Thursday, March 22, 2012

Get It Started!

I’m late getting my seeds started this year. The basic problem is I’m thinking too much. This is a common problem for me. Too much thinking/dwelling/considering and not enough doing.

Initially, I was so ready to get going with the garden that at the first sign of spring (75 degree weather in the middle of February!), I went out in search of soil. The problem is that my local gardening place wasn’t open yet for the season and the only thing Home Depot had was “Organic Choice” by Scott’s Miracle Gro. In my zest, I bought it, carted it home, and left it on my porch. Where it still sits because a) I became extremely skeptical that anything made by the Miracle Gro people could possibly be organic and b) even if it is, the Scott’s company is responsible for law suits against organic competitors, not to mention the poisoning of more lawns and gardens in America than anyone else.

Everyday as I walked past the big yellow bag, I felt guiltier and guiltier. This past week I realized that I’d spent so much time wallowing in my guilt and indecision that it’s less than 8 weeks away from Tomato planting time and I have yet to start a single seed. So I went to my computer and googled “Organic Choice by Scott’s” and low and behold it is actually certified by OMRI (Organic Material Research Institute). OMRI is the non-profit organization responsible for certifying gardening materials for certified organic growers. They keep a database on all the products they certify.

The skeptic in me wonders how a non-profit agency that is funded by donations, grants, and the fees it charges for the certification process could possibly keep tabs on the tens of thousands of products out there, but the trusting soul in me figures there’s really no other option but to go with it. Still. Scott’s is a pretty lousy company. If their product is so superior why is it they have to wage legal and financial war on small organic companies to eliminate the competition? I haven’t opened the bag.

My usual practice is to mix sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite with potting soil to start my seeds, but now that my potting soil is giving me such mental fits, I decided to try something different.

Seed starter is exactly what it says it is – a medium for starting seeds. Typically, it has very little nutrients in it because seeds don’t need nutrients to germinate. Once they have their first true leaves, however, they need some food. So that’s when it’s recommended that you transplant them to potting soil. I’m a lazy gardener in a hurry, so I combine the seed starter and the soil to begin with and skip the whole transplanting step, except for my tomatoes, the royalty of the garden. I do transplant my tomatoes to bigger pots somewhere along the line.

I searched OMRI for commercial seed starting mixtures that are certified, and found only one brand which isn’t available at my gardening store. I turned to OrganicGardening Magazine’s website (highly recommend this site to anyone with gardening questions or anyone just starting out gardening – super helpful articles). They recommended a home-made seed starter recipe of screened compost, vermiculite, perlite, and sphagnum peat moss. Their potting soil recipe was simply compost and vermiculite. I decided to split the difference and create something that has all four ingredients, but is heavy on the vermiculite and compost. We shall see.

In the interest of my own completely non-scientific research, I’m also going to mix vermiculite, compost and my own garden soil for some of the seeds.

It’s also time to start the peas. Because my hens are not completely finished tilling the garden for me, I decided to try germinating the peas myself in wet paper towels. This will give the girls a couple extra days, but keep my peas on schedule. I’ve never tried this, but have heard from old-timers that it works great.

Stay tuned for the Seedling Update and the Pea Report next month!

Have you started any plants yourself? The ground is warm enough for lettuce, spinach, and carrots, so scatter a few seeds. It’s also safe to put in your broccoli plants and cabbages. You don’t need a designated vegetable garden, just find an open piece of soil in one of your flower beds and have at it. No excuses for no garden. Plant something!

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