EATLACMA Debuts This Weekend

Categories: Events | 19 Comments
Posted Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 at 4:25 pm

EATLACMA Debuts This Weekend: A Year-long Project From LACMA and Fallen Fruit

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Breaking Ground

Posted Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It has been done!  On Saturday my husband Joshua and I drove over to our yard-share, a.k.a Purdue Avenue Farms, and put shovel to lawn.  A few hours later, we had our very first garden bed.  Coming in at  70 square feet (15’ x 5’), it should give us a pretty nice yield.

If you’d like to find out how to get your own yard share, read this post.

I couldn’t wait to get started on Saturday.  I stopped at Anawalt Lumber on the way over to get the sand I knew we’d need to break up the clay soil.  Walking up and down the aisles of gardening supplies, I was shocked at the amount of toxic crap that was being peddled.  Chemical fertilizers for every conceivable plant, flower and shrub.  I’m trying to build soil, not soil the earth, man.

I found a salesperson and asked him where the sand was.  He was confused.  I told him I wanted to add it to my soil.  “Oh no, that will take much too long – what you want is this.”  He led me over to a $20 bag of synthetic fertilizer.  “No really I just want a bag of sand.” Shrugging his shoulders he pointed me over to the lumber department.  Four bucks.  That’s more like it.

Starting A Garden Bed

Step One (Two Hours)

The first item of information you want is where the sun the hits the most land for the longest period of time.  I thought I had a good sense about it. I measured our plot out right down the middle of the grassy yard and started digging. But when we came back the next day for step two, Judith, the home owner, said she had seen the garage shade covering part of the plot for the entire morning. We ended up moving it over by two feet.  It would have saved a lot of work had I taken the time to observe the yard at different times of the day before we started.

Next, following John Jeavons’ instructions in How To Grow More Vegetables Then You Ever Thought Possible….we began loosening the soil down to a one foot depth.

I was happy to see tons of earthworms crawling around.  With the roar of the 10 Freeway in the background, we rooted out weeds and roots and huge clumps of grass as we went.  Wonderfully satisfying work.

The soil was much better than expected.  Judith has done quite a bit of gardening over the years.  At some point she’d added a ton of sand, loam and gypsum. And the soil, still damp from the recent rains, retained a rich, dare I say “earthy” feel. Yet, it had returned in a large part to clay.


Joshua, happy to be away from his scriptwriting for a while, really got into it.  He worked tirelessly lifting up huge clumps of clay, while I did more of the detail work, pulling up the grass and roots, and breaking up the clumps of soil. By the end of the day we had made our bed.  I watered it gently by hand using a sprinkling can already filled with rainwater I found waiting, almost magically, on the patio.

Step Two (1 1/2 hours)

The next day we came back to mix in our amendments. Reading that 4 cubic yards of sand would create a 1/2” layer over 100 square feet, we did a little math and decided to add 1.5 cubic yards of sand.  Jeavons cautioned against adding more than that.  Too much will not allow the soil to hold water.  You want to really mix the sand in, so Joshua and I spent a good hour turning over a foot of soil down the whole length of the plot – getting our weekend exercise!

Then we sprinkled the worm castings I’d collected on my adventure to the Valley last week, as well as Dr. Earth’s Organic 2 Garden Starter with mycorrhizal fungi, which form a linkage between plant roots and the soil and helps get the micro-organic life going. This layer only had to be mixed into the first 6 to 8 inches, so our exercise regimen had a nice cool down period.

By the time we finished, the soil had transformed from clay-ey to light and fluffy and decidedly clump free. Though I haven’t planted anything yet, transforming an unused backyard into a garden-ready space was an incredibly fulfilling experience.

Next weekend, we’ll go back for Step Three: the Double Dig, an ancient farmer’s method of loosening the soil two feet down to provide lots of air and space for the roots to spread.  Stay tuned!

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EcoWorkshops.com

Categories: Events , Workshops | No Comments
Posted Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 11:04 am

If you’re an apartment-farmer, Darren Butler is someone you should know about. Consulting Arborist, Ecological Designer, Sustainable Landscaping Specialist, and Teacher, Darren is master eco-gardener.  Best of all, he wants to share his knowledge with you.

Darren has an exciting list of workshops coming up that will deepen the roots of your knowledge about all things organic gardening.

FarmApartment has arranged for Darren to lead a class in Small-Space Food Gardening on Saturday, February 27 at the Learning Garden in Venice.  In this all-day course for apartment, condominium, and other urban dwellers who lack land, Darren will introduce methods for growing edibles in spaces as small as a windowsill.  He will start with the basics and leave you with confidence to start your own apartment-sized farm.

Other workshops include:

Dormant Fruit-Tree Pruning, Grafting Basics, (double workshop), Sunday, January 31, 2010, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Tarzana

Home Greywater Use and System Design, Saturday, February 20, 2010, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Tarzana

Edible Landscaping and Perennial Food Gardening Certification Course, Sundays Feb 21, 28, Mar 7, 21, Apr 11, 18, 2010; 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM; Long Beach

Ecofriendly High-Yield Food Gardening, Sundays Feb 21, 28, Mar 7, 21, Apr 11, 18, 2010; 2:30 – 6:30 PM; Long Beach

7th Congress of Southern California Special Event: Launching the 50% Food Initiative, Saturday, March 20, 2010, 10:00 AM – 4:45 PM, Westchester  Link to email announcement

Because a garden is a terrible thing to waste.


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Farm Fresh Weekend Events

Categories: Events | No Comments
Posted Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 7:58 am

Go to the Farm Apartment Calender for more details.  Please let me know of any events or classes you’d like me to post.

Saturday, 1/30/10

Garden School Workday

Time: 9-12

2055 W 24th St Los Angeles, CA,90018

Come help out in the 24th Street Elementary School garden. They’ve transformed 1/4 acre of concrete into an edible landscape.

You can read about my experience here.

For more details, go to: http://gardenschoolfoundation.org/home/
or contact program director Nat Zappia: nat@gardenschoolfoundation.org

—–

Marmalade Making Class At Surfas

8777 W Washington Blvd Culver City, CA 90230

Time: 11-12ish

Kevin West is my canning hero.  Here’s my post on the last class he taught.

Class Description:  Don’t be afriad of marmalade any longer! Come see how it’s done! Delicious results in one hour or less! FREE tasting to follow! Step right up! Come join Bettina Birch and me for a FREE marmalade demonstration at Surfas in Culver City.

Bust the recession and save the season by learning to make this innovative, time-saving, labor-efficient, one-step, no-soak TIME TO KILL CITRUS MARMALADE. As an added bonus, we’ll stir up a batch of VIN DE PAMPLEMOUSSE, a zingy aperitif of winter citrus.

Now tell me, how could you let such an offer pass you by?
(310) 559-4770

Monday, 2/1/10

Gardens of Gratitude kickoff event

SM Public Library – 601 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, 90401

Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm

Last year, Gardens of Gratitude connected volunteers with people who wanted to start gardens on their property.  It was a huge success and created lots of new gardens in the neighborhood.  They’re doing it again this year.

Event Description: It’s happening. Another Westside Permie Gathering at the SM library. Besides getting the chance to reconnect with old friends and have the chance to make new ones, we’re going to begin the planning of our next Gardens of Gratitude event. This year is going to be even bigger and better than last year.

Make your way down to the Santa Monica Main Library’s Multi-purpose Room on Monday February 1st, 2010 at 6:30pm-8:30pm. Let’s make this gathering one of our best ones yet, bring lots of food for potluck for all to share.

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Soil Testing

Posted Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Now that I have an actual plot of land to plant in, a whole new list of concerns and challenges have popped up.  The first one being – what the hell am I planting in?

Soil testing is a good idea for many reasons.  First, it can tell you if there is any toxic sludge stinking up the joint.  Kinda important if you intend to grow food that isn’t lethal. Beyond that, a soil test can tell you many important characteristics of the land before you harvest, so you and your soil can become really good friends.

Think of it as a Facebook Profile for your yard, letting you know what kind of micro-organic crowd your soil hangs out with.  You will be able to learn things like the soil’s balance of minerals, the water absorption rate, and the soil pH (more on pH in a coming post).  Using this information, you can figure out how much organic fertilizer to add and what other soil amendments will help your garden realize its maximum potential.

I chose Timberleaf Labs because it was recommended in my new favorite book: “How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine,” by John Jeavons.

With a holistic approach, Timberleaf specializes in organic mini-farms.  They take into consideration not only the soil, but the entire gardening environment and individual cultivating practices.  I’m not sure what other labs do, but these guys even wanted me to draw a diagram of my farm, being sure to indicate all significant landmarks.


Well, on Purdue Avenue Farms (which is what I’ve come to call my little plot), the  most significant landmark would be the 10 freeway.  That’s right.  The yard is almost right underneath a massive overpass, towering hundreds of feet above the trees. Though this fits nicely with my Urban Farming aesthetic, I can’t help wondering how the thousands of cars that zoom overhead on any given day have affected the soil.

So, like Sigourney Weaver taking samples from Pandora, I followed Timberleaf’s detailed instructions and collected a composite of dirt from seven random places in the yard.  At each spot I stuck a spade in about 8 inches deep and pulled up a section of the soil that I dumped into a clean bucket.  Then I mixed the soil together and filled up a one-quart bag.

Afterward, when I  sat down to fill out the Soil Sample form, I realized I didn’t have answers to a lot of their questions.  The labs wanted to know how much chemical fertilizer had been used, the last application of lime, what kind of pests the garden was subject to. Being totally new to this land, I was at a loss to its history. So, I did the best I could and will depend on science to do the rest. I packed up my dirt cozily in a leftover Amazon box and shipped it off.

Most soil samples are between $60-$85 depending on how detailed you want to get.  But it seems worth the expense.  It will take a lot of the guesswork out of gardening, and could save a bundle on unnecessary or incorrect soil amendments.

It’s really the only way to get the nitty-gritty on your dirt.

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King Of The Worms

Posted Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 12:44 pm

All of my investigations into organic fertilizer have led to a single consensus: worm castings are the shit.  Rich in nutrients and microbeasties, many people believe that it is the best amendment a soil could hope for.

Realizing that this organic garden gold could produce miracles in the clay soil of my yard-share, I had a bee in my bonnet to get me some on the double. I got up bright and early Sunday morning, and hurried down to the Main Street Farmer’s Market, where I heard there would be a woman who sold it – only to find out she no longer had a booth there.  Crap!

But a quick search on Craigslist turned up Steve Gottlieb, owner of a worm-growing outfit way out in Northridge called Golden Wiggle Worms.  Responding to my inquiry, he said he sold it for $1 per/pound.  That seemed like a fine price.

I did some sloppy math and figured I’d need about 35 pounds to cover the garden.   In retrospect, I think I bought way too much. But perhaps there’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to worm poop.  Okay – does anyone want some worm poop?

I called Steve in the morning to tell him I was coming over.  His voice was scratchy, his words were slightly slurred and he spoke with the hint of a Southern twang.  “I have it out here waitin’ for ya.” He said and put down the phone.

Suddenly, I felt insecure about driving out to a strange worm farm in the Valley.  My husband, not nearly as excited about the merits of worm defecation as I was, declined my invitation to join me.   I was on my own.

Since I was heading all the way out to this far flung outpost of garden treasure, I figured I should at least try and share the wealth.   I called all of my gardening friends and asked if they wanted me to pick some extra up for them.  Only one said yes!  I couldn’t believe the benefits of the fecal matter of worms was lost on so many.  It’s just sad.

After braving the freeways, and navigating my way through the wide boulevards intersecting a typical suburban valley neighborhood, I finally turned into the right cul-de-sac.  I pulled down the driveway of a ranch style house that blended into the landscape.  Parked out front was a pristine, Dodger blue Ford sedan, circa 1982 or so. Well at least I knew Gottlieb had style.

Steve came to the door, a skinny, disheveled man who looked to be in his early 60s, dressed in a bright purple shirt.  The smell of kitty litter and stale cigarette smoke wafted out.  Behind him I could see a dim living room in its own organic state of decomposition – filled to the rafters with decades of junk.  My suspicions about him being a character living on the fringes of society were confirmed.

Though his pale blue eyes were glazed over, he still managed to look at me with a gentle intensity as he instructed me in using his precious natural fertilizer.  He explained that the soil should never be more than 20% worm castings, otherwise it will burn the roots.  With wonder in his voice, he told me that the castings will hold five times their weight in water, so I would need to water much less.

“So can I see the worms?”  I asked.

He was only too happy to let me witness his red wiggley money-makers at work.  We cut through the house. The backyard was a disaster zone too and looked as if it hadn’t been picked up in decades. He led me around the side of the empty pool, which had a brown puddle of rain water laying stagnant at the bottom. Overturned lawn chairs, broken pots, empty buckets, and detritus of every sort littered the patio.

Finally, he showed me the long row of trays where he kept the worms.  They were neatly laid out, with a clean plastic cover over them.  He may have been struggling, but his worms were livin’ the life.

Picking up one worm with a whitish band around his body he looked at me and said, with a proud smile, “Preggers.”

It  dawned on me that, as weirded out as I was by that house, Steve may actually have himself the easiest  job in the world.  He could just sit back and let the worms do the work for him.

I emerged unscathed with about 20 plastic shopping bags filled with worm castings.  Of course one spilled all over my backseat on the freeway, and now my trusty Civic has lovely a Farm Fresh Scent.

Oh, the things I do for my garden.

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It’s Time To Stand Up And Be Counted Or Be Genetically Modified

Posted Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I recently came across this brilliant post written by David King, Master Gardener at the Venice Learning Garden.  He beautifully articulates the agregious business practices of Monsanto and the dangers of GMOs.  After the WTF Supreme Court ruling opening the floodgates of corporate money toward political campaigns, this issue is even more critical than before.

Read all about it right here…

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Biodynamic Composting Class

Posted Monday, January 18th, 2010 at 12:56 pm

My gardening horizons have once again been expanded.  On Saturday, I got up early and went to a class on Biodynamic Composting I heard about through Sustainable Works.  As I’d just bought my worm composter from the City Of Santa Monica, I thought this was great timing.  In my horticultural naievete, I assumed “biodynamic” simply referred to the chemical process that happens as organic material breaks down.

Little did I know that I would be introduced to a holistic agricultural philosophy, almost a century old, that was developed by thinker, theologian, educator and agricultural expert Rudolf Steiner himself.  Yet again, my small inquiries have lead me into a much bigger world of belief systems and life philosophies.  I guess I should stop being surprised by that.

The class was taught in the backyard of a house in Venice.  As I walked up the driveway, I had to stop and admire the 3 or 4 raised beds overflowing with gorgeous fresh veggies in the front.  In the back I found a bunch of folks already working at breaking up a huge pile of straw and alfalfa.  It smelled wonderful, a bit of the country right here in the city.

Edelia, the owner of the house and the woman who organized the workshop, joked, “My husband won’t buy a farm so I’m bringing the farm to him.”

Soon, a pickup truck filled with soil backed into the driveway.  The driver, John McAndrew (biocompost@gmail.com) was going to be our teacher for today. He looked to be in his 70s, wore a plaid flannel and jeans, and had the stoic and wise air of someone who’d chosen to live his life outdoors and close to the land.

As we set to work shoveling the black dirt into wheelbarrows, we discovered that it wasn’t dirt at all.  It was, in fact, 100 % pure cow manure.  This surprised all of us because it didn’t smell disagreeable. In fact, it smelled kind of good – like the forest floor.  John explained that the pleasant aroma was because it came from cows that were grass fed and free of antibiotics.

After we finished shoveling the poop, we gathered around the picnic table set up with yummy pastries and bread baked fresh by Edelia’s husband (yum!), and set to learning.

John started his studies in 1970 when, while browsing the shelves at the Bodhi Tree bookstore, Rudolph Steiner’s Agriculture literally fell into his hands.  Taking it as a spiritual calling, he set out to put the principals to work in the real world.  Unable to find anyone in the L.A. area to mentor him, John wrote a letter to a Steiner acolyte in the U.K. (I’d like to take a moment of gratitude here for the invention of the world wide web which allowed me to connect with like-minded folks faster than I could press send on my iphone).  John finally found a man in the SF Valley who was practicing Steiner’s method on his farm, and tracked him down.

Forty years later John has read Steiner’s Agriculture over forty times and is still spreading the seeds of his knowledge. McAndrew is something of an iconoclast and a loner, choosing a simple life devoted to learning as much as he can about Steiner’s philosophy.

“I live in a trailer on the beach.  Poor me.” He chuckled sarcastically.

I came to understand that I was actually at a very unique event.  Even today there are few people who know about Biodynamic Farming, and even fewer teachers. John is certainly one of the few people in the US who has worked with these methods for as long as he has.

So what’s biodynamic farming?  I found this nice definition here

A basic ecological principle of biodynamics is to conceive of the farm as an organism, a self-contained entity. A farm is said to have its own individuality. Emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, maintenance of soil, and the health and well being of crops and animals; the farmer too is part of the whole. Thinking about the interactions within the farm ecosystem naturally leads to a series of holistic management practices that address the environmental, social, and financial aspects of the farm.

This reminds me of Polyface Farms which was beautifully described in Micheal Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and highlighted in Food Inc. Farmer Joel Salatin said that he was less like a farmer and more like an “orchestra conductor”, an analogy that really gets at the essence of this type of farming. A biodynamic farmer sets up a system in which all the processes of nature, both visible and invisible, can work in together in the most harmonious and efficient way possible.

At this point, I felt a little like I’d gone from kindergarten straight to graduate school.  Just that morning, my first lettuce sprouts had emerged from the seeds I’d planted a few days before. I was delighted and amazed by the miracle of this biological process.  Now I found myself surrounded by gardeners who had gone “beyond organic”, embracing a biodynamic system that mapped every last detail of the chemical interactions involved within a functioning ecosystem.   It was fun to play with the big kids.

This project may be beyond the scope of most apartment farmers.  However, it’s perfect for your garden share or community garden plot.

If you’re interested in reading more, there were two books recommended.  The first is “the bible” of biodynamic farming, Agriculture by Rudolph Steiner. However, I have tried to read Steiner’s books on his educational philosophy and found his writing to be so esoteric and complex that it was almost impenetrable.

Grasp the Nettle was offered as a much easier to understand, hands on guide.

You can download my class notes here and read them below.

To begin a bio-dynamic compost pile, here’s what you’ll need:

- Compost starter – 10$ a packet.  Email John McAndrew at biocompost@gmail.com or call 310-729-7205

- Rainwater

- A bucket

- An old broom

- Cow manure (from grass fed, organically raised cows) *

- Straw and alfalfa

* The closest grass fed cow manure is in Corona, a 150 mile round trip.  You can coordinate with John on how to get it delivered to you.  Other manures can be used, however, cow manure is by far superior and John emphasized that it should be used whenever possible.

Ideally, you’d start with 1 ton of manure and 1 ton of straw.  At this class we had a half ton of each.

Begin the day before by making the compost starter.  The starter bacteria take about 10 hours to, well, get started.  Also, can only be mixed with rainwater, as the chlorine in tap water will kill the beneficial bacteria. John passed it around for us to smell, and once again we experienced a pleasant, earthy scent which immediately took me back to the redwood forest in Santa Cruz.

Map out a 12 by 5 foot rectangle on the lawn.

- Mix 1 teaspoon of starter with a 1/2 inch of rain water in a 5 gallon bucket.

- Now you’re ready to make a “compost lasagna” with the following layers.  Each layer is about 1-inch thick – a thin layer basically.

- Dip the broom in the bucket with the compost liquid

- Sprinkle it on the ground within your rectangular compost area.  Sprinkle is the operative word.  These bacteria are powerful and you don’t need much.

- Spread the straw/alfalfa

- Get a regular garden hose and spray the layers with water so that it has the consistency of a wrung out sponge.  Not soggy, but not too dry either. Wait for about a minute so the water can aerate.  (Exposing the tap water to air kills the chlorine  so it can’t kill the bacteria in the starter.)

- Sprinkle more starter with the broom

- Sprinkle a layer of the cow manure on top of that .

- Spray water from the hose, using method above

- Sprinkle starter

- Repeat

So, in short, the layers go like this:

1) Bacteria (the starter)

2) Carbon (the straw)

3) Water

4) Bacteria (the starter)

5) Nitrogen (the manure)

6) Water

And repeat.

Then you just let it sit for about 3-4 months.  Soon you’ll have “black gold” – compost that will make your plants jump up and yell “Biodynamite!”

More Pics Here!


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Three Free Classes Tomorrow

Categories: Events | 4 Comments
Posted Friday, January 15th, 2010 at 10:39 am

I have tons to write about this week: planting seeds, starting a worm farm, my Intro to Horticulture class.  However, I’ve picked up more than my share of freelance writing work so these stories will have to wait until next week.

In the meantime, I want to direct your attention the the Farm Apartment Calendar.  There are three great classes tomorrow that would make any urban farmer do a jig in the car port.  So go easy on the whiskey tonight, get up early and you just might learn somethin’.

9 AM

Biodynamic Composting Class

1375 Lake St. Venice, CA 90291

Learn all about biodynamic composting in this free class open to the public.
For more information, please call 310.359.2876

—–

10:30am

Intro to Urban Chickens

The Learning Garden Venice Blvd. at Walgrove Ave. Venice, CA 90291

“This class will cover the basics on keeping chickens in the city.
We’ll cover some regulations, basic housing and feeding needs and
where to get chickens and supplies. The class will run approximately 1
hour, including time for questions.”
There is a $10 suggested donation for the class.

—–

12 PM

A Revolution in the Heart of Nature

Santa Monica Public Library, Multipurpose Room in second floor. 601 Santa Monica Blvd. 90405

Please join Barbara Bosson and Sara Nichols for a Saturday, January 16, 2010, gathering of Los Angeles Bioneers, people dedicated to re-imagining the future of our planet. Bioneers are biological pioneers who are working with nature to heal nature and ourselves.  Our guest speaker this month will be Dr. David Orr, Professor and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College.

Dr. Orr is best known for his pioneering work on environmental literacy in higher education and his recent work in ecological design. He raised funds for and spearheaded the effort to design and build a $7.2 million Environmental Studies Center at Oberlin College, a building described by the New York Times as “the most remarkable” of a new generation of college buildings and selected as one of 30 “milestone buildings” in the 20th century by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Seedlings Class Notes

Posted Monday, January 11th, 2010 at 11:30 am

For those of you who slept in on Saturday morning, you can copy my notes from the Environment Change-Makers’ class on how to start seedlings here.

How To Select Seeds:

Look for

• “Safe Seeds Pledge” which means no GMO’s.  GMO seeds are made to withstand chemicals, so they’re chemically dependant.

• Open Pollinated Seeds

Avoid

• GMO’s

• Hybrid Seeds – these seeds won’t reproduce “pure”

Seed Sources

Bountiful Gardens

Victory Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange

Southern Exposure

Baker Creek Seeds

Tools

Dirt – Regular potting soil works great in So. Cal

Seeds

Containers

Plastic Bags

Southern California is a unique climate since we don’t have a frost date.  Therefore, we don’t need extra equipment to get seedlings started, we can let the sun and the timing do the work.

You don’t have to start the seeds indoors, but can keep them outside in the shade

Use found materials for seedling containers.  Examples: yogurt containers, strawberries containers lined with newspaper.

Poke holes in the bottom for drainage.

Timing

How do you know when to plant seeds?

Digital Seed Chart

Germination Temperature Chart

Planting

Follow the seed instructions on the packet

Keep seedlings in the shade, sunlight will fry them

Rule of thumb: plant seeds as deep as the seeds are thick

Regular potting soil works great in So. Cal.

Go for containers with a larger soil mass, so that it holds more moisture.  The clay trays used beneath bigger potter plants work well.

Watering

Keep soil moist, but not soggy

Consider watering from the bottom up.  Use a plastic tray with a little bit of water (such as the ones veggies are packaged in at Trader Joe’s) to rest the containers in

Use a pump spray to mist seedlings when they are looking dry

Moisture Retention

In So. Cal, moisture retention is the biggest challenge.  Seedlings can dry out very easily, especially after the random heat waves we are known for.

To keep seedlings moist, create “mini-green houses” by slipping the containers into plastic bags used for veggies at the supermarket.

Other suggestions: if you’re starting the seedlings in the ground, burlap works to hold moisture and protect from the sun.

Labeling Seeds

Remember to do this!

Make labels out of: old vertical blinds, coffee stirrers or anything else you can think of.  You can also buy them.

Write the name of the seedling with a sharpie, and stick the written end in the soil – otherwise the sun bleaches out the name.

Every season, you can rotate the labels and the sun will bleach out the name that is sticking out of the dirt!

Pest Control

aphids – Bronner’s Soap – 1 part soap to 3 parts water (roughly) – use a pump spray to mist plant.  Soap takes off aphids protective covering

cutworms and caterpillars – Pepper Spray – hot chilies with water in a pump spray.  Use sparingly!  Works with cutworms and caterpillars

Whiteflies – indicates an ecosystem problem.  If you have white flies, move your plant to a different location.

Slugs and Snails – Copper tape.  If you are planting directly in the ground, take a yogurt container and wrap a swath of copper tape around it.  Sink it in the ground and plant the seedling within it.  The copper gives slugs and electrical shock when they come into contact with it.

Earwigs – Soak a roll of newspaper with water and put it in the ground.  When the sun comes out, the earwigs will take shelter inside the roll.  Throw the newspaper out.

Worm Tea – from a worm composter – very potent!  Dilute with water – a great boost and helps keep bugs away

Direct Seeding

There are a few plants that don’t transplant well, so you’ll want to plant the seeds directly in the ground rather than in containers.

These are: Any “deep root” crops such as carrots, parsnips are beets

Sunflowers,

Squash seedings (they need a lot of space)

Transplanting

Tools:

Butter knife and/or

Widger and/or

Grapefruit spoon

(basically any tool small enough to let you do the delicate work of separating out the root system)

Generally, all you need is a butter knife as a tool and a careful hand not to damage the roots.

However, you can transplant even bigger plants – the trick is: move enough soil so the plant doesn’t know it’s being moved.  Dig out enough dirt around the root system.

Seedling Growing Stages

First thing to come out will be the “seed leaves” two identical leaves

However, you want to wait for the “true leaves”, the unique leaves that let you know what plant species it is.

When the “true leaves” appear, it’s time to transplant.

Helpful book in identifying leaves: “Cabbage or Cauliflower” by Judith Eldrich

Suggestion: learn plant families.  Plants within the same family generally need the same kind of care

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