John Porter visited Baright Public Library Thursday as part of its Lunch and Learn series. Porter is an expert on gardening and is a star on the Backyard Farmer TV show on the Nebraska Public Television network.

John Porter from the Nebraska Public Television show “Backyard Farmer” visited Baright Public Library Thursday as part of the library’s Lunch and Learn series.

Porter gave a presentation on maximizing space for home gardeners.

“Gardening season is upon us,” Porter said.

The first tip was to use the gardening space effectively.

“We want to plant things that we get the most out of,” Porter said. “Whether we get the most production from them or that they don’t take up too much space relative to what they produce.”

He said there are some plants he doesn’t grow in his garden due to the amount of space they take up that could be used for other plants, for example, a zucchini.

Gardeners can also think about their garden in terms of maximizing crop value.

“Whenever we think about growing our own food a lot of us do it to save money,” Porter said.

Fruits like tomatoes and peppers are more valuable in terms or production than potatoes.

He said potatoes are cheap unless you buy specialty potatoes.

“You can buy them much cheaper than you can grow them,” Porter said.

Porter also pointed to the importance of minimizing crop losses.

“When we have a small space that means we can’t grow as much stuff,” Porter said.

“We got to make sure plants are not getting sick or getting eaten by insects.”

An option for gardeners is to till their garden space, but there are pros and cons associated with this method.

The main plus being gardeners that till their ground would not have to build beds, and in turn, have low infrastructure cost.

Porter said tilling a garden can actually create larger areas that gardeners would need to maintain.

“Whenever you till up that soil it makes it easier for weeds to grow so you have to control weeds through the whole area,” Porter said.

“You have to walk on tilled ground to get through the rows which could lead to soil compaction, you can be damaging the soil in the area.”

Porter encourages home gardeners to minimize the tillage of big spaces because they are harder to manage and disrupt the soil structure.

A tip to maximize space is to grow via beds or tall beds.

“If we grow in beds we can grow stuff much closer together so we can maximize the space,” Porter said.

It is also easier to maintain the soil with beds.

“Whenever we have beds, the closer the plants we put together the more they shade the soil and the more the soil is shaded the fewer the weeds germing,” Porter said.

Open beds have an area walkway in between them.

“You are just using some sort of infrastructure to raise the soil up a level,” Porter said.

“It’s a season extension technique if you have soil up on a bed the air temperature around it is warmer and the soil warms up faster and you can actually plant two weeks earlier than normal.”

Porter said to plant things like tomatoes, pepper and cucumbers, it is recommended that gardeners wait until after the last frost date.

He said according to data covering the metro area, the last frost date is when the probability of the temperature being below 32 degrees Fahrenheit is 10%.

Raised garden beds were another topic of discussion.

“We can build them out of anything that is a safe material,” Porter said.

Almost all wood products, including treated lumber and concrete blocks, can be used for material.

Treated lumber used to be coated with arsenic until the late 1990s, at which point the lumber industry switched to treating the wood with copper.

Porter said copper coated lumber does not pose health risk to gardeners and plants last longer due to the treated wood’s resistance to wood rust.

“If you went and got an untreated pine board and made a raised bed out of it, unless you do some sort of treatment to it, it’s only going to last a few years before it starts breaking down,” Porter said.

For more information about gardening tips provided by Porter, tune into “Backyard Farmer” on Nebraska Public Television Network.

The 2020 season of “Backyard Farmer” will premier during the first week of April.

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