Extending gardening season is program

By KEENAN BISHOP Extension Agent for Agriculture Published:

Whether youre a home gardener or commercial vegetable grower, ways to extend your growing season, save money on inputs and improve plant and soil health are always welcomed. This Thursday evening, folks who attend the third Winter School session will gain valuable knowledge in these areas.

High tunnels are a type of low-tech greenhouse. They are not intended to be used year round for modifying the growing conditions of a specific crop. These high hoop tunnels are unheated, single layer plastic hoop houses that basically just extend the growing season. This can be done at the start or end of the season by modifying temperature extremes, altering light, wind or moisture. The advantage is that its a cheap easy way to have earlier or later produce. Thats a plus, whether its for your home dinner table or to gain a market advantage.

Darrell Sloane, who has the advantage of many years of commercial wholesale vegetable production, also manages a horticultural research farm. Sloane is manager of the University of Kentuckys South Farm Manager. This exposes him to many new techniques and ideas. He can temper this with his own commercial production that gives a real life perspective too.

Sloane will introduce the latest UK research on horticultural crops in simple inexpensive high hoop tunnels. Hell also discuss whats hot and whats not. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience so be sure to bring your questions about vegetable production.

To compliment this topic well also touch on amending and maintaining your soils. Every gardener and farmer knows that a healthy soil is key to production. As fuel prices climb, commercial fertilizer and soil amendments will increase in cost. As homeland security gets tighter, ammonium nitrate will become even scarcer. For centuries, farmers successfully used naturally available methods for quality production. Historically this was true until about three generations ago when petro-chemical amendments and pesticides became commonplace.

It is possible to maintain and enhance soil fertility, condition and health without the use of conventional methods. This is important for those wishing to garden sustainably or for commercial growers needing to save on production costs by reducing their chemical inputs. Derek Law manages the South Farms Sustainable Agriculture section. Hell explain how to utilize cover crops, intercropping, compost and other low-tech methods of soil maintenance. This is not just chemical elimination but actually relearning old production practices.

Plan on bringing your gardening questions and enjoy the refreshments sponsored by Farmers Bank and Farm Credit Services of Shelbyville. The evening starts at 7 and should end by around 9. Call the Extension Office at 695-9035 if you have any questions.

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