At our Travaasa Farm in Austin, we’re growing the highest quality produce in the region, using all organic practices, to supply food for our kitchen and provide guests with experiences and programs to participate in throughout the year. Farmer Kim Grabosky is the green thumbed mastermind who built the Travaasa Farm from the ground up, producing an astounding variety of crops in the farm’s first season.
As we look forward to the warmer months ahead, Farmer Kim and her team have already begun preparing for spring planting season. We asked Farmer Kim her advice to get started on spring planting, and here is what she suggests:
1. Honor your space. No matter where you live you can probably bring some spring plants to life. Consider what you have to offer the plants you would care for and honor their needs. Do you have shade or sun? Are you growing in pots, raised beds, a food forest, rain beds or a big field? Do you have a porch apartment building or a 30 acre woodlot? Don’t try to plant food that requires a lot of nutrients to grow in pots. Instead, select plants based on what type of fertility and the amount of sun and water you have to offer the plants. It is more fun to grow plants that can thrive on what is available then to grow plants that will constantly struggle in the environment they are given.
2. Get local. All counties in the U.S. have a unique agricultural extension with free access for planting information. Look up your county’s extension and follow the area planting calendar for guidelines match your area’s seasons. You can also look up your “zone” on the USDA’s plant hardiness chart to find larger scale planting guidelines.
3. Plan ahead. Review your planting calendar now and mark out when you should plant all of your desired crops. You might be surprised how early you can/should start to optimally grow. If you plan to start from seed you can purchase your seeds now and prep your space. If you are buying plants from the store or a farmer, start figuring out where your best sources are. Many summer crops are started in the depths of winter and kept indoors on heated mats or in sunny windows.
4. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. One of the primary keys to good soil and healthy vibrant soil mircobes is holding in moisture. Make it a priority to have all of your bare soil either covered in some form of mulch (ie. straw, wood chips, pine needles, newspaper, cardboard, wool, linen, cotton etc.) Find ways to work with the resources you have available to you. Research the benefits of mulch…it will lead you to planting a great garden.
5. Don’t sweat the weeds. Just because you find plants (and for that matter lots of living things) in your garden that you did not intend to have, does not mean it has no purpose. If, as stewards to the land we do not manage the land we have well, weeds step in and take on that role. “Weeds” or undesired plants are extremely efficient at protecting soil. Weeds retain moisture by shielding bare soil from direct sunlight and developing roots that hold soil and prevent erosion. If you find a weed, learn to identify it and research the role it plays in your garden. Chances are a weed will help detract pests from eating your vegetables or have some sort of edible or medicinal properties. Just because you don’t understand a plant’s value does not mean it has none. If you do decide to remove invasive weeds be sure to replace the weed with desired plants or mulch over the area to protect the soil.
Check back next week for more planting tips from Farmer Kim.