Friday, February 5, 2016

Seedlings and Still Learning

When I started my first attempt at gardening, it didn't occur to me to do some reading first. As the years passed, with wisdom must come change. I have to start implementing some of the things I've learned. Many people state that, "nothing taste better than home grown produce", but when I tasted my first homegrown strawberry and tomatoes, I didn't taste the difference. The strawberries were dark red but not sweet at all although they'd been left on the plant till ripe. What I've been pondering and have read at some point during my few years of attempting to garden"went in one ear and out the other", as I seemed to put what I learned in the back of my mind. Why, I'm not sure.

I've bought my last bag of Miracle Grow potting soil and plant food. I have one bag left but won't use it in containers or the ground. Did I ever read that it contained sludge and isn't a good thing to use, probably so but as I said, as a novice the importance of this didn't impact me at the time. I read a lot this week including some articles about Miracle Grow and the company that makes Round Up with it's equal problem possibly impacting the  decrease in the bee population along with other chemical and pesticides being used by gardeners. I do believe it starts with the soil. If nutrients, minerals, and beneficial organisms aren't in the soil I grow my vegetables in maybe that's why they don't taste the way I expect them to. Nor do they have the nutrients and minerals that vegetables should have.

I took my first step to organic gardening last fall when I bagged up my leaves  for leaf mold. It looks like soil to me and doesn't smell, and no insects came out the bag as I expected. There were no remnants of leaves although there was one weed seedling in the bag when I opened it. Organic gardening used to mean to me just not adding chemicals or pesticides and that some may be safe but that's not exactly true. It starts with the soil we grow our food in, adding organic things to build the soil such as leaf mold, compost, untreated grass clipping, and things that were once living that break down and turn into humus like the right mulches and straw. 

I learned that mulching not only helps keep moisture in so plants don't dry out so quick but it also protects the soil from oxidation and invasion by unwanted insects. It also breaks down and helps build the soil with organic material. You probably already know these things but for me, I'm learning and will continue to learn. Composting my kitchen fruit, vegetable, egg shells, coffee, and coffee grinds scraps would be wonderful but for me, this would be a feast for mice, voles, raccoons, squirrels, and possums in my yard. Even if I had a closed composter they'd still be drawn to my yard. If I lived on lots of land, that would be a possibility but  the city compost will be my option and it's free. But, once again, all compost is not equal, so I went to the website for the compost council to make sure that the compost that Philadelphia makes seems to be okay.  

Reading soil lables seems so much work but if I want food that actually nourishes my body and taste good, I'll have to make good choices in what I choose to use in my containers. A good compost would be perfect. Before I really didn't know why some gardeners grew seeds in compost, now I do. My own would be best because I know what's in it, but right now, that's not an option. So, what will I do for a potting mix for my containers this spring? I'd love to go get some compost from the park in Philadelphia's program. Second choice, make my own mix with the peat I bought during the fall, add vermiculite, and perlite, some of my leaf mold and some compost to add something organic and with some beneficial organisms. Last option, purchase a bagged soil that I've researched like Organic Mechanic's potting soil or Dr. Earth's soil which Homedepot started carrying last spring. It's expensive but after reviewing the ingredients on their site, hopefully better than Miracle Grow even their alleged organic potting soil. Buying only organic, non gmo, and open pollinated seeds will follow along with companion planting to help with insect control. From what I've read, if your soil is healthy it won't draw some of the unwanted insects. It's a possibility. I hope you're enjoying seed starting inside and outdoors, winter sowing.

Vegetable seedlings.

The chard. You can actually see 2 different types. I planted more than 3 seeds but this is what came up. I'll plant more to use ornamentally out front in my planter and maybe in the ground in the yard. Squirrels and raccoons might like this and it'll be a learning experience for me.
I like black krim and still have to sow some of the seeds.
Seedlings below.

Seedlings are below and more than I need but if they reach maturity, I can give some to my sister and neighbor.

Broccoli and 3 is plenty and another looking like it's breaking ground.
Only one pepper germinated but I'm not disappointed after reading that peppers can be slow to germinate. I only need one but would rather have more in case it doesn't survive. I'll sow a few more if nothing else germinates.
Freckles romaine lettuce starting to get some true leaves. Hopefully I have time to move them to individual peat pots this weekend.
Free seeds from an order. I wouldn't have ordered this type of kale but if it taste similar to all kale we should love it.
Kale. The seedlings look similar to the broccoli seedlings. They're starting to stretch and may need to go closer to the light.
The only pelargonium remaining from my first sowing. I'm still waiting for fresh seed to arrive from Swallowtail. Last night I dropped my tray of ivy leaf geraniums on the floor and was horrified all the work it took to get them this far and they're delicate at this point. I salvaged some and will pot them up tomorrow in individual containers.
Vinca getting a second set of leaves and time to transplant.
Red Kong coleus doing good and time to put in individual containers.

Begonias only 7 of 18 sowed germinated. Too late to start more.
I have to tackle separating the wizard coleus seedlings this weekend. The chocolate mint ones aren't large enough yet.
The broccoli and broccoli raab are for fall.
A succession of lettuce all season would be nice so I bought a variety to try including the bibb  and already have some mesclum lettuce seeds. The bibb lettuce is supposedly slow to bolt.
My mother always made a sauce with vinegar and hot peppers. Since she passed I haven't had sauce so it's time to grow my own and make some. The 5 peppers include anaheim, ancho, cayenne, jalapeno, and Hungarian wax.
For stir fries.
Chives are my favorite but haven't done well in my yard.The ones I have are a different variety so maybe these will do better for me.

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