Sunday, April 24, 2011

This Week I Will Plant Seeds

How does my raised garden bed grow.
(Photo: RC)
 Growing Food
What better week to plant seeds and get this summer’s crop underway than the week we celebrate Earth Day. Even if the weather is still cold, April has the exciting feeling of spring and new starts. Many plants are blooming where I live and the hills are still green from the winter rain. It’s just beautiful! Unfortunately, my backyard isn’t quite so beautiful, but I’m working on it. I have a vision of what it will be in a couple of months and right now I’m still optimistic. I actually started many of my vegetables in March, so I will be planting a combination of seeds and seedlings. I’m curious to see how the seeds I plant outside compare to what I’ve started indoors. I also already planted cold weather vegetable seeds in my raised bed, which was new for me. Well underway are radishes, turnips and snap peas. I hope we get some good eating from the box, but even if we never get a bite, it looks fantastic. And this week, I’ll keep working on my garden and I will plant soy bean, zucchini and lima bean seeds.
Basil in a Jiffy pot. (Photo: RC)

My garden doesn’t have much of a layout. If there is a spot I can dig and gets some sun, I’m sticking things in the ground. I’ve sprinkled marigold and cilantro seeds (Or was that basil? Oh well, I’ll find out later.) in clay pots, dug a hill to help with drainage for winter squash and mixed great quantities of compost into my heavy clay soil for the tomatoes. This is the first year my son will actually dig a hole where I want it, and he’s been happily digging perfect circles all week. I find I’m moving a lot of soil around to level areas, add amendments and build hills and ditches. It’s really been very good exercise.


Marigolds in peat pots. (Photo: RC)

If your soil isn’t workable yet, just remember that in the summer my dense clay will be so hard you can’t tell dirt clods from rocks. I have to work on it now while I can and you probably have plenty of time. Check the frost dates for your area and seed package instructions to know what to start indoors and what to start outside and when. Many regions will be starting seeds indoors now. It’s also a good idea to decide what plants you want to add to your garden as natural pest deterrents. I always plant marigolds around my veggies to help keep the insects away. This year I learned that planting basil with tomatoes is also effective, so I’m trying that as well.  

The Basics
For indoor use, I use a variety of pots to start my seeds, but my favorites are the ones I make myself. These are just empty yogurt containers with a few holes drilled in the bottom. I stack them to drill and they’re done in seconds. They’re very sturdy and can be reused and recycled. I also like jiffy pellets, which are super easy – and fun to expand. Peat pots and paper cups are okay, but not my personal favorites. They tend to get too soggy to handle easily. Any good potting soil will do – I get what’s on sale. And any non-leaky tray(s) works to put the filled pots on. I saved up clear plastic food containers to use as mini greenhouses. Even soda and milk containers with the tops cut off were great for containing the pots. I never buy more plastic (pots and trays) for gardening anymore.

Then just fill pots with moistened soil. Poke a hole to the depth given by the seed instructions and drop in 2-3 seeds. Push the dirt back into the hole or sprinkle some extra soil to cover the seeds. Water gently and well.

An unused terrarium makes a
great greenhouse. (Photo: RC)

Set all the filled pots into tray(s) to contain drips. Now, you can either set the trays aside and wait, making sure the soil is always moist, or cover with plastic to create a greenhouse. Again, there’s no need to use plastics just for this purpose and throw it away. I used a combination of used dry-cleaner bags on their way to the trash and trash can liners that will be used in garbage cans afterwards.

As soon as sprouts appear, move seedlings to a sunny spot.
Squash seedlings in a milk
container. (Photo: RC)

When seedlings get their first true leaves, use a scissor to cut away all but the strongest seedling in each pot.

After that, it’s pretty much up to you and the weather when you start bringing them outside a few hours a day (hardening off the seedlings)
and transplanting them in your garden.

Above all, have fun. Seeds want to grow. Precision and special equipment are totally unnecessary. And sometimes a little adversity creates the strongest seedlings.

What to plant when

A few seed sources
and, of course, local retail stores

Lots about companion crops

Find Master Gardeners by you – and lots of help, too

“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.
I was so happy to see this visitor while
digging in the garden. (Photo: RC)

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