Confessions of an EVERYDAY ECOTARIAN

creative, conscious and conserving ideas, thoughts and solutions

Seed Starting for the Year March 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — adm @ 1:22 am
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Seed starting is one of those jobs that requires me to sit still and do something repetitive.  Normally, I like to keep moving and these kind of projects really drive me mad.  But, for some reason I find this task very settling.  I get the kids involved, we bring dirt inside and make a big mess on the hardwood floors.  In the end, we end up with hundreds of seedlings that will later be transplanted into our garden and eventually bring us food.  I think my kids enjoy seeing their food start from a seed and a dirt-covered floor as much as I do.

Over the years I’ve gone through the seed-starting process a few different ways.  I’ve settled on one that works well for us each year.  Here are the supplies we gather:

  • Seed Starting Mix
  • Plastic Trays and mini greenhouse covers, (like the “Jiffy” kind)
  • Plastic greenhouse “cells”
  • Spray Bottle
  • Seeds

I’ve found that using seed starting mix is the very best ways to get the seedlings off to a good start.  Other soils are made to hold water and can keep the soil too compact and too wet for optimal seed germination and early seedling growth.  Although I’ve tried making my own starting pots I’ve found that the plastic cells, trays and mini greenhouse covers are easy, cheap and work fantastically for getting the seedlings off to a great start.  I use these cells, trays and covers again and again for several years.  The spray bottle is a great way to water the seeds in and to water the young seedlings as they grow.  This is a task I give to my kids without fear because it is very difficult to over-water with a spray bottle!

Here is the process we go through to get our seeds started.  Again, its a process that we’ve worked out that seems to work well for our kids.  I assign them each an age-appropriate task and let them go!

  • Put seed starting mix in the cells (great for a toddler!)
  • Put 2 or 3 seeds in each cell (an older child with better fine motor skills is best for this)
  • Gently touch the seeds and lightly tap them into the soil
  • Lightly sprinkle a little more seed starting mix on top
  • Water the seeds in with a spray bottle
  • Cover with the plastic cover, put in a sunny warm place, keep moist, (but not overly wet) and wait for the seedlings to emerge!

Once the seedlings are growing, tip the edge of the cover up with pencils or a ruler so they don’t get too warm.  When they have grown a few leaves beyond their “first” leaves, take the cover off entirely.  At this point we usually water from the bottom, pouring water in the tray as needed.  It keeps the top of the soil from getting too wet which very easily leads to a fungus problem.  Many plants will need to be transplanted into bigger pots at some point.  We usually use big plastic cups with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.   We also use these cups year after year after year.

Below, some pictures of this years future garden plants.

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The Year’s First Cold-Frame! (Salad in April?) March 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — adm @ 6:13 pm

Yes!  I did it!  I conquered the winter, got out a shovel, uncovered a patch of earth in the garden and created our first cold-frame for the year!  Actually, in the spirit of full-disclosure, my husband actually did most of the work.  He, being bigger and stronger than I, tends to get more done in a period of time.  So, in the time it took me to drag a few hay bales over to the garden from the barn, he uncovered the garden dirt, dug the double-paned door out from the snow on the side of the barn, carried it over, and brought over most of the hay.   But I can type faster.  That skill doesn’t help me with making cold-frames.

Well, anyway, here is our first cold frame.  It was so good to get a sneak peek at the garden under the snow.  That dirt took us many years of nurturing to bring it to that point.  We’ve added lots and lots of compost and organic matter.  Our natural soil in the area is pretty much straight sand.    -Straight sand and a deep, deep well make for the best water, by the way, like a giant filter.

I planted a variety of lettuces and if things go our way that cold-frame should heat up and we’ll have salad in April.  We’ll also probably have some Hairy Vetch, (Hairy What?!).  Don’t worry its just the cover-crop I planted in the fall.  Its a legume so we’ll probably just eat that, too.  Salad in April, that’s not bad for zone 4 and no heating devices, (other than hay and someone’s building project refuse).