Saturday, March 7, 2009

Second Seminar a Success!

Thanks to Sage A. and Jim R. for a great organic gardening seminar today. Sage gave a very informative presentation on starting seeds indoors, potting up, hardening off, and transplanting into the garden.

In her system, seed flats are cleaned in a 5% bleach solution to sterilize them. They are then filled with seed starter potting soil (fine texture) and placed in a shallow pan so that water is wicked up from the bottom.

When the soil is moist, the seeds are planted. In this way seedlings get just the right amount of water and are not displaced by watering from above. She pointed out that plastic coverings (humidity domes that often come with the trays, plastic bags, etc.) should not be used to cover the seed flats. A fan of some sort in the room will help prevent "damp off", which is a fungus that makes your seedlings keel over.

A heating pad is placed under the pans to keep the soil warm enough for germination. You can buy an expensive heat mat with a thermostat made for this, but most veggies germinate on the medium setting of the heating pad. Sage also adds a small amount of Medina Plus to the water to give the seedlings a boost.

Shop lights with full spectrum flourescent "grow light" bulbs are suspended over the flats. After germination the first two leaves to open are the seed leaves, and next the true leaves appear. Plants should not be potted up to a larger pot until they have true leaves. After plants have been potted up and kept under the grow lights for a few more days, they are "hardened off" by gradually increasing the amount of exposure to outside air and sunlight. Finally they are ready to be transplanted into the garden.

Sage also passed out copies of the Kerr County Vegetable Garden Planting Guide from Texas A & M. This guide works well for our conditions here in the Frio Canyon. This guide indicates which plants can be seeded directly into the garden and which should be started indoors, and gives the window of planting time for each vegetable.

Next up was Jim R. who talked about using colliodal phosphate (also called rock phosphate) to help make tomato plants sturdier. A handful of this powder, available at most nurseries, should be placed under the plant at planting time.

Trudy F. pointed out that tomato plants can be planted with more of the stem below ground level to encourage root growth. Joe M. mentioned mycorrhiza root fungus and how important it is in a healthy soil. Jim said that Tums or Epsom salts are a good source of calcium for tomatoes.

He passed around two books - Malcolm Beck's Lessons in Nature, and The New Square Foot Gardening Book by Mel Bartholomew. Jim described square foot gardening, in which plants are grown in a mixture of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. His handouts included information on square foot gardening and Fanick's chart on planting by the phases of the moon.

Trudy F. won a cardoon plant given and grown by Sage A.

This seminar was informative and well received. Stay tuned to this blog for information on our next seminar!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent seminar, thanks y'all for the hard work. I can't wait for our field trip!