Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When the weather turns warm it's time to start the outdoor chores...

So it's another gardening post today and Spring is surely here because I've started my eggplant and tomato seeds. The other sure sign of Spring is that the grocery stores are starting to assemble their outdoor garden centres. They don't have any stock in yet but soon enough I'm sure they'll have stacks of manure, topsoil and flats of flowers ready for buying. The last little bits of snow that are hanging around need to go... now.

Today's post is going to be for those that are starting seeds, although some of this will apply to those that have already started their planting (you lucky folks in the South!) The focus is going to be choosing good soil for starting and the type of care you need to give the seeds for the first few of weeks of growth.

I use peat pots for my seed starting because they're cheap and are biodegradable so when it comes time for planting outdoors I can just dig a hole, plunk them in, fill the dirt back in, water and I'm done. No popping them out of trays and handling them with kid- gloves and running the risk of damaging the root system. Also, because the peat pots are natural as they degrade in the soil they actually wind up improving the soil quality and water retention. Win-win, how can you go wrong?

The first signs of Spring...and finally some colour!

As far as soil goes I use Miracle-Gro potting soil with vermiculite. That said, any good quality potting soil will do, although if it doesn't already have any in it you may want to consider amending the soil with vermiculite to improve the water retention of the soil to avoid having to water frequently.

When it comes time for starting the seeds I've always found the easiest thing to do is fill the peat pot a little over half full and then gently pat the soil down. Place 2-3 seeds in the pot (depending on how large they are) and top off with more potting mix and then gently pat the top layer down. Leave a bit of space at the top to allow for more soil to be added as the seedlings get bigger.
Most of the watering can be done with plain ol' water but it's advisable that once a week you treat your seeds to a dose of compost tea. A weekly watering with compost tea is like super-food for your seedlings and it's something that you can continue to do even after transplanting to the garden. Your plants will thank you for it, trust me.

In order not to over-saturate your seeds, and possibly cause rot, try to avoid using a watering can or water bottle. Instead, head of to your local dollar store and invest in a small spray bottle. This way you can just mist the soil and prevent drowning your seeds. I was fortunate in that this was passed onto me and it has been one of the most useful gardening tools I have:

Sorry 'bout the crummy picture.

Oh yes, a watering spout on one end and a sprayer on the other. Does it get much better than that!? I think not.

To end off this post I'll be posting a recipe... for compost tea.

Compost Tea
(Adjust the amounts based on your own needs)

Place a shovelful of compost into a burlap bag, large sheet of folded over cheesecloth or old pillowcase and tie off the end(s). Steep it in a bucket of water for 2-3 days. Take the sack of compost out and, if necessary, dilute it to the colour of weak tea.
Transfer the compost tea to whatever watering implement you're using and empty out the contents of your "tea bag" into the garden.

You just made compost tea!

So there you have it, a gardening post and a recipe. Although consuming the compost tea yourself is a no-no. (Really, I could just picture someone reading that and trying it out as a mixer at a party or something... I mean, I've heard of people doing stupider things.)

I'll be back later in the week with another art post. I just received some more art supplies in the mail today and I'm itching to start using them. So if you'll excuse me, I have some new toys I'd like to go play with. :D


Lisa B. said...

I have compost! Never made tea with it, but the rose bushes get the coffee grounds!

New toys? Show n' Tell please!

Rita said...

Coffee grounds are always a sure bet when you add them to the garden. I've heard they're super good for veggies too but I've yet to try it out.

Oh, I'll be showing some of the work I'm doing with my new toys soon enough! :D