Of Hoops, High Tunnels, and Stink Bugs Spring Gardening

Friends Drift Inn Farm – Gardening

Shawn Wright UK Extension Specialist

Spring Vegetable Gardening Part II

Have mercy on me, I am in bed sick trying to type out a few notes for Friday’s Gardening post.

On “Mountain Monday” Charlie and I visited University of Kentucky Robinson Center for Sustainable Farming. Our mission; to see what the Extension folks had to say about Spring Vegetable Gardening. This is Part 2 of that adventure.

Extending the Season Hoops and High Tunnels

If you are like me, this winter seems to have drug on and on. I dream of fresh spring Bibb lettuce and having “first tomatoes” on the creek.

Dr. Shawn Wright, pictured above, suggested getting a jump on the season by constructing high and low tunnels. Using PVC pipe anchored on stakes and arched above with some greenhouse plastic to create the enclosure, this is a cheaper and easier way to ease into greenhouse gardening.

University of Kentucky links to building Tunnels

  • Intro to High Tunnels
  • Building a High Tunnel
  • Lettuce Red Sails a Spring Farmers Market Favorite

    Low tunnels are often used here to protect greens during the fickle months of March and April when weather is anything but predictable. PVC pipe will easily bend into low arches. Stretch plastic over the arches, cut a few slit in plastic to avoid overheating…and there you have it. A quick way to produce greens before your neighbors even realize it’s spring!

    For cold sensitive plants, Dr. Wright recommended constructing a high tunnel over a low tunnel giving a double insulation effect.

    Odds and Ends

    Do bugs plague your strawberries? Dr. Wright recommends a companion planting of mustard. Mustard Greens? Yes, mustard. Apparently mustard gives off a chemical that bugs attracted to strawberries find disagreeable.

    On the topic of bugs, Extension Specialist has had sightings of the “Stink Bug” in several Kentucky counties. These nasty buggers are starting to nest in homes. Rather than insecticide, Wright recommends caulking well around windows and doors, closing off access to the rogues.

    Photos of Stink Bugs

    Late blight is expected to be a problem again this summer. It is a devastating disease. In the morning your crop looks fine, and by evening it is a swiveled miserable mess. Late blight shows it’s ugly face on potatoes and tomatoes.

    Potatoes in bin

    To help prevent late blight, do not save seed potatoes from one season to the next. Avoid wetting leaves of plants when watering. Mulching, particularly around tomatoes helps to keep the splash factor down…which in turn protects your plants. Avoid working your plants when leaves are wet.

    Fungicide is a last resort. Wright cautions that plants must be fully covered in solution to effectively control blight.

    More Information About Late Blight
    Late Blights on Tomatoes Info Cornell University

    Friends Drift Inn
    Spring Vegetable Gardening Part 1
    Freezing Pumpkin on My Time
    What Makes Me Happy on Cold Winter Days?

    Heirloom Vegetables and Gardening

    About Joyce Pinson

    Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.