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May News from the MMG Edible Demonstration Garden

As we all continue to abide by the Shelter In Place orders, the Demo Garden Team is tending to our garden even though the College of Marin has closed the IVC campus. Only two of us at a time are permitted to maintain the garden on each workday. We are now going to the garden four days a week in order to accomplish the amount of work that spring brings to all gardeners. So what have we been doing this past month?

Planting Tomatoes

Looking forward to the abundant harvests of summer, the vegetable that comes to mind instantly of course is tomato. This month we have planted three tomato starts raised by the farm staff in their greenhouse. Once you’ve planted those lovely tomato starts, the first thing you should think about is supporting them. If your tomatoes are the indeterminate kind, you can expect them to grow to 6’ tall if not topped. Those 2-3 feet tall round tomato cages will not do the job. If you, like many of us, have them lying around, try putting two of them together. Wire or Ziptie the circular ends to each other, stick the prongs of the lower one into the soil and you’ve instantly doubled their height. Get whatever support you choose in the ground at the same time that you plant. Otherwise, you will one day find yourself trying to bend the branches of a much larger plant onto a cage, not a happy prospect.

Planting Cucumbers

Another plant that comes to mind for summer abundance is cucumbers. Many people plant cucumber seedlings but you might consider the adventure of direct seeding this crop. If you would like to try this out, you must consider the soil temperature at the time of seeding as a prime driver of successful germination. For cucumbers, you can germinate seeds at soil temperatures between 65-95°F. The warmer it is, the faster the germination time. Right now, the soil temperature in the Demo Garden is about 68°F. Based on the UC Cooperative Extension-Sacramento County chart on soil temperature conditions for vegetable seed germination, you should see those seedlings begin to pop up in about 6.2 days. To learn the requirements for other vegetables, you can access this chart at http://sacmg.ucanr.edu/files/164220.pdf. One last tip…..when direct seeding any plant, a rule of thumb is to plant it at a depth of 1½ times the length of the longest seed in the pack. This tip came from the excellent staff who plant the gardens at the IVOF&G.

Future Updates

Many of you are discovering or rediscovering the joys of raising fresh vegetables and you can’t beat the summer for providing the almost instant gratification that the abundant harvests give us. In subsequent news updates, we will guide you through your gardening challenges as we continue to provide tips for creating your successful summer garden. In these difficult times, keep in mind that gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes!

For the time being, we are unable to invite you to join us in the garden on our workdays. But when we are able to resume regular activities, we will throw the garden gate wide open and joyously invite you all in!