Sunday, April 7, 2013

Kickin' off gardening season!

I love that it's 8:30 in the morning and I have the front door open to let in that glorious warm air and sunshine.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who is ready (sooooo ready) for spring!  It's not only that I feel more like myself when I can be outdoors, but also I can start the laborious yet gratifying process of growing my own food!

I am eager to get going.  It's only been warm for a few days but I've already cleaned out the garden beds, mixed in pounds and pounds of compost, and spread new mulch on the flower beds (I weirdly love that smell).  Alas, I'm hurrying up just to wait.  There not much to do now but twiddle my thumbs until that frost date passes and I can finally put something in the ground.

I guess I can stay busy caring for the many seedlings I'm starting this year.  So far, I have sown Outredgeous lettuce, chocolate peppers, poblano peppers, Brandywine tomatoes, and Isis candy tomatoes.  Only the lettuce has emerged, but I'm sure the others are close.  I plan on sowing another batch next weekend to hedge my bets.  Some seeds I bought, but mostly I tried to save seeds from last year's crops.  This is the first year I have tried seed saving, so I hope it works!

I have high hopes for the Brandywine tomatoes - last year they were the only one of my tomato plants (including others bought at Lowes, the farmers market, and a local nursery) that not only survived the drought but flourished.  The plants were over 4 feet tall, lush, and produced multiple pound heirloom tomatoes.  Lovely!

This year I'm using Keurig K-cups to start my seeds (thanks to IU's Hilltop Garden Center for that tip).  They are the perfect size and they already have a hole for drainage at the bottom.  I keep mine in clear plastic lettuce containers for easy moving.  While I considered buying one of those large, fancy seed starting kits (they look so professional!), my pocketbook and my environmental sensibilities love using recycled materials instead.

Though I have grown plants from seed before, I feel like all the mistakes I have made in the past will paid off this year.  I've learned a lot!  Some tips I wish I would have known:

1) Always use light weight potting soil, not garden soil (even though it's cheaper).
2) Use a rotating fan to keep away mold/fungus and to promote stronger stems.
3) Use a spray bottle to give your seedlings with a few squirts of water EVERY day, especially at the beginning.
4) When transferring seedlings to a larger pot, pick them up by their leaves, never the stem, as that could damage their internal "organs."
5) Introduce your plants to the outdoor world gradually.  Unlike the rest of us, they need some spring transition time.

Check back in a few weeks to see how my seedlings are doing! Happy Spring!

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