MASTER GARDENERS: There’s more than one way to garden successfully – The Bemidji Pioneer


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In an article I wrote a few years ago I stated that the best gardeners were the ones who could make a profit growing vegetables. So last September when I was buying garlic sets at the farmers market in Bemidji, I met Jeff Molnar. He freely gave me some great gardening advice so I sought him out for advice this winter.People have told me that I have a great, productive garden and I think it is but it clearly doesn’t look like Jeff’s.The point I would like to make with this article is that there are different ways to grow vegetables and that the best way for you is the way that takes into consideration your time and abilities and the soil and other resources you have to work with.I have been ignoring the wise local advice of not planting anything before Memorial Day and I have instead planted my cold-hardy plants like onions, radishes, spinach and kale as soon as I can work the soil, which last year was the first week of May.

Seeds can mold in the soil if the soil is too cold. The year I got married I didn’t plant until the last week of June and everything ripened except the sweet corn.Maintaining soil organic matter and keeping soil micro-organisms healthy in the soil is essential to good soil management. Tillage, especially machine roto-tilling, is hard on soil organic matter but I use my tiller a lot. Jeff's terraced hillside garden is uniform, well managed and weed-free and he rarely uses a roto-tiller. Roto-tilling puts too much oxygen in the soil, which turns the organic matter into carbon dioxide and water. If you think granular commercial fertilizer is good, try getting some wet fertilizer on a cut. I thought I was doing well to use chemicals very rarely but Jeff has not used an herbicide, insecticide or chemical fertilizer since he started farming at his location in 1984. He attributes that as the reason his produce is so tasty.I guess that's what is important to successfully growing vegetables is to make use of your soil resource to full advantage, combine that with your own physical abilities, and most of all, enjoy your gardening adventure. Do it your way and have fun doing it.You are likely to see Jeff at one of the local farmers markets this spring. It would be worth your time to meet him there. These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website,

, or by visiting our Facebook page at

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