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As the weather starts to warm up, Missouri State University‘s Campus Garden has begun the first stages in getting the soil ready to plant. And in Missouri’s rocky red clay soil that is easier said than done, as KSMU’s Shannon Bowers explains.
Shoveling a compost and soil mix from piles four feet high, loading that into a wheel barrel and then transporting it across 18 separate beds is just the first part in a multi–step process in getting the Missouri State University Campus Garden up and running again.
As Garden Manager Joshua McCormick moves pounds of compost from point A to point B, he explains to me that they are building mounded or semi-raised beds about a foot to two high. The sides will consist of concrete blocks with hollow holes inside.
“That air space actually helps insulate the soil in the summer so it doesn’t get as hot and in the spring and fall it keeps it warmer giving you a little bit of a season extension as well,” McCormick said.
While he is only a freshman horticulture major at MSU, he has a passion for gardening and is extremely knowledgeable about plants. He explains why they are using the organic compost mix.
“It is important to stress the importance of feeding the microbe’s organic matter because, if you fertilize, those microbes won’t have anything to eat and they will just die out and the microbes are the most important part to soil,” said McCormick.
After the compost is set in place, McCormick will start growing Cole Crops like spinaches, lettuce, beets, carrots, and radishes. Cole crops will tolerate slightly cooler temperatures, as long as you are carful to cover them if it frosts.
Since one of the main focuses of the garden is sustainability, he hopes to be able to sell those Cole crops right as he is planting the warmer season crops like tomatoes and peppers in April.
As we dug, I asked him what some tips would be for beginning gardeners. His quick response was to plan ahead. Soil in this area is known for being tough to work with.
He also says that any successful gardener knows when and what to plant. He says it can be as easy as reading the back of your packet of seeds or as complicated as making a spread sheet. Either way, most plants shouldn’t be in the ground until the last frost of the season.
According to the University of Missouri’s climate center, for Springfield the last frost date should be around April 20th.
For KSMU news, I’m Shannon Bowers