Solarization Plain and Simple

Still some random weeds in there. The "pile" will be used as top dressing for another composted bed.

Still some random weeds in there. The "pile" will be used as top dressing for another composted bed.

 

    First of all, let’s get some requirements listed. Food, light, moisture, soil. Basically, that’s it. Anything will germinate or hatch. Maybe not healthy, but we don’t care for now.

    Now, we need to introduce those to your late February garden. We are gaining daylight nicely at this time. Almost 1-1/2 hrs. Soil temps are going to climb slowly, but then it will heat up nicely. Time to hurry it up a bit. You will need some basic items. A garden hose, enough clear plastic to cover your garden space, a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 or so, and a garden rake.  Time to get dirty.

    First you will need to pull out most of your weeds. I rake out what I can, but I don’t worry about getting all of it. I won’t break a sweat.  Next you will need to kind of get it evened out and neat. Then spread some of your fertilizer lightly around the whole plot. Sometimes I will put down about 1-1/2 inch of manure instead, mostly just enough so I can’t see the old soil. Now water it pretty good. A nice sheen on the top should be sufficient. Last thing, pull your plastic over the entire bed, lag it down with some timbers, bricks, sod staples, or whatever you have. It needs to remind you of a shallow terrarium when your done. For million dollar veggies this season, do this right.

clean-enough-to-solarize

Clean enough.

   In a few weeks you will see things happening. Volunteers will germinate, weeds will spread, and bugs will hatch. That’s great! You did it… You are gardening! Now comes the really satisfying part. In late March (watch the weather now, that’s my disclaimer) the weather folks always post frost or late freeze warnings for covering your tender plants. You want to go out that afternoon, pull off the plastic, and let ol Jack Frost burn the heck out of everything, Bugs will die, plants will fry. In a few days, you will see the nice browned out everything in the beds. Rake it out, prep, you will be transplanting soon afterward.  (Just a note, if you are gonna use cloches, start saving your empty 2 liters and gallon milk jugs. We’ll talk later). If you are gonna row cover, save the plastic for later.

   For the Black plastic comments I know I’m going to get, wait a sec. Clear will allow the sunlight in to promote germination, photosynthesis, etc. Black plastic is great for over heating plant life, and starving it for light. Killing off a grass section for a new bed for example. Lay black plastic on it in late June or July and wham! It’s dead, but the seed is still there.

   It’s late February, and here in Richmond people are buying up the Pre-emergents like mad because of the warm spell last week. You will see things sprout where they don’t belong, Gnat storms and other bugs, weeds that weren’t there yesterday. It snowed here yesterday and they are calling for it again Saturday night along with 20 degree lows… Wow, Ma Nature is doing her own solarization. Watch and learn. The new bugs will die, and most of those weeds will burn. Don’t jump the gun…. Forsythia!

   Get dirty this week-end. If you don’t know how, get a Coach, we’ll show you how.

Advertisements

Seed Starting in Richmond

Seed Starting in Richmond is a timing issue to most. Some have great assets such as a South facing window, or even a small Green House. Those who don’t, here goes.

Start by doing some simple math. See the “Emergence Time” on your seed packets? Add 40 days to that, and then think about our Zone. We are in 7A here. April 15th is our last “Killing Frost” approximate date. That means that we should be able to plant seedlings out without getting bit by frost. Now, back to the math. Subtract 40 days from April 15th, add the emergence date on the packet of seeds, and settle on an about time to seed. I am “kindofagambler”, so I usually start when I’m ready for change. Which will be verrry soon. Just like seeing the little guys coming up, and I’m not afraid to cover them up when the forecast is going to turn bad. Later issue.

Now, there are several ways to start your garden. Seed starter kits can be store bought as a kit, replicated with egg cartons, empty plant flats, pudding cups, deli tray platters, etc. I like to re-use what I find. (Sorta lessening my carbon footprint). Make your own mind, but hurry, It’s almost time.

Seed starting mixes are done to death. I use what Ma Nature hands me. You can use the soiless seed mixes to get started if you need to. There is no “dirt” in them, mostly peat. You shouldn’t feed when seeding anyway. Feed after leafing. The thing to remember is this, “Don’t plant so early as to get your little guys in a root bound situation before its time to transplant, or they will die.. Just plain die”. Do the aforementioned math and you will be hooked forever!

OK. Lets go.

Get your seeds, growing medium, containers, labeling ID stakes, location or growing get up, and patience. Seed to soil contact, water, sunlight. Thats it. Simple? You betcha. There are a lot of ways to copy Ma, but you need to remember, it is doable. Some prefer to make a “Grow Box” using a tote, PVC pipe, and a plant light. That’s great for the North facing folks. The rest can use a narrow flat in a window sill to get results.

The planting instructions on the packet are there to get you growing. The seed companies have spent a lot of time playing with the formulas to get you eating veggies in your own gardens. Pay attention to them. Emergence, moisture, sunlight, depth, etc. Its all on the packet. Not a bad deal to get baskets of fresh veggies all Summer for $1.69 or so. Go ahead, get dirty.

Now that the “simple” part is done, let’s get a little more physically drained. Where are you going to plant your seedlings later? In about 3 weeks it will be time to tend to your garden plot. We will address that then, but now, you need to decide. Pots, tilled bed, raised bed, naturalized, etc. Where is the room coming from. The average size family of 6 can eat comfortably from a 20×15 plot for about 8 months or more. Holy cow! And that’s without chickens! I have seen a lot of folks with10, cheap, 18″ pots with the craziest stuff growing from them, ALL year. Come on, get dirty. Small plots going vertical, balconies lush with plants, and even water gardens supporting tomatoes!

Yeah…. Its time.. Put a seed in the soil, it will grow, you will eat, you will share with your neighbors, they will return the favor and the flavor, you will cook, you will learn, You WILL be hooked!! You will save money, and Ma Nature will be proud…. Get Dirty!

Garden Coaches are out there waiting for your decision. Call one or e-mail one (Kevinthegarden@verizon.net) for example.. We’ll grt you dirty!