you want to start your own sweet
potato slips now is the time to
start. Try to find some
non-irradiated Beauregard sweet
potatoes (they are quick maturing,
high yield, little cracking), if you
can’t find them locally, order
online. Put them in sand and keep
the sand wet. The temperature should
be at 80º to 85º Fahrenheit until
they sprout, then you can reduce to
room temperature. See how we start
our sweet potatoes about half way
Building a Light Stand
video. If you are thinking of
planting raised beds you might want
to see why you
cedar raised beds are not a
and some alternatives.
During an unusually warm winter we
planted spinach in January
since the soil was not frozen.
For more information see
Sweet Potato Sprouting
If you use mycorrhizal fungi, which
I recommend, you might want to
consider growing your own propagules
or spore for next season when you
can incorporate it into your potting
mixture. You can see the process
Growing Mycorrhizal Fungi, Part
and a short
If you want to plant a cover crop to
ready your site for a garden or to
restore your soil between plantings
you might view
From Parking Lot to Organic No
Till Garden Part 3.
Consider if you want to raise
seedlings for transplanting or do
you want to sow seed directly into
the outdoor beds?
Early starting of seedlings for
crops like cabbage, cauliflower,
broccoli, collards and other
Brassica family plants
extends the season and allows your
plants to come to full maturity
before the hot weather hits.
It’s always a gamble when the
hot weather will come.
I start my Brassica family seeds
around February 1, so they will be
mature enough to transplant around
March 20. If you start too late your
plants are small and vulnerable when
they go in the beds. If you plant
too early they might get root bound
and won’t do as well. If you
have a greenhouse where the
seedlings get lots of sun the
seedlings will mature faster. If you
are starting seedlings indoors they
will take longer to mature.
starting peppers and eggplant
on February 22. We are starting them
earlier than we start tomatoes
because the plants take longer to
develop to the transplanting stage
that tomatoes do.
Starting peppers in Fungi &
Mulching and Weeding:
It’s a good practice to
observe your garden every few days
to watching for weeds. Being
successful at no-till gardening
means watching your mulch levels on
your beds. If you find spaces where
you can see soil you can bet the
weed seeds in that space will
sprout. It doesn’t take a lot
of work to keep the weeds to a
minimum but you have to be
persistent. If you see dandelions
you can use a fork to pry dandelion
and soil up until you hear the tap
root pop. Then let the soil back
down in place and pull the
dandelion. If you get most of the
tap root out the dandelion usually
does not grow back. Each weed has
it’s own characteristics. Get
to know them.
is another benefit of observing your
garden on a regular frequent basis.
You begin to know it very well and
you connect to your garden in a
deeper way. If you quiet your mind
and be very present you will feel a
peacefulness out of which can arise
intuitions about what your garden
needs. Developing the art of
gardening is just as important as
well as knowing the science.
Personally, I need all the help I
can get and the garden can often
guide me when I am really listening.
If you want to start seeds in trays
you can see the system of watering
and fertilizing that we use at
How to Make A Light
I like to use flats that have 72
plants per flat because I can grow
more plants that way. I use all four
of our light stands and barely get
the number of plants we need for our
beds. There are also inserts that
have space for 60 plants per flat.
The advantage of the 60s over the
72s is that there is more room for
root growth before your plants start
getting root bound. Plants sometimes
get root bound when the weather
keeps you from planting according to
your schedule and they spend too
much time in their cells.
If you have fruit trees and the
limbs are too close to the trunk
they probably won’t bear well.
See this video
on spreading pear tree limbs.
This is a busy month. We have two
videos that will show planting of
sugar snap peas.
The first shows inoculating and
planting. The second
shows the trellises and
planting a year earlier.
Plant as soon as the soil thaws
around the middle of March. John
Williams, formerly at Kansas City
Community Gardens, advises planting
a little later than St
Patrick’s Day because if the
potatoes sprout and, due to
unpredictable weather, it freezes,
the tubers have to start all over
again with less energy available.
Here’s our 2012 potato
Since onion maturity is triggered by
the length of day, for Kansas
City’s latitude you should buy
medium day length plants or seeds.
Onions go in around 15 March. Plant
small plants or sets
that you can buy rubber banded
together at garden stores. Onions
need a lot of water and fertilizer,
and no competition from weeds, so
mulch heavily. Here is a 2011 video,
Planting and Inoculating Onions
Planting Onion Plants for
cabbage, kale planting
date is listed by Kansas City
Community Gardens is March 20 to
April 15. If you plant too early or
the weather is unseasonably cold
with the broccoli and maybe the
cauliflower you run the risk of
stimulating your plants to button
instead of forming a full head.
Buttoning can happen if the
temperature stays low for an
extended time. It can also happen if
you bring your transplants outdoors
into the cold too suddenly. You can
keep the plants in the beds a little
warmer with row covers but not much.
Plant spinach seed as soon as it
thaws and you can work the ground in
the spring. You can also plant in
the fall after it’s cool or up
until December for the following
spring. Spinach does not like the
heat and is done when it gets hot.
fall spinach seeding
video. You do not need to buy a
mechanical seeder. Hand seeding
works just fine. And here is
Fall Spinach’s Spring
Lettuce can also be planted as soon
as the ground will allow. You might
lose some plants to frost but
it’s worth the risk for early
lettuce. You can insulate the plants
by covering with spun row cover
fabric. In order to have lettuce on
a regular basis you can plant some
every two weeks until it gets hot.
Some varieties of spinach can be
grown even in hot weather but that
requires shading from the mid-day
March 15 is also recommended for
planting carrots. However carrots can be tricky.
They are a very small seed that
needs to stay moist during the long
time it takes for them to germinate.
If the spring is moist you are
lucky, otherwise you need to water
often, especially if we have a hot,
dry day or two. I recommend one of
the purple varieties for the extra
antioxidants the darker color
Planting Carrots 2012.
If you’re going to start your
warm season plants indoors you may
want to see our
indoor seed starting video
along with the watering/fertilizing
instructions in the middle of this
video on light stand
design. If you are going to plant
transplants early in May you will
want to plant tomato seeds in flats
six weeks earlier and peppers about
eight weeks earlier. Peppers need a
little more time to reach healthy
size for transplanting.
Planting warm season vegetables
(start in early May if weather
permits). You can see our video on
planting tomatoes and here is one on
****If you want to eat some not
about 60 days after planting is time
to dig new potatoes. Here is a video
planting cucumbers and
Thin seedling of cool season
vegetables that were planted from
Now is a good time to
plant okra, from May 1 to 25 or when it gets
From May 1 to 25 plant pole beans.
They will produce for a longer time
than bush beans and you don’t
have to bend over to pick them if
you grow them on trellises. Spider
mites killed most of my beans last
season. You might want to try
planting some Chinese
noodle beans or red noodle
beans. They are tough and productive.
Here they are being harvested in
On May 21 we
harvested garlic scapes
to send more food to the cloves
growing below. They will be bigger
when we harvest an about a month.
Watch those weeds. The warm season
weeds will be coming on soon. Pull
them when they ?re small and put
mulch on top of the spot. Better to
go around the garden looking for
bare spots in your mulch and cover
Here is a video on mulching.
Start harvesting first crops of cool
season vegetables and harvest new
potatoes (60 days after planting)
Watch for insect damage on cabbage
family plants (brassicas). Pick the
worms off by hand or use BT
(bacillus thuregensis, a bacteria
that eats the worms that cause the
Plant sweet potato plants in
mid-May, see the
planting as well as
starting the shoots
in preparation back in January to
Planting Watermelon with Thai
Basil & Mullein as
Harvest garlic –The way I learned to
harvest garlic is to watch for the
bottom three leaves to dry and then
harvest. You can wait a little
longer but if you wait too long the
cloves will begin to separate. See
Onions put on almost all their
weight during the last month of
their growth. The growth is mostly
water so it ?s good to water often
and well. The onions will break over
about the time they are finished
growing. It’s not as critical
to get them out of the ground as it
is with garlic. I’ve left them
a couple of months before.
– Shows onions growing well in
June. Also discusses garlic progress
and clover cover crop between tomato
Potatoes ? When the plants begin to
die the potatoes are ready to dig.
Potatoes can be left in the ground
but may start sending up shoots in
the late summer. Keep your potatoes
well covered with mulch or compost
so they don ?t turn green. When the
potatoes turn green there is a
buildup of solanine a toxic
substance that defends the potato
against pests. It is poisonous to
Plant second crops of tomatoes and
peppers (June 1-10).
– its time to tie them up and
Plant pumpkins around June 1.
Watch for the eggs of squash bugs on
the under sides of leaves and remove
them. Inspect around the base of the
plant for squash vine borer eggs and
remove them immediately. The vine
borer larvae enters the stem and
kills the plant as it eats. BT can
kill these guys too but you can ?t
let them get in the stem. Do an
image search for the eggs, larvae
and adult of both of these guys if
you want to eat the pumpkins and
watermelon you planted. You might
Here we’re planting
a little late. It should have been
in around May 15. The corn is late
too. You can plant corn earlier,
when the oak leaves get as big as a
squirrel’s ear about early
May. We did get good corn and
watermelons so it wasn’t a
You might want to harvest and pull
the last of you cool season
vegetables. Sometimes broccoli will
continue to give side shoots that
might be enough for you. Cauliflower
gets bitter. Cabbage goes a little
dormant and might as well be picked.
If you planted brussel sprouts you
should let them develop until fall
harvest. One food reason to harvest
the rest of the cool season crops is
that they will be easy prey for bugs
like Harlequin bugs that can take
over and ruin your fall crops as
well. I had good success in keeping
Harlequin bugs down is by sucking
them up every morning with a battery
powered dust buster. I then removed
them to a wild place where there
were no gardens. Do an image search
to see what Harlequin look like.
Plant sweet potatoes by June 10 if
you haven’t already done so.
Check your mulch on the beds for
open spaces where weeds can get
going. If you use straw for mulch,
now might be the time to buy because
the harvest is now or will be in
soon. I try to buy old straw in
hopes that the wheat seeds will be
either rotten or already sprouted.
Wheat plants are weeds in my garden.
Get your beds ready for planting
cool season plants. If you can
rotate your crops so you re not
planting cool season plants in the
beds where you planted them in the
spring. The idea is that plant
specific pests build up in the soil.
Planting can start as early as July
25 and go another 20 days. If the
temperature is in the mid to upper
90s, watch for a break in the
weather. If you need to, go ahead
water at least daily for a while.
Here you can see where we went from
broccoli to bush beans
in one bed.
planting fall cabbage
Your tomatoes and peppers should be
again in the fall but you should
plant to water twice a day for about
two weeks so the seeds don’t
dry out and die.
Continue planting cool season crops
for fall through about August 15. If
you wait too long the fall frost may
make your efforts for nothing.
Thin seedlings of cool season
vegetables that were sown by seed.
Chinese or red noodle
Start harvesting cool season crops.
If you have strawberry plants you
may want to thin them to one per
square foot. You can
you dig to a new location.
It’s about time to dig up your
sweet potatoes. When temperatures
reach about 50 degrees sweet
potatoes stop growing and if it gets
too much colder the potatoes lose
their storage capacity.
Harvest cool season crops when
ready. They can handle some light
frost.Harvest final warm season
crops before frost.
Watch the weather forecast every day
so you won’t be taken by
surprise. You can protect against
light frost with row covers of the
spun fabric variety.
dig sweet potatoes
when the weather gets cool
and before frost.
From about the 15th of October until
solstice you can
for next June harvest.
All winter you can be making
biochar in your stove
to add to your beds. It lasts
thousands of years. More info can be
The Biochar Solution.
We are now approaching winter
solstice and the year end. This is
the time when I have time to take in
more information about how the soil
and plant life work. I get too busy
during the growing season to go into
much beyond solving immediate
problems. It’s also time to go
deeper into myself and sense my
path. Nature too seems to be
readying herself for another cycle
December is the time to
plant onion seed in flats
to grow plants to transplant
outdoors when the weather warms up
The garden is slowed to a halt.
Now is the time to take in
information that will help you grow
as a gardener. Now is the time to
order seed for the cool season
crops, and if you want to plant a
fall garden you might make your
spring order double.
Here are some resources that I would
Reflecting on the last growing
season is a great way to learn and
get ready for next year. Taking
notes is very helpful.
What plants did well, which did
Where in the garden did plants
What is the latest understanding
of soil biology/ecology? What
are you going to plant next
- Where will you buy seeds?
How are you going to start
plants this year?If you are
going to start plants indoors
under fluorescent lights like we
do, now is the time to prepare.
Video for an
easy build light
If you haven’t
yet get it in by the winter
solstice. It is good to plant garlic
as early as October.
This fall we have been digging out
the pathways between our raised beds
and putting the soil on the adjacent
bed. We’re doing this to
replace the soil that has eroded
into the aisle and to make ready for
drainage tubing to keep beds from
flooding. We will channel the excess
water into a rain garden to soak in.
We are applying sulfur to the beds
again to slowly adjust the pH of our
soil into the acid range. A pH of
about 6.5 is ideal for nutrient
absorption. We added Sulfur last
year but it needed a show multi-year
adjustment. We’ll test our
soil again to see how it’s
going. For soil tests in the Kansas
MU Extension service
is a good place to go.
We’re applying alfalfa meal as
a form of slow release nitrogen for
next spring. On one half of each bed
we are applying charcoal for the
sequestration of carbon and for the
long term cec or cation exchange
capacity of the soil. The carbon
stays in the soil in the form of
charcoal for thousands of years.
Charcoal also diminishes the amount
of nitrates released into the
atmosphere which is good for plants
and also helps mitigate global
warming caused by the airborne
nitrates. We are also collecting
leaves and buying straw that will be
used for mulch that is being spread
on all the beds
My seed catalogs are arriving so now
is a good time to look through them
to see what you want to order.
It’s good to order now in
December or January. If you wait too
long the seeds could be sold out.
You might want to try these
Tracy Garden is a community
learning hub where we practice no-till carbon smart
gardening. Located at 5630 Tracy, KCMO in the 49/63
Neighborhood Coalition, the garden consists of two city lots
with 5082 sq. ft. of bed space, some fruit trees, a large
composting area and a 8X8 foot shed for tools.
In addition to raising our own mycorrhizal fungi and worms
to supply worm castings to make a microbial tea as a
probiotic application, we also make biochar on site.
In addition to workshop on site we will travel locally for
Heartland All Species Project encourages neighborhood
communities to address the environmental crisis.
Heartland All Species Project offers a broad range of
- Earth friendly gardening tutorial videos
- Biochar education & outreach
- Engaging neighborhoods/community
- No-till gardening
- And more!
Donations can be made by check or money order payable
Heartland All Species Project
Kansas City, Missouri 64110
Why should you know about making biochar?
This and other efforts to deal with global warming
will help save you, your children and grandchildren
and the wildlife that lives on Earth. Society at
large doesn’t seem to be responding to this threat
so it is up to those who understand to take any
steps we can ourselves and to kindly communicate to
others what we are doing. You and i must help shift
the collective mind ourselves if it is going to
AND IT CAN HAPPEN.
There is a fairly simple method for individuals
using woody sticks and limbs that fall from trees to
lock carbon away in the soil where it can’t be part
of CO2 (the main greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere.
How Biochar works –
Trees take in carbon as CO2 through their leaves.
They make this carbon into their trunks and branches
as wood. We can take this wood as chips or twigs and
heat it in the absence of oxygen. This process is
known as pyrolysis. Through this process the carbon
is changed in a way that it becomes hard for
microbes to digest. If the carbon was still part of
wood the microbes could eat it and turn it into CO2
in a matter of a few years. On the other hand the
carbon that is made into charcoal can persist in the
soil for thousands of years. This keeps it out of
the atmosphere where it adds to global warming.
The TLUD – Look into a fire pit or campfire after it
has gone out and grown cold. Dig down and you will
find chunks of charcoal. The charcoal formed because
it was under the ash and didn’t get enough oxygen to
completely burn. We use a TLUD burner, Top Lit Up
Draft device made by drilling holes in the bottom
(the Up Draft part) to do this. We fill the drum
with dry wood chips and light them on fire from the
top. The fire burns down, drawing limited air
(oxygen) through the holes in the bottom of the
drum. Even though the oxygen is somewhat limited the
fire puts out a lot of heat. When the fire burns
down about two thirds or three quarters of the way
to the bottom we hose it down with water stopping
the process. In the bottom we have a couple buckets
of prize charcoal.
The Retort – In order not to waste all the heat
produced by the TLUD we suspend a smaller drum
(called a retort) over the top of the flame. That
smaller drum is filled with dry sticks and has holes
in the lid for the wood gasses to escape. Otherwise
the drum is air tight keeping oxygen from entering.
We flip the drum upside down so the holes in the lid
are down toward the fire. It sits on a steel frame
over the flame. As the retort heats up the oils in
the sticks boil out and are pushed down into the
flame from the TLUD. The gasses catch fire heating
the retort even more. That heat is held in by a
third round barrel that encloses the retort. Any
excess gasses escape through the top through a
chimney. Dry materials produce little smoke.
Charging the Biochar – After the burn the charcoal
is treated with liquid organic fertilizer and
sometimes microbes. Charcoal is famous for filtering
and purifying substances. It will draw molecules of
soil minerals out of the soil if it isn’t first
treated. Once treated, the charcoal or biochar acts
more like a broker and keeps the fertilizing
minerals at the ready for plant uptake. In South
America biochar laden soils are packaged and sold as
the best potting soil called terra prita meaning
dark earth in Portuguese.
Through hands on individual and group presentations
Tracy Community Teaching Garden helps other gardens
build biochar makers and implement this and other
earth sustaining practices as they raise healthy
Please respond to global warming in your own way.
Let care of nature become second nature.