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Growing A Better Garden

Farmers Market growers learned some advanced techniques forsmart gardening Tuesday morning during a trip to a fellow grower’sfarm.

Former Mississippi State Extension Service James Richmond took agroup of growers through his own gardening process Tuesday, showingthem the advantages of drip irrigation, growing on plastic, andhigh tunnels.

High tunnels, he told them, are something like a greenhouse,except that they’re not heated.

“Most of them are in a lot bigger building than what I have,” hesaid. “Most people have them growing over the field. When they’reready to use those things, normally put the ends of the plastic inthe ground when there’s danger of freezing.”

The high tunnels help extend a growing season, said LincolnCounty MSU Extension Service Director Rebecca Bates.

“It’s used to get your crop to grow earlier and keep goinglonger,” she said. “You can start your fall crop in here and it’llgrow into the winter, so you’ll have your lettuce, carrots, andseveral other winter crops longer.”

In addition, Richmond said, growers can start their spring cropsearlier since the high tunnel will keep the elements off theplants.

The group also learned about using drip irrigation, which uses asystem of thin plastic piping to distribute water more directly tocrops than a sprinkler would.

“It allows you to water your crop without using as much water asbefore,” he said. “Let’s put it this way, the tomatoes we wereworking with, when that tomato plant gets in full production, it’lluse about a gallon a day per plant. We can put that much waterright where it’s needed with drip tape, rather than wasting allthat water with a sprinkler.”

And the perks of growing on plastic were also discussed, withRichmond showing the growers how to help with weed control and keepthe moisture in the soil for the plants.

“In the early spring you use the black plastic because it drawsthe heat and keeps the soil warm, and in the spring and summer youuse the white plastic because it reflects it,” he said.

Meanwhile the farmers market crowd considered that they’d had aproductive day when the tour was over.

“I just want to pick everything,” said Oree Walker, especiallyeyeing the okra. “I like to pick things.”

And they exchanged ideas of their own, too.

“When I pick okra I put socks on my arms to protect them,”Walker said.

Richmond said he thought the gathering on his land was adefinite success.

“I think everyone enjoyed the day and most everyone learnedsomething. You see things you might could put into practice, andyou learn from others as to what things they’re doing and whatmight help you,” he said. “I enjoyed having the growers out here,and I think everyone enjoyed seeing what we were doing outhere.”