29 March 2012

Seedling Problems & Starter Containers on the Cheap

Ok, so still learning here! Just a disclaimer that I'm no expert. But I hope you and I can both learn from my mistakes. It will save someone time and money. Just not me. I have run into 2 seedling problems.

Some of my seedlings are “damping off,” which is a fancy way of saying I over watered. I didn't think it was likely, as the soil never looked swamped are pooled. However, a lot of my sprouts just fell over one day, leaving the roots under the dirt. I don't know if they are able to come back from it, but I'm hoping. I have pinched off some of the sprouts, hoping it will force new ones to spring forth from the roots. The others I left alone to see if they will fix themselves. If not, I'll have to buy tomato plants and try to squeeze in a second round from seed.

The other problem is lack of light. The seedlings were quite tall and spindly. They did not have access to light through a window, but a light was left on most of the day. The way to fix this is the set a light right on top, no more than 1” away. Obviously, this is for serious gardeners with grow lights. I used a lamp from the craft room and moved them to a sunny window.

Another tidbit I will be keeping in mind is not to start in containers too small. I started all the seeds in egg cartons. This would be fine if I was immediately transplanting to the garden. My tomatoes have still got awhile though. It would just be easier to have started them in their current containers. I'll save the egg cartons for flowers and herbs that can go right into the dirt after sprouting.

I have had trouble actually getting to the garden. With two kids, a full-time job, and house to care for, I'm a bit stretched on time and energy. If I could go back, I would have already had a tiller and hoe the day they turned the dirt. We have had a lot of rain, and the dirt has settled and compacted. I'm having to go back with the hoe to dig out the rocks and hack up those weeds. I am going to try the landscaping fabric. I intend to put mulch or something on top of the fabric just because it is so ugly. I was able to find quite the deal, a roll of 200ft with 50 staples for just under $34.

Beets are doing well, but no sign of the peas or beans. I suspect they were carried down an ant hill suspiciously nearby. Good news is that even if they are gone, I can do another round. Tomatoes are iffy, but half the broccoli looks good, which is 6 plants. I started the peppers.

I have Fort Laramie strawberries on order. You should check out Gardens Alive! They always have a $25 coupon with each catalog, so I got 25 plants for free including shipping. They sell seed, fertilizer, composting items, and other related things.

A project I'll be looking into is how to use the creek as a water source for the garden. It is probably 75 yards away and down hill. I don't have any experience with pumps or plumbing. I switched out a toilet once, and that's as far as it goes. If nothing works, I can haul it up in tanks I guess and use one of those sprayers.

This is a great way to have free, or pretty darn close to it, starter containers. I found this through Mother Earth News, a great magazine that leaves me coveting after every issue. They linked the idea to the cleverly-named blog, Mr. Brown Thumb. He lists other cheap ideas as well, so you may want to check it out.

First, I snagged some free local papers from the grocery store. I don't regularly buy the newspaper, but if you do this would be a beneficial way to get double duty out of it and recycle at the same time. Fold a full sheet in horizontally in half. Wrap around a can, cup, or tube of some sort. Don't go too tight, or you'll have to wrestle the two apart. I made four folds to make a bottom. Just push an edge in towards the middle until it is closed off. Slip the can out and tuck the top edges in all around. You can label each pod right on the paper.

A bonus is that the paper shows you how moist the soil is. The starters can go in a roasting pan, like I used, or you can use a cardboard lid or box trimmed down. Line with a trash can bag to prevent leaks. I have stuck with watering right into the pan and the other trays. I like this method much better as it takes less time and prevents over watering.

The last frost is approaching soon, so I gotta run. I got a date with a hoe.

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