Spring gardening tips from
Jessamine County experts
Tim Vetters of Clover Hilltop Farm has been running his own greenhouse for seven years, along with the help of his family.
Vetters has a number of tips for those hoping to start their own garden.
“Study and learn about the appropriate times to start your plants outside,” Vetters said “Some plants, like tomatoes and peppers, should not be planted until after the chance of frost is past. Usually the first week of May is safe but they will get a better start if the ground is even warmer.
“Mid- to late-May is a great time to plant these warm-loving plants. Cool weather crops such as cabbage, kale and broccoli should be planted earlier. They can survive a frost and will grow better when it is cool. They will also have fewer insect pests than in the heat of the summer.”
Vetters said to avoid the possibly harsh weather, his family has built their own greenhouse to keep their plants. He said their greenhouse is made from plastic stretched over a metal frame where the plants sit inside and grow on benches. The seeds are planted into trays and are moved to a larger container after they begin to sprout leaves. The greenhouse is used to protect young plants and crops from harsh environments until they are mature enough to survive outside a protected area.
“Greenhouses become very hot when the sun is out and cool down quickly at night,” Vetters said. “There are vents and fans to keep it cool when the sun gets too hot. Instead of heating the whole structure, we heat just under the plants and keep them covered on cold nights. This saves energy and allows us to keep heating expenses down.”
Vetters said the best time to plant always depends on the plant itself. Certain weather conditions affect plants differently.
“We start growing plants in February and continue to start new plants through June,” Vetters said. “While plants are growing, they need to be checked on, monitored and watered daily.”
Vetters built the greenhouse and he maintains the plants during the growing seasons with help from his wife, Diane, and his son, Nathanael.
Once the plants are mature enough, they are transported to “high tunnels,” Vetters said.
“High tunnels are unheated, covered structures that allow us to produce vegetables earlier in the spring and later in the fall. They also keep the rain off of the leaves to help prevent diseases such as early blight on tomato plants,” Vetters said. “We do succession planting, which means we plant new plants of the same type at intervals throughout the season. This gives us a more steady supply of vegetables.”
Vetters said he primarily grows variations of vegetables and herbs, which are then sold at the Wilmore and Nicholasville farmers markets. The Nicholasville Farmers Market starts the last Saturday in April, and the Wilmore Farmers Market starts the first Saturday in May. Both continue through the summer until the last Saturday of October.
Vetters said they grow a wide variety of vegetables to offer at the farmers markets, so there is always something new to try.
“One of the most important things about learning to grow a garden or when trying out new varieties of plants is to not get discouraged when things don’t go well,” Vetters said. “I always give new varieties of vegetables a two- to three-year trial before I decide if it will be a regular variety that I want to grow.
“Kentucky can be a difficult and challenging place to grow vegetables because we seem to never have the same weather from year to year. It can be hot and dry or cool and wet in different years. Also, insect pests are worse some years than others. Over time, you learn strategies to deal with these challenging conditions. It is very rewarding to overcome the challenges and eat your own fresh food from the garden produce.”