3/23/12 Your Rototiller
If you have not done so already, test your rototiller that you will be using to cultivate the soil. If you cannot it to work, did not clean out the old gas/oil mixture or if you did not use it last year, then you need to bring it to the authorized dealer or a small engine repair business in your area. To find an authorized dealer, simply go on the website of your make and model and it will direct you to find the authorized dealer.
3/24/12 Seed Starting –
One of the first rules of seed starting is that you have to test any seed that is left over from last year’s seed packets or that you saved from your own vegetables. Make sure that your give yourself enough time to start a new set of seeds just in case they do not germinate.
The following is an excerpt from my book on starting vegetable seeds:
Seed Starting Materials
Containers for growing seeds come in many shapes and sizes. They can be as simple as a wooden box or as elaborate as a self-watering system. Here are some of the different kinds of materials that are on the market:
Flat: A container without cells (The roots of individual plants will intermingle with each other).
Six Pack: A container with an insert(s) that does not allow individual plant’s roots to touch each other (there are usually six cells per insert).
Plastic Pots: Usually used to grow larger individual plants i.e. Tomatoes.
Newspaper Pots: Pots that are made from old newspapers and are made with the Potmaker; it is perfect for those who love to recycle (using old black and white newsprint is safe for organic gardeners).
APS: The Accelerated Propagation System provides a dome, tray, capillary mat, pegboard and liner. (Perfect for the person who is a novice at growing their own seeds, does not have the time or just forgets to water. I love this kind of system. It is sold through Gardener’s Supply Company.
E-Z Seed Starter Kits: Similar to above (Dome, tray, capillary mat, pegboard and liner). It is sold through Mellinger’s. Lee Valley also has a self-watering seed starting system similar to above.
Jiffy 7: A self-contained compressed peat; just add water (contains a netting around the peat and it is not recommended for organic growers).
Jiffy 9: A self-contained compressed peat for smaller seedlings; just add water (does not contain a netting around the peat and it is recommended for organic growers, but it is more delicate).
Peat Pots (Square and Round): These are used to start individual plants. You add your own soilless mixture.
Plug Flat: For those times when you want to start hundreds of plants; young seedlings will be transplanted into larger pots or 6 packs.
Cedar Flats: Traditional way to start seedlings (Wooden wine boxes are a good substitute and may be free if you ask your wine dealer).
Fiber Pots/Containers: These come in larger sizes i.e. 1/2 gallon and bigger (usually for flowers).
Grow Bags: These large bags are a self contained system that provide their own soil; just puncture the bag, place your plant(s) or seeds in it and you have a garden (perfect for the patio or roof top).
The Following is an modified excerpt from the How-To section of my book:
How to Start Seedlings
1. Choose Your Container from the List of Materials
2. Select Your Soil Medium - Almost all of the soilless mediums that you can purchase at the garden center contain a small amount of chemical fertilizer. If you are a purist about organic gardening then you will have to make your own.
Homemade soilless mixture:
3. Select Your Organic Fertilizer - It is advisable to add a little organic fertilizer to your soilless mixture.
The following is a list of nutrients and some major organic amendments:
Nitrogen (N): Blood Meal (if you are going to have your farm or garden certified, then do not use Blood Meal), Cotton Seed Meal, Bone Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Compost
Phosphorus (P): Rock Phosphate, Bone Meal, Compost
Potassium (K): Greensand, Granite Dust, Compost, Wood Ash
I am not scientific about my measurements but if a plant needs high amounts of Potassium, I throw in a little extra Greensand, etc.
4. Mix Your Medium and Amendments
5. Moisten the Soilless Mixture:
6. Place Seeds on the Soil - Cells: Place a few seeds per cell, Flat: Sprinkle or evenly space
7. Cover with Milled Sphagnum Moss - Sprinkle Milled Sphagnum Moss over the seeds to a thickness of 4 times the diameter of the seeds
8. Press the Seeds into the Soil
9. Label Each Flat or Individual 6 Pack
10. Record Seed Starting Data in The Harvest Helper Workbook for Vegetables
11. Spray with a Fine Mist - A spray bottle or one of the smaller pressurized bottles work well
12. Cover the Cells, Flats or Tray to Maintain Moisture
Place individual small flats in a plastic baggie
Place Large flats in a garbage bag
Place the dome of kits onto the flat/tray
Make sure that the plastic bags do not touch the soil (hanger wire, toothpicks or sticks work well to get the bag off the soil)
13. Place the Flats in a Warm Place
14. Look Up How Many Days to Germination and Record That Information
15. Check the Flats for Emergence
16. Remove the Bag When Plants Emerge
17. Select Where You Are Going to Place the Seedlings
Rodale Press’ The Backyard Builder edited by John Warde has plans to build adjustable storage shelves (pp. 475-478)
18. Provide a Light Source -
Place under grow or shop lights
Lower the lights to 2-3” above the height of the plant
Adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow (make it easy on yourself - devise a plan using hooks so that the lights can easily be adjusted)
Place a timer on the lights so that they are on 14-16 hours a day
19. Water: Do not let the soil dry out.
20. Fertilize - Fertilize once a week with 1/2 strength Fish Emulsion, Sea Mix Emulsion or other organic liquid fertilizer
3/25/12 – Cleaning the Garden
Make sure that you clear all debris from last year. That includes all stems, vines and any stems in the soil. Any diseased plant material should be bagged and put in the garbage. Try to remove any metal stakes, ties or anything plastic that you used to tie up plants for support.