Seeds to Starts
August 17, 2009, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: backyard gardening
, Green Corn Project
, seeds to starts workshop
, transplanting seedlings
, vegetable gardening
The heat is starting to get to me.
Until now, I’ve been bearing the heat with a smile and a swimsuit. I had vowed not to hide indoors and rely on the expensive comfort of central air conditioning. When the sun tried to turn my garden into a dry and crispy fire hazard, I retaliated with irrigation. When the sun was too hot to run, I slowed my pace & added some walking segments. But I’ve got to tell you: I’ve made it this far and I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to take it. It’s August 17th and I am SO over this excessive heat and drought.
On Saturday I got a brief glimmer of hope that summer is coming to a close during the Seeds to Starts Workshop offered by Green Corn Project. During two workshops held in August, volunteers and Dig-In leaders prepare seed flats and then return in a few weeks to transplant the most vigorous seedlings to individual 4″ pots. We do this in August so that in September, when the fall garden Dig-In’s take place, we have some stout plants grown by our own volunteers to plant in a lucky recipient’s freshly dug garden.
This past Saturday we transplanted seedlings to pots. We moved all sorts of brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens and mustard greens. Though it was already 90 degrees and 99% humidity at 10am while we transplanted, and though I was already drenched in a pool of my own sweat, I felt an imaginary cool breeze as I recalled visiting Boggy Creek last fall. I remembered how cool it was outside and how broccoli became an integral part of my diet. I remembered cooking collards in early spring this year after returning from a volunteer day at Urban Roots that began cold and rainy and ended in the slightest bit of cool sunshine. I remembered standing in the shower with the water running for a solid 30 minutes after my return, hoping to warm up to a reasonable temperature. Those days seem so long ago. But planting the seeds for this year’s broccoli and collards helped to remind me that in just a short period of time, I will no longer have to sweat as I walk to my mailbox after work or peel myself out of my car’s leather seats on a top-down day. Though they are only in their infancy now, my cold weather brassicas are growing. And that means cold weather can’t be far behind.
Some interesting facts gleaned from the workshop on Saturday:
1) When planting seeds, plant them in a loose & deep potting soil/compost mixture. Deeper soil allows the roots to grow more expansively. Loose soil allows them to be transplanted more easily.
2) When transplanting, always handle the seedling by it’s leaves, NOT by it’s stem. It is much easier to damage the vulnerable seedling’s stem than the leaf. Leaves can grow back – stems will not.
3) Be careful with the roots! Don’t allow them to be exposed to air for too long, and do not compact them after you’ve transplanted it into the pot (even though it’s very tempting to do this to stabilize the plant). Also, be sure your soil mixture is somewhat damp. A dry soil mix will draw water from the plants roots, causing it more undue stress.
4) Always select the best seedlings for transplants. As Mitch told us on Saturday, “I like Charlotte’s Web just as much as the next person – but in the agriculture world we need to choose wisely”. Look for well developed leaves, strong stems & general overall health.
If you’re interested in getting involved in Green Corn Project, just sign up on their website! You don’t need to know anything about gardening to participate, we’ll teach you everything you need to know. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Especially in the fall, when we can all revel in the delight of wearing jeans & long sleeves on the start of a cool morning.
Update 5 – Bye-bye March, hello harvest!
March 29, 2009, 3:14 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: austin gardening
, backyard gardening
, carrots love tomatoes
, Green Corn Project
, mel bartholomew
, organic gardening
, raised bed gardening
, square foot gardening
, vegetable gardens
March has been a busy month in the garden. After 3 months of seed germination, sudden freezes & random garden expansion projects, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of this gardening business. Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned:
1- Not all of the gardening work is done in the garden. It is equally important to study up and be prepared with correct planting dates, temps, pests and amendments. For Texas gardens, I recommend Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening by J. Howard Garret. Also study up on planting methods – this does not need to be region-specific. Two must-reads: All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.
2- Gardening isn’t about giving every seedling a chance, it’s about production. Although it kills me a little to pluck seedling plants from their homes & show them to the compost pile, in the end it is about giving the strongest plants the best chance at a productive life. This means that not all of your babies can continue on with you from month to month. Farming is a tough world, and survival of the fittest is key.
3- Spend 10 minutes with your garden daily. This is something that the Green Corn Project asks of it’s participants, and something that I think every garden owner should be committed to doing. A garden needs to be watered and fed just like any other living being. The soil should be aerated as needed, weed plants removed & plants thinned & harvested as they continue to grow.
I’m anxiously awaiting the week when my plants begin to produce in quantity. My lettuce has been giving me fresh greens for a solid month now, but in a few weeks I expect it to bolt with the rising temps. I’ve also harvested spring onions & sparing amounts of oregano and mint. Yesterday I plucked a trampled baby onion from the garden and was surprised to see a bitty purple bulb at the end of it – my onions are growing! I’m terribly excited. In time their green leaves will die and shrivel to the ground, sending their sugars into the earth to make a fiber-filled onion bulb. I’ve thinned my tomatoes back severely and am down to 6 plants, 4 of which are in cages. The edamame are beginning to bud and I’m anxiously awaiting the bean-pods to drop from their flowers! I was so anxious to have a bamboo tee-pee, only to find out it’s not really necessary for edamame. Oh well, it looks cool. Live & learn…
Here are a few pics from the garden, here’s to more warm days and no more freezing nights!
the first awesome onion - isn't it beautiful?!
edamame - this is a week ago, they're bigger & budding now!
cantelope (L) and zuchinni (R). Yowza, these germinated way better than expected!
Green Corn Project
Some people have coffee in the morning. Some like to read the paper. Some like to read the paper while having coffee. I like to listen to National Public Radio. I listen to it in the car, with a coffee-to-go, on the way to work. I like it so much that I skip riding the motorcycle more and more often, in spite of it’s “cool” factor and the gas savings it affords. Starting my morning without Michele Norris’ stories to warm my numb brain is almost incomprehensible.
On a dewy morning a month or so ago, a commercial for the Green Corn Project aired during my morning program. I made a mental note and visited the webpage when I got into work. They were looking for team leaders to help guide volunteers on “Dig-in’s” – ie, days that are designated for vegetable garden making. Green Corn Project’s main ministry is helping disadvantaged Austin residents take back control on their food supply by starting & planting 4′ x 12′ vegetable gardens.
I signed up. It made total sense. I like vegetable gardens. I like Austin. I like helping disadvantaged people. I like building things. I should like Green Corn Project. So on Sunday, I attended my first Green Corn Project event: team leader training.
We journeyed to South Austin and built a 4′ x 12′ bed in a current dig-in leader’s backyard (I assume they didn’t want us to screw up anyone else’s yard). Green Corn practices John Jeavon’s double dig method, which basically asserts that well prepared soil can yield a lot of veggies in a small amount of space. There’s a little more to it than that, but I won’t bore you with the specifics.
On Sunday I learned a few things: 1) the Jeavon’s method, 2) tomatoes can and should be planted much higher on the stem than you ever thought, 3) old women with A.D.D. & O.C.D. are the most annoying creatures on earth. I have never seen one person so hell bent on removing every single stinking blade of dying grass from a pile of dirt. And I also hope to never see it again.
Overall it was a great experience, but I’m even more excited for my first real Dig-In day, when we’ll be installing a garden in a program participant’s yard. If you’re interested in helping out, no prior gardening experience is necessary! Just go to Green Corn’s website and sign up for any of the volunteer opportunities. Dig-In’s will continue on the weekends throughout the rest of May. In the meantime, check out the “fruits” of our labor below!