Growing on Plastic

Example of Melons on Plastic Mulch

A very popular way of growing vegetables commercially today is in a plastic mulch.  Sometimes called IRT for InfraRed Transmitting, it is a thin plastic which allows light through and it wide enough to to spread over a standard 6-foot bed.  Maybe you’ve seen this.  

In our climate plastic mulches are used not only because you don’t have to worry about weeds, but, more importantly in my mind, they warm up the soil, and, hence, speed up the growth of plants.  In an area with a really short growing season, this is pretty important, especially with heat-loving crops like melons.  For me, however, I always “had it in” for plastic mulches because there is no way currently of recycling or re-using it; the plastic always ends up being a messy pile of muddy slop each fall which just needs to be thrown away.  That’s why I haven’t use the stuff for the past 5 years.  But this year I ended up planting some melon seeds really late and decided to use some plastic mulch because I was afraid they would never mature.  Compared to the plants that went in the ground three weeks earlier, it’s no contest.  The ones in the plastic mulch have about 5-foot vines which are now flowering and they others are sitting there only about twice as big as the day I planted them.  A lot of this is still a symptom of the cool and wet spring, but I may just have to change my mind and accept the plastic in my life as a necessary evil to do melons and get them in the box that much earlier.  
In the box: 
Zucchini
Snap Peas: Edible pods, so don’t shell them. 
Grenoble Green Beans
Green Cabbage: See recipe below.
Spring Onions: Hard to believe I’m using the term ‘spring’ in middle July. 
A Kohlrabi: If you haven’t dealt with before, the most common thing is simply to peel, slice and eat as a little appetizer before supper – that’s how we do kohlrabi. Also the greens can be used in stir fry.
A Sprig of Fresh Basil 
Broccoli
Small bag of Salad Mix
We often make roasted cabbage in the oven at a high temp when it is cool in the fall. For summer, if you’re already firing up the grill, why not throw the cabbage on too?
Grilled Cabbage 
Taken from The St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook
1 small head green cabbage
2-4 T. butter
seasoned salt
Aluminum foil, heavy duty
Preheat grill.  Cut cabbage into 8 wedges.  Place a cabbage wedge on a 12 in. square piece of foil.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with seasoned salt.  Fold in edges of foil to seal.  Repeat with remaining wedges. Cook for 20-30 minutes, turning severeal times, until tender.

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