Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Spring is here and many of us are stating to think about our yards and gardens. If you can’t wait to start planting your vegetable garden, here are some guidelines about when to plant certain crops.

Generally, when it comes to their sensitivity to cold temperatures, vegetables fit into one of four groups: very cold hardy, semi-hardy, semi-tender and very tender.

Very hardy = Tolerate temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit

Semi-hardy = 28-32 degrees

Semi-tender = Temperatures down to 32 or just above

Very tender = Don’t even show them a picture of freezing temperatures.

Since most of Utah will still see many more nights with overnight temperatures in the 20s, today’s post will focus on the very hardy and semi-hardy crops for your vegetable garden. A later spring post will focus on the tender plants.

 

Very cold hardy veggies and herbs:

 

 

Garlic: The green stems of garlic are among the first things to emerge in late winter or early spring, as you can see in the photo to the left. Heavy spring snow and very cold temperatures do not impact the bulbs underground. The cold only slows growth above ground. The bad news about garlic? In order to have nice large bulbs later this summer you should have planted last fall.

 

Arugula: This peppery green has a fun name to say and it is super cold hardy. A member of the mustard family, arugula will over winter in some places, but it certainly can be planted in spring as soon as the ground is workable. Like most cold hardy greens, arugula will bolt, or go to seed when it gets hot, but unlike many of the others, it will grow well in heat if planted later when it’s hot.

 

Beets: Like arugula, beets do well in cold or warm conditions. Staggered planting every couple of weeks throughout the growing season will ensure a consistent supply of these sweet treats. Bonus: young beet greens can be harvested when very young to be used in salad or when they are a little larger they are great cooked.

 

Peas: As soon as you can work the ground you can plant peas. One drawback to planting when the ground is too cold is the number of days until germination goes way up. If your soil temperature is below 40 degrees and you expect a lot of cold, wet weather it may take a few weeks for your peas to germinate. Pea seeds can rot in the ground, but that usually isn’t an issue here in the arid West.

 

Cabbage: Cabbage can withstand temperature down to 15-20 degrees. Plant when ready.

 

Carrots: Carrots are also great in cold temperatures, but they don’t germinate well in very cold soils. Many gardeners will plant in fall for a spring crop and cover the crops with row covers, straw or other mulch to overwinter the plants. For best results in spring, hold off planting until the soil warms to around 45-50. Even then it can take 2-3 weeks for carrots to germinate.

 

Cauliflower: Cauliflower can handle temperatures down to 10. Plant as soon as you can work the ground.

 

Collards: Collards are even more cold hardy than cauliflower and fairly heat tolerant. If you have never grown them they are pretty easy to grow and very prolific. Give this Southern treat a try.

 

Onions and green onions: Onions and green onions are another crop that can be planted in the fall and overwintered for an early spring harvest, or planted in spring as early as the ground can be worked. Green onions are a shorter duration crop. Consider stagger planting them well into late spring and start again in late summer for a fall crop.

 

Parsnips: These root vegetables are very cold hardy and they take a long time to grow. Get them in as soon as possible.

 

Radishes: Radishes are wonderful in spring salads and one of the shortest duration crops around, often 25-30 days. Plant early and often if you like these spicy orbs. If a traditional cherry belle type or red round radish is too hot for your tastes, try a variety like French Breakfast. They are cylinder shape, red and white in color and very mild.

 

Spinach: Plant as early as you can. Most spinach varieties do not do well in heat.

 

Swiss Chard: Swiss chard is another crop that likes cold and tolerates heat.

 

Kale: Kale does very well in temperatures down to about 20 degrees and, like Swiss chard and collards, will tolerate heat.

 

Semi-cold hardy crops (28-32 degrees):

 

Lettuce: Whether you prefer a spring mix type of baby loose leaf greens or head lettuces are more your speed, plant when temperatures in your area average 28 and above overnight.

 

Broccoli: Broccoli is good down to 28 but it is a gamble below that temperature. You may want to wait a while, but if you live in the lower elevation valleys where it tends to get fairly hot by mid-June, don’t wait too long to plant. Broccoli will bolt or get bitter tasting if it gets too hot for too long before harvest.

 

Celery: Celery only tolerates light frost. Wait a while to plant, but it is worth the wait. Utah has a great climate for these green stalks.

 

Rutabagas: This old time crop is making a comeback. Like many of the cold season crops, its taste actually improves when exposed to light frost, but it doesn’t abide heavy frosts.

 

Turnips: They could technically be in either the very cold hardy category or this one. The thing about turnips is they taste better when they finish maturing in warm weather, so think of them as semi-cold hardy and hold off just a while before planting.

Nutritionist Page Westover and her entrepreneurial husband, Brian, wanted several things as parents to their four children: self-sufficiency, a slower lifestyle and to preserve the remaining three acres of Pleasant Grove farm her grandfather Boyd “Snuck” Fugal had worked his entire life.

Since Snuck’s passing most of it had been sold off and is now housing, but to Page, the last of it represented a history she didn’t want to let go.

Another farm would be great but it wasn’t big enough for that anymore… or was it?

In 2015 she and Brian made a bold move. With the last of the family’s land, they re-opened it to farming. But this time, Snuck Farm as it is now called, did things a little different than her grandfather, embracing the fascinating and emerging world of hydroponics farming.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in water. Held together by a simple foam base, the plants are grown side-by-side in long PVC rain-gutter-like systems fed by a steady trickle of water that gets recycled.

This may sound space age, but it’s actually been around for a century. The commercial element, however, is still fairly new and growing quickly. Within the last 20-30 years, many commercial hydroponic farms have been popping up. Along with saving space and efficient use of water resources, the Snuck hydroponic greenhouse is producing fresh produce year-round.

Page loves the challenge and has learned a lot, she says, about their budding trial-and-error farming operation.

“This past year has been the first year where the farm has broken even,” she says proudly. And she should be proud, the family and their dozen or so employees are feeding thousands of Utahn’s fresh, locally-grown produce when the temperatures outside are below freezing.

Along with individual weekly CSA-like subscriptions, Snuck’s has secured contracts with restaurants and corporate cafeterias cropping up from the nearby Silicon Slopes offices. Prior to the efforts of the Westovers, much of that food had to be shipped in from out of state and even out of the country.

But wait, there’s more. The family also sells fresh eggs from their 100 chickens, flowers aplenty, partners with Abigail’s Oven for bread, milk, honey, and yogurt, and is building a fresh produce stand that will open this summer.

Education is also important to the Westovers so they built a 30-seat classroom where they organize workshops on beekeeping, raising chickens, flower arranging, and nutrition and food preparation. The emphasis is on sustainable community-based food production and industrious ideas about life and food.

 “Our mission is to produce the freshest, highest quality food in the local marketplace. That’s really what Snuck Farms is all about,” Page said.

 

Rick Bieber has been raising eyebrows for many years and last week lifted a few more at the Soil Health Workshop series, sponsored by UDAF and USDA and held in Logan, Spanish Fork, and Richfield.

A fourth-generation South Dakota farmer, Bieber uses no-tilling, diverse cover crops and livestock to cycle nutrients and keep living roots in the soil as much as possible. He’s a big believer in working with Mother Nature to maximize productivity for his land.

Bieber sites One-Straw Revolution author Masanobu Fukuoka saying, “To believe that by research and invention humanity can create something better than nature is an illusion.”

But he begged attendees to not take his word for it and cited numerous examples where he has achieved much higher yields than area averages. His farm grows, on 16 inches of annual rainfall, more than 5000 acres of cash crops that include wheat, sunflowers, corn, alfalfa, peas and linseed. 

Bieber also insists his results are repeatable and is frequently called on to coach farmers all over United States and world, including Russia and Australia, to share his best practices.

“Adapting good soil management principles to your unique region is important. It requires a commitment to learning and experimenting,” said Bieber. “But I hear it all the time that ‘it won’t work here’ and that simply is not true.”

The Workshop also featured several other soil experts and modern farming techniques that lead to enhanced carbon sequestration which increases water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat, and better yields and profits.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control opened its first new liquor store in nearly two years on Monday March 11, 2019. The store is unique in design and energy efficiency, but it is also only the second store to feature a Utah's Own section, and it is by far the largest local products section in any Utah State Liquor Store.

“We are very happy to see local products from Utah breweries, wineries and distilleries so prominently displayed in the new store,” said LuAnn Adams, Commissioner, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

 

The partnership between the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is a result of the work of the Utah’s Own program and the recent growth in the number of Utah companies making beer, wine and spirits in Utah.

 

“The DABC has exceeded our expectations in promoting our Utah's Own members in the new Syracuse store. We look forward to a successful relationship with DABC in growing our local distillery, brewery, and winery companies,” said Laurie Seron, Utah’s Own Program Director, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

 

As patrons first walk into the new store they will be greeted by a large Utah’s Own sign and two four-sided displays. One has beer and wine, while the other display has spirits. The Utah’s Own section will feature products from several local companies, including Beehive Distillery, Dented Brick Distillery and Epic Brewing Company.

Located in Syracuse at 865 W. Antelope Drive, the new 13,600-square-foot store — which cost $5.4 million to build — is among the largest in the state, explained Cade Meier, deputy director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It is expected to take pressure off busy liquor stores in Layton and Roy.

 

The building is equipped with high-efficiency heating and plumbing, along with skylights to reduce the amount of lighting needed for the store.

Included in the building’s design is a large pillar used for the store’s signage. Architects placed the wall in such a way that it blocks direct light from sunsets, preventing customers and merchandise from the bright light.

At this point Meier says the local products will only be located in the Utah's Own section. If people are used to finding their favorite local vodka among all the rest of the vodka products, they will be disappointed. However, DABC representatives are confident the front and center display will attract people and that they will find the local products they seek. DABC will track Utah's Own sales to see if they are keeping pace with local product sales in other stores that do a similar overall volume of sales. The plan is to build Utah's Own sections into all new and renovated liquor stores as possible. The next store to open will be in Herriman.

Below is a reprinting of the Governor's Office of Budget and Management's recent SUCCESS Stories Newsletter article about the successful inspector employee retention strategies in the food safety programs of UDAF's Regulatory Services Division.

 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SUCCESS STORY

 SUCCESS STORIES

Goal of the Food Safety Inspection System

Ensure the safety and integrity of food products available to Utah consumers.

Strategies

Over the last several years, the Department of Agriculture and Food’s (UDAF) high turnover of inspection employees presented a significant challenge to achieving its goal. The turnover made it difficult to keep up with the growing demand for inspections and the increase in inspection complexity. Well-trained inspectors are a necessity to ensure consistent follow up and enforcement and to reduce food product risk for consumers.

The turnover rate for the department’s inspection staff averaged about 50 percent over the past two years. This led to significant training costs and reduced productivity.

Inspectors are not allowed by the FDA to perform a food safety inspection until they have successfully completed multiple, very specific training requirements. The list below illustrates the costs to fully train a new inspector:

  • $96,000 to train an environmental health scientist – inspects grocery stores, food manufacturing facilities and dairies
  • $52,000 to train a compliance specialist – inspects seed, feed, fertilizers, organics, good agricultural practices, hay, nurseries, bees, fruits and vegetables and Food Safety Modernization Act compliance
  • $81,000 to train a meat inspector – physically on site at harvesting facilities as animals are slaughtered

To meet these challenges, UDAF established a compensation system where inspectors that successfully complete additional training and develop the expertise to complete more inspections are eligible for promotion. By providing opportunities for growth and increased compensation, the department anticipated that turnover rates would decrease significantly.

Tactics and Process Changes

  • Value based compensation plan
  • Job classification review
  • Employee performance plan training and improvement

By applying the tools and concepts of the SUCCESS Framework, UDAF quickly identified that job descriptions for inspection staff were so generic that anyone could have performed the job required.  Because of this, the job was undervalued by the DHRM classification system and salaries were kept extremely low. UDAF reviewed existing job descriptions with inspection staff, program managers and DHRM to better match the descriptions with the specific training, technical requirements and special certifications required for the job. This led to reclassification of positions into wage areas that provided opportunities for advancement and compensation increases.

UDAF also modified program manager expectations and now requires a quarterly performance management review with employees. This review includes a discussion about where employees are in the value-based compensation system. These changes allow employees to have a constant reminder of what is expected to be successful and what advancement opportunities are available.

Results

The Department of Agriculture and Food still experiences natural turnover; however, the chronic turnover rates have decreased significantly. As a result, UDAF found the hidden capacity to reduce inspector training costs and increase food safety for Utah consumers all with existing resources.