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  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section

It was March 2020. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic were becoming apparent. It looked like the world was going to be in for an uncertain and possibly painful spring and summer – if not longer.

“It really had me doing some soul-searching,” says Steve Reiners, professor of horticulture and chair of the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “I wondered, what could I do to help make life a little bit better for all the frustrated people out there trying to navigate their way through this terrible pandemic?  It’s easy to forget that some people feared we may be facing food shortages.”

Then it came to him: He could share his vegetable-growing expertise through a weekly column to help them grow their own vegetables.

“It was one of the best things people could do to get outside in the fresh air on a regular basis and take a break from the news and social media,” says Reiners. "Research shows spending time in nature relieves stress and anxiety, improves your mood, and boosts feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

“Plus with gardening, you get some really great fresh vegetables,” he adds.

Meet Steve

Gardens for all

Reiners enjoys working with gardeners of all ages and skill levels. “While I write the column with an eye toward ensuring that newcomers succeed in their first gardening ventures, I also include information that will help experienced vegetable gardeners sharpen their skills,” he says.

steve with young gardeners

As we ease back out of isolation this season, those gardening benefits are just as important, says Reiners, who is uniquely qualified to spread the good news about gardening.  While his primary research and outreach focus supports commercial farmers who grow sweet corn, peas, beans and other vegetables for the processing industry, he also teaches a course on organic gardening and works with Master Gardener Volunteers and school gardening programs – and is an avid gardener himself.

“While I write the column with an eye toward ensuring that newcomers succeed in their first gardening ventures, I also include information that will help experienced vegetable gardeners sharpen their skills,” says Reiners.

“With gardening, timing is everything.  So I try to focus each column on what you should be thinking about or doing now,” he adds.  That means planning and garden preparation early on, what to plant and when as the weather warms, and how to maintain a healthy garden and bountiful harvest as the season progresses.

Gardening topics

Growing in vegetables in containers

No room for a garden? No problem.  Reiners tells you how to grow great vegetables and herbs in containers.

Right: Demonstration of how to combine vegetables, herbs and ornamentals in container plantings that are both good-looking and good-tasting at Cornell’s Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility.

The following slides will fill you in on the how-to topics Reiners has covered already this season.

Gardening topics

Choosing the tastiest tomatoes

Reiners explains how to pick the best varieties to grow based not just on tasty, but also on other key characteristics such as plant type and disease resistance.

Gardening topics

Soil and composting

The key to a good garden is healthy soil. Reiners reveals the secrets to improving your soil, and how to make compost to recycle organic matter and improve soil health.

Gardening topics

Getting started

New to gardening? Reiners goes over the basics of how to choose which vegetables to grow and how to decide which are best to direct seed and which are best to start indoors.

group looking at container demo
cherry ember tomatoes
handful of healthy soil
transplants growing under lights

Reiners also invites questions from gardeners that he sometimes answers in his columns, which are archived on the Horticulture Section’s website, and he highlights resources available on the Cornell Garden-Based Learning website.

You can view all of Steve's articles here as well as peruse archived articles from 2020.

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