Friday, May 8, 2009

Papers Out, Pencils Ready

A couple of weeks ago we attended a seed-starting workshop at Genesis, where they showed us how they do things and then let us help with a few tasks. Kate's favorite tool was the pegboard that pops out all the seedlings in a tray at one time; we've got to make one of those for ourselves. No more mangled seed trays!

Gardening is a perpetual learning process for us, an intentional foil to our stubborn goal-oriented personalities. We're trying to train ourselves away from instant gratification and enjoying the journey. Here are a few things we've learned so far this year.

Things we learned on the farm

  • Broadcast tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds in a shallow pan of starting mix rather than planting in individual cells. Then see what sprouts and use a nitpicker to transplant them early to 4.25x4.25" pots.
  • Sow all onions & leeks in soil blocks, 4-6 seeds per block. For onions, allow any plants that sprout to grow and transplant in a clump. For leeks, thin to one plant per block or transfer extras to blocks with no sprouts. For leeks, you want one plant per block.
  • Maybe build a watering station next year--just a free-standing tub with water supply.
  • Save & dry hot peppers and beans by pulling up plants at the end of the season and suspending, then clip and use when completely dry or as needed.
  • Store seeds in a dedicated cool, dark cabinet.

Things we learned on our own
  • Seed-starting shelf system greatly improved results and accelerated growth rate for plants. Onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, lettuce, greens, basil, broccoli, marigold, calendula, eggplants, & peppers were all planted at the right time. New Zealand spinach & tomatoes were planted 3 weeks early.
  • Broccoli grows very rapidly and needs space. Should be started in broadcast fashion like tomatoes, then potted in 3" pots.
  • Soil flats worked great for onions, shallots, scallions, lettuce, & greens. Not so much for broccoli.
  • Definitely expand irrigation.
  • Need cold frames.
  • Hoop houses accelerated season by several weeks & protected against hail. Plants outside hoop house fared much poorer; lettuce is smaller and some was lost, broccoli is still so small it probably won't form heads.
  • Scallions & leeks from last year successfully overwintered. Scallion is going to seed, leek may do the same. No mulch was used; mulch would likely improve results. Same technique should be used for saving carrots, chard seeds.
  • Johnny's seed-starting mix worked outstandingly, with some modifications. The following recipe makes 3 (cat litter) buckets' worth:
  • 2 Buckets ProMix
  • 1 Bucket compost
  • 1 C Greensand
  • 1 C Rock Phosphate or Bone Meal
  • 1 C Blood Meal
  • 1/4 C Lime
  • Try adding 1/2 Bucket bagged topsoil next year as per instructions.
  • Also, buy/build compost tumbler for easy mixing.

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