Friday, March 11, 2011

How To Sprout Small Vegetable Seeds Indoors

It's the beginning of March and while all signs of frost may NOT have disappeared, you can begin planting sensitive food crops indoors. While most people can figure out how to plant seeds directly in small pots, with organic soil, I thought I might share a technique that my dad sometimes used to start very small seeds sprouting, such as tomato seeds, before he planted them in soil. In truth, I'm hoping to grow collard greens this year and because the seeds are rather small I'm going to start them this way.  (Note: collard greens are in the cabbage family and can be tolerate colder weather than other vegetable varieties - but I'm starting mine inside for fun.)

Step one: Gather three supplies. Water, old newspapers, and your tomato or other small seeds.

Step two: Open a sheet of newspaper and then open the seed packet and
Step three: Space the little seeds along one of the newspaper folds. (See image.) 

Step four: Spray the seeds with enough water to make the paper very damp. Then fold the newspaper so the seeds are tucked inside.

Step five: Spray the newspaper so it's really wet. Be sure to keep the newspaper wet for the next few days. 

Step six: Depending on how long it takes your seeds to sprout *usually 3-5 days) Unfold the newspaper and look inside. Your seeds now have roots and are ready to be planted in soil. Check your gardening zone. If it's too early in the season for your plants to go outside these can be potted indoors until the danger of frost has past. Otherwise, these seeds can be planted directly outside in soil suitable for the plant variety you are hoping to grow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's Been Snowing For Days & Great New Book: Hydroponic Gardening

We've had record-breaking cold weather for this time of year, here lately. It's snowed nearly every day for the past week but fortunately, it changes quickly to rain and so the roads are clear for driving. Saw these two ducks while out on a walk and wondered how cold the water must be (sure wouldn't want to put MY that pond to paddle around).
Because heavy winds now gust here in the greater Seattle area I'm staying indoors and I just read:

Discovering Hydroponic Gardening: From Earth to Water by Alexandra Collins Dickerman and John Dickerman 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this little paperback at an estate sale the other day and read straight through it. It's a personal account of a young couple's exploration into starting their own organic vegetable garden. The adventures begin when they purchase a small dilapidated farm and the heating system does not work inside the house. Parts of the book are quite humorous as the couple quickly learns that their newly purchase farm animals and vegetable growing are two ventures that collide.

"We now have discovered, that it isn't necessary to live on a farm to grow your own food," the authors admit, finally. "With hydroponics it is possible to live anywhere and grow a substantial supply of vegetables." This book gives instructions for a family of four to grow its own organic vegetables, spending only a couple hours each week for garden care, utilizing a 10-by-12 feet space using the hydroponics system.

"If the plant nutrients used are of the purest and highest quality, all the necessary nutrients for sturdy pant growth will be available to be absorbed directly by the plants as they need them."

The book, "Discovering Hydroponic Gardening," also suggests that water usage is kept to a minimum with this gardening system. The book includes black and white photos and effective drawings. The writing is very personable, easy to understand, and the ideas presented seem like they would be implemented rather easily provided the gardener has a little cash for setting things up.

The authors present a few different strategies for how to grow food they hydroponic way. The most complex-looking version is "the flooding method" and it involves a household timer, an aquarium air pump, a pan or container for the scaled reservoir, a growing medium such as gravel, the nutrient solution, and the pot the food grows in.

A more simple method is called "drip irrigation" where the plants are grown in peat moss and are watered with the nutrient solution to keep the roots wet but to allow little if any runoff.

The third system is called the "standing solution method" and it involves growing plants directly in the solution while aerating the roots with bubbles (perhaps using an aquarium pump).

This resourceful little book is a great reference for experience gardeners and an excellent guide for individuals wanting to start growing their first little garden.