Gardening Calendar

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The reasons for using various gardening strategies for combating climate change follow the introduction.



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 through this 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 good option 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 & Planting video.

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 beginning here. Growing Mycorrhizal Fungi, Part One and Part Two and a short progress report.



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.

We’re starting peppers and eggplant indoors 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 & Biochar Feb 2012.

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.

Connecting: There 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 Stand.

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 enough.

You can plant potatoes 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 planting.

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 the 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 2011.

Also see Planting Onion Plants for green onions.

The broccoli, cauliflower, 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. Watch our 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 Progress.

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 sun.

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 molecules provide. 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.



Continue planting cool season vegetables (April 1-15) See Planting Cauliflower, Cabbage and Potatoes.

Plant dormant bare-root fruit trees and berry bushes, like blueberries. Thin seedlings of cool season vegetables that were sown by seed. If you want to plant gourds you need to get them in early so they will reach maturity before frost. Otherwise they tend to rot.

You should feed your onions and garlic as you go along. Here is Foliar Feeding Onions and Garlic

Side Dressing Collards & Summer Squash – Shows putting fertilizer around plants.

As the days get warmer watch for harlequin bugs and get rid of them. See Harlequin Bug Sucker.



Planting warm season vegetables (start in early May if weather permits). You can see our video on planting tomatoes and here is one on planting peppers.

****If you want to eat some not about 60 days after planting is time to dig new potatoes. Here is a video of planting cucumbers and eggplants.

Thin seedling of cool season vegetables that were planted from seeds.

Now is a good time to plant okra, from May 1 to 25 or when it gets hot.

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 August.

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 them preemptively. 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 damage)

Plant sweet potato plants in mid-May, see the planting as well as starting the shoots in preparation back in January to March.

Planting Watermelon with Thai Basil & Mullein as Companions



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 Harvesting Garlic.

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. Onion Success – Shows onions growing well in June. Also discusses garlic progress and clover cover crop between tomato plants.

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 people too.

Plant second crops of tomatoes and peppers (June 1-10).

Watch your tomato plants – its time to tie them up and prune them.

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 get lucky.

Here we’re planting watermelon 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 waste.

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.

Here we’re planting fall cabbage plants again.

Your tomatoes and peppers should be ripening.

You can plant carrots 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.

Here are Chinese or red noodle beans being harvested.



Start harvesting cool season crops.

If you have strawberry plants you may want to thin them to one per square foot. You can transplant strawberry plants you dig to a new location.

Plant spinach for over-wintering.

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.

You can dig sweet potatoes when the weather gets cool and before frost. From about the 15th of October until solstice you can plant garlic 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 found at The Biochar Solution.



Harvest cool season crops.

It’s a good time cut back your raspberry plants if they are dying back and dormant.

Add leaves, straw, compost, manure or other organic matter to beds. It’s a good time to add biochar, fertilizer and other amendments that your soil may need.

Now is the time to get all of those fall leaves that you can for composting and mulching. See composting video.



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 of creation.

December is the time to plant onion seed in flats to grow plants to transplant outdoors when the weather warms up in March

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 recommend.

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 not?
  • Where in the garden did plants do best?
  • What is the latest understanding of soil biology/ecology? What are you going to plant next year?
  • 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 stand.

If you haven’t planted garlic 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 City area 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 noodle beans.

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 demonstrations.

Come see how biochar produces rich garden and lawn soils.

Click here to learn more about what biochar is and how it is made.

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 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 vegetables.

Marty Kraft

Please respond to global warming in your own way. Let care of nature become second nature.