Thursday, May 03, 2007

Out with one, in with another...

Welcome back, dear reader. Even though I’ve done a lot of gardening activity in the past week I’ll try to keep this as concise and “Reader’s Digest” as possible. Today I’m going to talk about how to plant teeny weeny seeds, what you need to know about fertilizers and what I found growing in my veggie garden.

So now that the temps are staying at or above 15 celsius (60 fahrenheit) and, with a few exceptions here and there, the overnight temps aren’t dropping below freezing it’s safe to plant a few more things. More specifically I’ve gone and planted my carrots and beets. I could’ve planted the beets a week or two ago because like the potatoes, parsnips, etc. beets are a hardy veggie and will tolerate light frosts and cooler temperatures. The carrots are fairly hardy as well but they do prefer warmer soil temperatures and since their germination period is so long having fairly consistent soil temps prevents interruptions in the germination. On the subject of carrots this is where the planting of teeny weeny seeds comes into play. The picture below is of carrot seeds.

Small, aren’t they? Now there’s lots of doo-dads and thingamajigs that have been invented to help gardeners plant small seeds. I don’t have money to spend on those tools but if you have poor eyesight, shaky hands and some coin to drop on such a tool I highly recommend purchasing one. Since I don’t have one I rely on the only other method I know of planting them which is basically just dropping them in a straight line. With smaller seeds one of the easiest ways of “planting” them is by laying them on top of the soil and then watering them in.

With subsequent waterings the seeds will work themselves into the soil and before you know it (in about 21 days) little carrot tops will be sprouting. If you opt for the tool-less planting method you’ll probably have to thin the carrots out as they start growing so they don’t get pushed out of the soil from over-crowding. This can be done for any teeny-weeny seeds, veggie and flower alike. Some places sell seed strips which is exactly what it sounds like. Seeds are secured in a biodegradable strip and have already been spaced out so no thinning is required when they do start growing.

So what about fertilizers? I’m mentioning this because in this particular geographical area (zone 5b) our “official” planting time is coming up in about 3 weeks, maybe sooner. This means that those warm weather loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, etc. can go into their new home in the veggie garden. If you’ve started them as transplants you might be considering starting them on a fertilizer/ plant food program to get those root systems nice and strong because they’ll need it to help adjust to the garden and pull nutrients from the soil. There are lots of plant foods out there and if you’re wanting to strengthen the roots you need to pick the right one. Most fertilizers/ food have 3 numbers listed on the box or container to indicate the ratios of nitrogen, phospherous and potassium that are in it. Below I have pictured a box of Clematis and Vine food so you can see what it is you’re looking for:

An easy way to remember what these numbers mean, without actually remembering which one is which, is by associating the numbers with 'up, down and all around'. That is, the first number affects the upper part of the plant, the second number affects the roots of the plant and the third number affects the overall plant. So, with a root stimulator you’d be looking for a fertilizer with a higher middle number. As another example, most flower fertilizers have a higher first number because you want the flower part of the plant to get the most from the fertilizer.
As a caution with fertilizers/ foods, even with the organic varieties you can go overboard and wind up burning your plants out. Be sure to follow the directions on the container closely and if you really want to play it safe use even less than what the instructions recommend.

Finally, what did I find in my garden? Well, thanks to the help of my Grandmother, the renegade pansies got moved to a new home as you can see below.

No more flowers in the veggie garden, right? Wrong. This morning as I was heading out to the barn I glanced into the garden and guess what I saw? These little fellows had sprouted up:

In case you’re wondering, they’re sunflower seedlings. I try to have a small sunflower patch in my veggie garden because they attract beneficial insects and birds to the garden and while I thought the finches and blue jays had picked my sunflowers clean I guess they left a few seeds behind (to save me some work, perhaps?) I’ll let these little fellows get bigger and then I’ll move them to another spot in the garden so they’re not scattered about.

So that’s it for today, dear dirt-digging reader. Next week I imagine things will have started sprouting so until then get planting!

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