Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Home Garden Plot Part II: Searching for Seeds, Seedlings, transplants, harvest


Last time, we looked at building your own raised garden for leafy greens.  Having at least a small plot of freshly grown greens has become increasingly vital to my life.  There really isn't much that compares to having an entire jungle of salad waiting right in your backyard instead of wilting in your fridge.  We do know that the nutrient content of vegetables begins to decrease as soon as it is cut from the soil and continues to lose energy as it decomposes.  The longer you wait to eat it, the more you have to share with the decomposition process.  So the fresher the greens the happier the body.  We left off here...

and eventually turned things into this:

But how?

We left our newly formed soil beds and hit the internet.  Using a new and exciting seed search website aptly named: www.PickACarrot.com, we looked for the most colorful, flavorful, interesting and well priced varieties we could find.  I was able to locate a diversity of salad, mustard, spinach and chard greens from all over the country in seconds from dozens of different seed catalogs, many of which were new to me.  The price comparison, seeds per dollar, allows growers to determine which companies offer the best value and in a couple of days I had my seed order in hand.  Like Kayak, I get to deal directly with the seed companies so I can maximize any customer service issues and don't have to bother with a removed middleman.

We used a light potting mix, one lower in nutrients and high in moisture retention, airflow and drainage, all key for starting seedlings.  A mix of sphagnum moss and sand or coco coir and perlite are great for getting your seeds to germinate.  You don't need a nutrient-rich mix because a seed already comes packed with all the nutrients it needs to survive initial germination.  Something too nutrient dense can even burn the seeds and prevent or inhibit growth.

For lettuce and mustard greens, it's best to seed very close to the surface.  First water your trays well, then just lightly indent the surface with your finger and place 1 to 2 seeds per hole.  Lightly cover the seeds with another thin layer of starting mix and water lightly to create contact between the soil and the seed, but not too much that you cause the seeds to shift around.

Then we placed the seedlings in warm place.  We had access to a cold-frame, but a windowsill receiving lots of light works too, or a greenhouse is ideal.  Watering just enough to prevent the soil from drying out, we watched as our seedlings took for the sky.

In about 3 weeks, our seedlings were ready for transplanting.

One of the major advantages of transplants is that you get to control and select for good germination and healthy plants before you commit them to your limited garden/farm space.  It's another layer of quality control while also getting yourself a head start.

The lettuces were transplanted approximately 6'' apart in-between rows and within their respective rows.  For these sprawling lettuces, this is enough space to allow them to grow to full head size, but also close enough to maximize our spacing.  Other varieties are more apt to even closer spacing, about 1'' apart on either side, which would create an easy to cut, blanket of lettuce.

The Rainbow Chard and colorful Orach were spaced around 6 -12'' apart.

An incredible feeling and with all the work put in, so much comes back.  Week after week we have been thankful to harvest full coolers of salad mix and braising greens to share with anyone and everyone interested while completely satiating our own needs.  It's truly amazing how much food you can grow in such a tiny space.  This process really makes me think about what is possible with the land we still have left.  


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