Week 3: May 20-25 – Planting, a Potluck, and Plenty of Rain


  • How to read seed packets
  • Crop rotations
  • Thinning plants
  • Planting potatoes

Summary of the Week:

  • Lessons and discussions on:
    • Reading seed packets
    • The importance of rotating crops
    • How to plant potatoes
    • Our peas are popping up
    • Planted:
      • Potatoes
      • Leeks
      • Radishes
      • Held our first potluck

On Monday, we began Week 3 by learning about various topics related to seeds and why rotating your crops is important to the maintenance and wellbeing of soil. Taking some time to look at several different seed packets, we learned that the packets provide almost all of the information you need to start your plants or vegetables. The packets offer guidance on when to plant, how deep to plant, how far apart to plant, and often how many days to harvest or maturity. While some plants have a short length of time until they are ready to be harvested, others will need a longer time in the ground, which is important to keep in mind when planting in Northern Vermont, where the season is shorter than in warmer climates. While the seed packets are a great source of information when starting your plants, looking at the seed itself can also be helpful. Depending on the size of the seed, you can determine how deep or shallow to plant and how much energy the seed is able to store.

Another key aspect of gardening is crop rotation. Crop rotation is necessary to avoid disease, maintain soil, and prevent the soil from becoming depleted. To ensure you are rotating your crops properly, divide the plants into families. This will help you sustain healthy soil and prevent diseases from overcoming your garden. An example we learned about in class was the brassica group, which includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Once your seeds have taken root and begin to grow above the surface, it is often time to begin thinning your plants. We frequently plant more seeds than needed to ensure enough survive to harvest, which also forces us to thin our plants when they are young to prevent competition between the roots for nutrients. Thinning allows the roots to gain enough nutrients and leads to a healthy harvest.

Planting the radishes for our thinning experiment.
Planting the radishes for our thinning experiment.

After learning more about the importance of soil health and how to follow seed packet directions, it was time to plant some potatoes. We learned how to plant potato tubers, which are a little different than seeds. The tubers are left over from the previous season and are able to store the nutrients to reproduce during the next planting season. Before planting, you split the tuber and make sure that there is at least one good eye in each part you are splitting. The eyes look like sprouts that grow off of the tuber. We began planting the potatoes by digging two trenches about 6 to 8 inches deep and planted the tubers about 8 inches apart. Once the rows were full we added lots of soil back on top to ensure that there was more than enough soil for the potatoes to grow. The potatoes will be ready for harvesting in about 70 to 80 days or by the middle of the summer.

Splitting the tubers before planting.
Splitting the tubers before planting.
Preparing the trenches for potatoes.
Preparing the trenches for potatoes.
Planting the potatoes.
Planting the potatoes.

After planting potatoes we also had time to start some leeks and radishes. We transplanted the leeks from pots and ensured that the leeks were separated into individuals and planted a shared row. Along with the newly planted leeks, we started a thinning experiment with two rows of radishes. When the radishes begin to grow above the soil we will thin one row while leaving the other overcrowded to take a look at the difference thinning can make for healthy plants and a successful harvest.

The leeks before being transplanted into our garden bed.
The radishes.
The radishes for planting.

After heavy rain and thunder, which cancelled Wednesday’s class, it was time for our first potluck of the season. On Thursday, members from both classes and Vermont Community Garden Network staff met for delicious food, lots of rhubarb treats, and even some stories of the Tommy Thompson Community Garden. Ann, the Administrative Assistant at the Vermont Community Garden Network, had a plot at the Tommy Thompson site, where we now meet, for 12 years and shared some photos and stories of the garden and how it has changed over the years. The potluck was a success and we ended just in time for another thunderstorm to make its way over Burlington.

Enjoying the delicious food at the potluck.
Jessie's beautiful sign for the new Community Teaching Garden site at Tommy Thompson.
Jessie’s newly placed sign for the new Community Teaching Garden site at Tommy Thompson.

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