Gardening with Doug Trattner at Bay Branch Farm

The farm is a hidden gem in the heart of Cleveland, and its owners have plenty of tips for keeping your crops in top shape.

CLEVELAND – Songbirds are singing, daffodils are popping up and the days are getting longer.

Spring is in the air, and with it comes the urge to get into the garden. While it’s still too early to plant those beloved tomato and pepper plants outdoors, it’s time to consider seeding indoors and planting early season vegetables outdoors. .

To guide us on the subject, we called on our friends at Bay Branch Farm, a remarkable urban farm in the heart of the city. Owners Eric and Annabel Khouri follow organic growing practices on their half-acre property to grow vegetables to sell to chefs and home cooks.

Despite the cool outside temperatures, the climate is downright mild in the greenhouse, where we talked to Annabel about seeds to start indoors versus outdoors. In addition to classic early-season crops like peas and radishes – which are almost always planted outdoors – hardy greens are also ready to sow directly into the ground.

“Spinach, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard — these are great plants that do well early in the season,” Annabel said.

Like any hobby, gardening requires basic equipment to ensure success. To start seeds indoors, you will need a good quality seed starting mix, seed starting containers, a germination mat and sufficient light – natural or artificial.

“These are called cow jars, which are made from cow manure and paper,” Annabel told us. “We really like this pot because it adds nutrients to the plant.”

Plus, she adds, the entire pot can be transplanted directly into the garden, leaving less chance of disturbing delicate roots.

For growing medium in pots, Bay Branch recommends avoiding regular potting soil.

“You want to choose a good soil medium for your peat-based garden center,” Eric said.

Once the tomato and pepper seeds germinate and grow a little, they will be transplanted into larger and larger containers. The process not only gives the roots more room to roam, but it also produces healthier plants.

“We move them into 4-inch or 5-inch pots,” Eric explained. “They will actually be a stronger, healthier plant by transplanting them.”

When it comes time to plant them outside, Eric recommends planting tomatoes deep, demonstrating with a 2-foot plant.

“We’re going to put this one foot in the ground,” he said. “So just one foot sticking out, and you’ll get more soil roots into the stem.”

For those who want a more hands-on look at the whole process, Bay Branch Farm is offering a starter course on Saturday, April 30. (Details here)

Of course, many home gardeners prefer to leave the whole seed-starting process to professionals like Eric and Annabel. Each spring, Bay Branch Farm offers a plant sale, when plants such as tomatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers, and other late spring crops are offered for sale through their website. You can follow the farm’s social media accounts to know when the presale is live, as they are always selling out.

Additionally, many other local growers offer plants for sale, including at most local farmers’ markets. No matter where you decide to shop, the Khouris say to resist the urge to buy and plant those tender, heat-loving vegetables like tomatoes and peppers too soon, and ignore the age-old convention that it’s okay to plant after Mother’s Day and wait for the weather. really and truly is heating up for good. Your plants will thank you in the form of bountiful harvests.

“We’re aiming to sell our housing starts in late May or early June,” Eric said.

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