Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Early Veggies, What to Do?

Veggie starts, January 20, 2016
      What happened to the warmer winter forecast?  El Nino was supposed to bring us a milder winter.  So I pushed the envelope and started seeds early, maybe too, too early.  I had moved these trays to the porch for more light and cooler temperatures.  But not brutally cold temperatures.  The porch stays about 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature, so I figure the porch is alright for a forecast low of 18 degrees for these cold hardy starts.  But for back to back lows of 14 and 17 degrees, I figured these flats should vacation for a couple of days in the basement.  Now with the lowest prediction of 23 degrees over the next four mornings, these flats are going back outside today.  Just in time for the foot of snow predicted for Saturday.  That should make for lots of snow reflected sun light.

      The flats are all back on the porch for now.  I believe that the cold temperatures on the porch prevent the starts from getting leggy from growing too quickly.  That is why I wanted to get them back to the porch as soon as possible.


      These little plants are Mizuna Mustard.  Despite the mustard in the name, they are really quite mild.  The frilly leaves are absolutely gorgeous in a salad and delicious to boot.

Ruby stemmed Swiss chard

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

      Last year I may have started some tomato plants from seed, but nothing else.  Just never had the proper urge to get started.  The problem is that the lazy method gets expensive having to buy all of the veggies as starts, and it may be difficult to find wanted varieties.  With all the news about a milder El Nino winter, I believe cold weather crops will be able to go out to cold frames very early this spring.  As in a couple of weeks.  Gasp.  Well anyway, that is my theory and I am sticking to it.  Plus I have tons of old seed that needs to be used or tossed.
      So it was time to start paper towel germination on January 4.  Not tomatoes, nor peppers or anything like that.  Lettuce, kale, arugula, pak choi, and similar seeds.
      Here is my method:

      First, take a paper towel sheet and cut it in two, yielding two smaller sheets that are 7 x 5.5 inches.  Place seeds in the middle of one of the sheets, Lacinto Kale being shown here.  Dampen the area around the seeds with water from about 1/2 of an eyedropper.  Just dampen the towel, don't flood it.

      Fold the bottom third of the towel over the seeds to start enclosing them.

      Fold the top third down.  Note the eyedropper used for dampening the sheet.

      Lastly, fold a little bit of both ends over to make an enclosed packet.  A drop or two more water on the fold overs helps to hold them in place.  I bought tons of little 2 x 2 plastic bags at a party store, and use them to store seed or in this case, hold labels to keep them dry.  The label and the dampened envelope go into a "snack" baggie for the germination process.
      So how long does that take?  I started damp towels of eight different seed varieties on January 4th, and here on the 6th I had to plant out some Pak Choi.  Wow.  I will now be busy.

      Here are the Pak Choi seeds which have broken through the shell and started to send out roots.  Using the little tweezers shown, I tease out baby plants, and put them two to a cell for grow out.  If you wait too long, the roots grow into the towel, making the baby plants difficult to capture.  If and when that happens, just plant little pieces of towel along with the babies.

      You can see a couple of the little Pak Choi plants in this picture.  I believe I got 100% germination for this seed packed for 2013.  Though this method may seem a little tedious, ypu can find out quickly if you will get seedlings without spending weeks waiting for flat after flat of supposed seeds to do something.  Been there, done that.  Wasted a lot of time.