Over the Fence Urban Farm


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Learning to Grow Ginger in Central Ohio

The first week in March I attended a workshop at the Columbus Agrarian Society on growing ginger in central Ohio. The workshop was led by Joseph Swain who has been growing young ginger a mile down the road for five years and selling it through Swainway Urban Farm. His ginger has always blown my mind – from a gardener/ artist / foodie perspective. It’s gorgeous and it tastes like longevity.

Typically grown in tropical locales, ginger needs some extra attention in these parts of the world. The workshop focused on how to cut up a hand of ginger to produce “seed,” planting and caring for rhizomes while they pre-sprout, and what to do with them once outside temperatures are ready for their transplant (regular temperatures in the 70s or above).

Here’s some of what we saw when we arrived.

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And here’s Joseph showing us how to measure and cut seed.

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A few folks gave it a try…

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And then we all prepped our seed beds and took them home. Keeping the tray around 70 degrees and sunlit has not been easy. I’ve moved mine from the southfacing kitchen table (where it was always in the way and in danger of being turned into a fairy garden) to a bedroom upstairs that gets great light and is empty most of the time, and then finally to the basement to rest on our heating mat.

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Six weeks later, we have sprouts! This is one of those gardening projects I’m really proud of, but really, it was mostly about patience.I know it doesn’t look like much, but just wait…

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Failure in the field

Like all bloggers, I tend to emphasize our successes in the field. (I did write about some ugly carrots at one point and I stand by my love of fruta feia.) Today I thought I would share a failure.

About 3 weeks ago, we set out some red cabbage starts. You can see them on the bottom right of this image. Looking back on them now, they definitely look like they could have used a few more weeks under the lights inside before transplanting. But, it was warm and the plants on the other side of the tray were ready to go.

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Before planting, I consulted folks on the Ohio Homesteaders and Gardeners Facebook group.

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As you can see, I wasn’t alone in my poor previous attempts. I took the comments about feeding cabbage well and providing a stable environment to heart and set them out with a nice dousing of fish emulsion and a frost blanket. I should have taken more seriously the post wishing me luck.

I’m sad to those seedlings are not looking great at this point. In the photo below you can see a few (top let and bottom right) which are pretty leggy and have burnt leaves. These were two of the best looking ones I found.

Thankfully, I had some cilantro and boc choi in need of a home so I spent yesterday afternoon interplanting those between a few cabbages that will get one more chance to get going. With overnight temperatures in the 20s expected on and off this week, their outlook is not all that great.  I might try starting a few more red cabbage plants before we get much closer to the frost our date. Maybe.

Below is another problem we’re facing. The Napa cabbage we set out the same day as the red is looking good — leafing out and emitting a gorgeous green glow. However, slugs have been feasting on them. Yesterday I set out a few beer traps and hope to find some treats for the chickens later today. This is my first try with this so I’m not sure I did it right. I’ll be sure to report later.

Below is a shot of shows some of the plants that haven’t suffered much from slug attacks (see center row). I believe there’s hope for them yet…

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