Seed Starting Time

Seed Starting Time!!
Yes, It’s that time again. Days are getting longer, Seed Catalogs are in the mail, and we are, OFF!! Only a few short months, and we are in the ground, and there are some chores to do beforehand outside, but for now, we shall grow, something.
Racking, table top, pantries, under the stairs, in front of the window, doesn’t matter where, it’s time start looking for that out-of-the-way spot. There are several options, several methods, and the seed catalogs are in the mail. Some of you already have your first shipments. Some are “Old Hat”, others, “new-at-it”. Let’s talk basics.
First is where. Finding that “spot” that is out of the way, not near a cold entry, and not under a heat vent. Somewhere that is a constant temperature above 54 degrees. Seems chilly but it will work. If you know Forsythia, it blooms when the soil temperature is 54 degrees at 4 inches for 5 days, and we have gained 2 hours of daylight. Most germination occurs soon after. I have my main rack in the laundry room. 4 shelves, 2 light fixtures. Plenty of room. As I do laundry, I tend to the seedlings. I have seen nice set ups in an unused pantry as well. The “Pantry Thing” usually works great with the Apartment Folks, or in a big front window or patio doors. Just make sure to turn them weekly.
What to use to start the seedlings. Egg cartons, plastic salad containers, newspaper cups, toilet paper tubes, old plant flats, bottoms of milk or soda bottles, store bought starter flats. As long as it fits under the lighting fixture and holds soil or dryer lint… Also, how do you sow the seeds? I save empty spice shakers. They all have different sized holes, and there are different sized seeds. I get the flats ready, put the seeds in the shaker, and “season” the flats. So much easier to shake and sift.

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Next, lets chat about proper lighting. My fixtures are 2 gang, 4 foot florescent fixtures. I never use high dollar “Grow Lights”. I have  one Cool White and one Daylight bulb in each. With that combo, you will get the color spectrum of light from reds and oranges for germination to the blues for leaf production through photosynthesis as they emerge. And way cheaper. They are on a timer, 8 hours on 16 off per cycle, 2 inches above the seed flats. As they grow, I raise the lighting fixtures. Remember, if you only have a window area, make sure to turn the flats weekly 180 degrees, they will be doing that “lean to the light” thing, making them leggy. Notice the difference in color in the bulbs below? This tabletop rig is about $7.00 in PVC pipe and the light fixture is around $17.00 including bulbs. No need to glue it together so it can be easily disassembled for storage.

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1979500_292175280932085_201411916_n    This is a FREE rack from a store I found that I currently use.

Always a question from my readers is “What soil?” Here’s the deal about germination. No Potting Mix. No NPK. Just about any seedling, as it emerges from the seed, produces 2 leaves, which are not “true leaves” but seeking light to perform photosynthesis. The root does not want any food yet, not until 3 to 4 leaves emerge, that’s when they are forming feeder roots. I have used straight Peat Moss in the past, but in the last 4 years, I save all my dryer lint in coffee cans, and use last seasons seeds to start. That equals FREE… As the seedlings get those 3 to 4 leaves, then I feed with home made Manure Tea that I start “steeping” when I see mostly 2 leaves. And I always feed from the bottom, so the nutrient is wicked up through the dryer lint, and the roots have to go deeper to get to it. I make my plants work for it!! More root, more bloom! Below is a comparison between a starter soil and dryer lint.

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Insects and fungus. Always a particular when starting seeds indoors. One of the things I always do is spray home made Insecticidal Soap in the starter medium for Fungus Gnats. I have also used a Bt solution as a topical spray if needed. To alleviate fungus conditions, a small fan about 5 feet away on low will help there. If you are using those Seed Starter Greenhouse kits, a pencil under one corner of the lid helps greatly for ventilation, or even a small fan.
The first seeds you want to start indoors are Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Lavender and Onions. They take the longest. Most packet seed has that “Emergent” chart on the back. For example, if it takes 3 weeks to germinate, add 3 weeks to that, and then subtract that time from your last “Killing Frost Date” in your zone. That’s when you would start indoors. This time frame will give you a week to 10 days in the end to get them hardened off before planting. Hardening off is not only to get them climate adjusted, but also natural sunlight adjusted. This goes for your Perennials as well.
Forcing bulbs and late Winter cuttings is always a fun time. Hyacinth and Paperwhites, Forsythia, Dogwood, Japonica Camelias, Azalea, give gardeners the “illusion” that Spring is coming. Winter has a bit to go yet, but my vases and grow racks tell me otherwise. When my Forsythia pops indoors, seed racks are planted.

Simple enough. Next month we will cover the “emergence of the seedlings”, and more info on the care after you see them, then the fun begins.

 

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March and a “Gardenistic” Approach to “Gardenology”

How Many Times Does It Take?

So it’s March. In about 4 days, we will see two more hours of daylight, we will turn our clocks back, we will see Forsythia soon bloom, and we have made our plans for the upcoming garden season. We’ve cleaned our tools, started seeds indoors, shoveled enough snow exhausting ourselves into oblivion. Ran out of projects for “snow day kids”…. Or have we?

For me, as a garden coach, it has been great. Most of my clients have been, like me, chained inside because of this weather Ma Nature has tossed at us this long Winter. Our homes are so clean inside for lack of anything to do outside because of the newly named, “Polar Vortexes”. I have enough exes, don’t need another with a fancy name. OK, back to my clients. Most have gotten the message about “home grown” food. Most have gotten very creative about finding a place to start seeds indoors. Some found a closet and rigged lighting, some just a table, some, found racks for free at stores like I suggested. Now the good part about the weather. Parents have gotten their kids interested in growing indoors as “snow day” projects. I have received a lot of cool feedback on my previous posts about how they made something fun, productive, and a good learning experience for their kids. Funny how the young gardeners don’t realize the “Gardenology” class they are attending while out on a snow day. I think some can’t wait till the next one to add to their crops!!

While at a clients home recently, who I knew they had a “Grow Room”, they showed me some interesting ways their kids were getting involved. They all had their own flat of seeds started, personal garden journal, plot picked out in the garden bed, and yes, they have to “grow” bigger this year, and what each was going to produce for upcoming menus for the season. It was kinda funny, that the youngest was “allowed” to be the Cold Crop Queen!! She’s 6. And her flat was up and going. I had a chance to chat with them about transplanting, feeding, irrigation, soil amendments,  last years bugs, etc. They were into it so far, they’re stuck, as gardeners… Or is it, “hooked”? Either way they are in for the long haul of a life of great memories and peaceful therapeutic progress. Nice way to grow, and the parents didn’t realize they were cultivating 5, yes 5, new gardens within their kids. “Gardenology” is something to practice. I understand, from my clients, that their kids, can’t remember the last time they played a video game. When they call the kids for dinner, they come running out from the grow room where there are crayon pics of charts on the wall, on the wall now, not on paper, dates, plans and all “organic” treatments. We talked about companion plantings, succession planting, crop rotation, NPK, and phenology. I think my “new” clients are putting their WII and games on EBay to purchase new garden tools. I talked to the really chatty 11 year old a lot about my big time garden writer friends on Facebook, and thought she’d be the next big garden speaker.

Yeah, it’s March. What did you do with your “snow day kids”? I bet this crew, won’t buy any veggies at all this coming season. I will go back to this home-turned-greenhouse, and include them in my upcoming garden lectures. I kind of have to. Ya see, I started it with the parents, 2 years ago, and they had never put a seed to soil in their lives. This year, they are going total edible landscaping. If they can’t eat it, they ain’t plantin’ it.

OK, Again, It’s Time To…

Hey Folks, never guess what I’m doing today. Yeah, besides taking down Christmas, tossing old stuff, and stuffing myself with Vodka Tonics, and listening to Led Zeppelin. I am setting up my seed starting racks… Hot Damn!! Yeah, this year, I will amaze even myself. I am still eating last years veggies, how about you?

I will be starting the Garden Coach sessions early this year, just because I believe we will warm up pretty good this year. Oh, and BTW, I am getting back into my old watergarden business again, BUT, in an unusual way… See, It’s gonna be a hydro-vegetablegarden-sunken bed.. Raised beds are done to death. I will be using the fish waste, for my fertilization process. Did it years ago, by accident.. Best tomatoes in the neighborhood.  I will post pics soon, and, you will be jealous.. Well, in my head you will be.. Thats how my ego rolls..

I hope all my gardening pals got some good stuff for your Holidays. Gardening presents, even a gift card to a box store, are great for the dirt-diggin fools, like myself.. Me? All my peeps gave me recipe’s and cook books… They know my “Mobile Chef” business is going good, and, most important, their gift to me will reward them with gifts, through the year.. Pretty slick ain’t they?

I will be busy for a few days in the garage.. Funny though, how everyone disappears, when the labor needs to be done. Promises made, promises undone, yeah, I hear ya… Yeah, tomatoes, green beans, cucurbits, onions, herbs, peppers, beans, fruits, 97 degrees, evening thunder, weeds, bugs, longer daylight, friends, wine, tiki torches, fresh cut grass, “ah-ha” moments with a cherished lover….. Pics coming, well, some pics….. My life is going to get better, only because of my actions. I just won’t disappear into that gentle good-night..

Rage…… Rage against it.. It’s time. Time to get on your knees, and get dirty.

Merry Christmas

My Gentle Snowflakes, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. I will.. See, this is the shortest hours of daylight this week. On Christmas Day, we gain one minute back of daylight, and that in itself, is a gift to me. We get one more per day until like the 21st of January, when it starts skipping to 2 minutes a day. On that day, it is the same as November 21st. Same hours of daylight/darkness. We are at 9hrs 34min now of daylight, the last part of June, we are at 14hrs 45mins of wonderful daylight. There are a lot of minutes in the 24 hr day, I just hate when they are mostly “dark” minutes”.

Now, there is a lot to start thinking about soon. We need to start planning when to lime our lawns in January, prune back roses and ornamental grasses in February, Put down preventers in March as well as solarize vegetable gardens. Seed starting indoors, well what else can you do? It will get busy here in my home again very soon. Yeah, I love when the days get longer. I can only clean my house but so much. I want outside!

What else is there.. Ah yes, pruning Crape Myrtles in March, forgot that. Oh, planting Bare Root Roses in February, and B&B trees and shrubs. Get that compost turned in late Winter will speed things up a bit. Seeing steam in the mornings in that pile? Congrats, you are making “dirt”. Ma Nature will be proud. When April 15th gets here, we will be off the leash in our landscapes again. Start toning up your gardening muscles before hand. Get that logbook out and review last years pics, remember the heat last year, just think in your mind, it could happen again, so plan out your irrigation early, get those soaker hoses in place before the onset of growth happens. Drip irrigation systems? A wonderful thing to have.

Yeah, it’s coming. Thanks Laurie, for making me get that mental visualization of picking a ripe Tomato the other day. I could smell it, see it, taste it. I felt the warm soil under my bare feet. I saw other yellow blooms on the vine. I got mad, because I mentally, forgot the salt shaker…. It needs to get here soon.

So, Merry Christmas folks, I hope you and yours get everything you want in the coming year.

Forsythia : Love/Hate Relationship

When I was younger (waaayy younger), my days of getting with my friends over a typical Saturday pick-up football game, would be suddenly halted by the dreaded words of “yard work”. Now these games were always planned from Monday, through the week by my friends on when, where, who, etc… We were, afterall, living the life of our beloved football jerseys which we wore constantly. We got them for birthdays, Christmas, etc. We all were pro’s ourselves when the numbered, colored jerseys were on our backs. We were fearless, until….

“I need you to help with cutting down the Yellow Bells in Nannies yard”, AAARRRGGG!!! Not today, please! …but the game….  Now I always knew it would be a losing argument, but a kid of 14 almost needs to keep the defiance going, only to lose by default. I would always picture the game waiting on me to show up, well because, afterall, I wore the jersey of Alan Page from the 70’s Viking era… They needed me to make spectacular plays along with Csonka, Butkis,Riggins, Bilitnikoff, whatever….  Yeah, I was hatin’ Forsythia.

Now, as time wore on through my life, grew up, moved on, every time I saw Forsythia, I shuddered to myself of the entire days used up cutting back this dreadful shrub. The whip injuries, sweat, held back tears of not getting to play football with my buds… Yep, a good thing to hate. Now that I am older (waaaayy older), I have grown to cherish the nemesis. I was fortunate enough to acquire my Grandparents home after their passing. The Forsythia, still there. I now respect it’s worth.

I can tell time with Forsythia in a phenological way. See, when Forsythia blooms, things are happening. I am also one of those anal folks who watch the addition of minutes of daylight form around January 3rd and on. When we are getting 2 minutes a day, I get really energized. As of this posting, we have gained over a half an hour, and I feel it. Soon, I will get my soil temp probe out to see what is right. The angle of the sun is rocketing overhead now. Here’s the skinny on the poop on Forsythia. When Forsythia blooms, then the soil temp has been 58 degrees at 4 inches for 5 days straight. Most of your seedling weeds and annuals start to germinate with this same scenario at 7 days… Hmm. Forsythia is my friend. I then know when to put down my pre-emergent on my lawn and in my beds. I know to check my Hostas and Sedums, along with my Hardy Bananas and to feed them for the season. In just a couple of days, it will be time to solarize my vegetable garden for April planting. Furthermore, in a few weeks, the Oak leaves will be the size of a squirrels ear, time to plant my corn….

OK. For someone who loathed this vile shrub in the past, I can say, “Thanks Nanny, for shoving this wicked plant down my throat now and then”. I get cuttings every year from my yard, and they are in bloom, now, in my home, just to remind me of my Grandparents, and times I should have paid more attention to my surroundings, but, I truly could make those fantastic plays with that old jersey…  It is time again to pay attention.