Give it the light!

Have the first seedling sprouted out of your pots yet?  You are wondering what to do next?  Proper seedling maintenance provides adequate space, light, moisture, and food for your seedlings.  General information and species specific growing guides are helpful tools. Here is a great link and video to help guide you:

Here in the North, longer Spring days and a South facing window can provide adequate natural light for seedlings.  However, if your seedling are getting too spindly you can give them supplemental light with fluorescent or LED lights of the proper spectrum.  Here is how you can make a grow light

The sun is so nourishing you will notice even when you use supplemental lighting the plants will still reach for the sun. This is because certain wavelengths are not provided by artificial lighting. There is nothing like the sun for maximum plant health!

Have fun with starting your own seeds, it's easier than you think!

The space and time you have for your seedlings will determine what you will seed into.  If you do not have much time, you may want to use a flat production technique where you spread the seeds over a surface of soil and later on, transplant the best individuals to a development tray.  This technique is particularly useful when dealing with very small seeds, such as oregano and mixed greens.

You don’t have to purchase trays – recycle what you already have at home!  Choose containers that can promote good root development, that are easy to handle, and easy to clean and sanitize  Reuse the plastic containers you purchase food in at the store, a clear top and a dark bottom, such as roasted chicken containers.  These containers serve as a mini greenhouse which helps keep the environment humid and may reduce the watering frequency. The dark bottom absorb light and help increase the temperature of the soil.  Salad containers also work well.  

Proper watering (always humid; never saturate the soil with water), proper air circulation around the plants and ideal germination temperature for the variety of plant you grow are factors to consider to prevent the development of diseases.  Make sure your container can drain excess water.  If you use clear tops on your containers, do not forget that temperature will build up! Remove the lids when needed.

Check out more great tips on starting your seedlings and choosing pots here

Healthy Plants, Healthy People!

As us, plant have needs to grow healthy.  If those needs are met in the proper manner, the better the quality our plants are, the more nutritive value our food has, and the better our health. Have you ever thought about the quality of food in our grocery store? Nation of Change has an interesting article on the nutritional value of the produce we buy at the supermarket.

Nutrients, the building blocks of our health!

Soil, water and air provide food to our plants. Various sources say that plants need between 16 and 70+ types of minerals to be fully healthy. The 70 are rarely mentioned, but the main ones are classified in three groups:

The major nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Remember the numbers on a bag of fertilizer? It is what these numbers refer to, N-P-K. 

Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are used for structure and mainly come from water and air. Secondary nutrients include calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Micro nutrients are comprised of iron, boron, chlorine, copper, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, cobalt, and nickel.  Check this out to find out more about the important roles they play in gardening.

Down to the nitty gritty..

Image borrowed from www.ourgardengate.com

Image borrowed from www.ourgardengate.com

Building amazing growing soil is an affair of a few years…. Be patient!  And in the meantime, you may want to use seed starter soil.  Almost any type of soil can be turned into garden soil. The key is to know about it’s composition, pH and structure.  This knowledge will guide your next actions.

Ideally, garden soil structure should be composed of about half pore space per volume, which will contain water and air, and half solids, a mineral portion that contains at least 5% organic matter. The water retaining capacity of soil is key if you want to reduce the amount of work you do. Additions of composts, perlite, and/or vermiculite are various ways to improve soil structure and water retaining ability.  pH is essential as it helps determine how available to plants nutrients are. Visit us at the Budding Farmers table this summer to know more about nutrient availability and understanding this chart that will help you diagnose what might be wrong with your soil.

If you want to be a serious gardener, be ready to invest some money to get your soil tested.  Contact us at the Farmer’s market to get oriented.  

 

Time to start those seedlings!

Marvel at the unique development of various flowers and vegetables! Prepare your transplant to sell at the market!  Long season plants should have been planted a while ago. As the weeks unfold, it is now time to get the varieties that require 12 weeks and less before transplant. Tomatoes, peppers and short season broccoli and cauliflower should preferably be planted this week at the latest!

Choose seed varieties that require a minimum number of days to maturity to help guaranty a decent harvest. Yellowknife has around 123 frost-free days, not all of those are growing days (with periods above 5˚C). Be aware of plant requirements, read and follow packet advice.

Choosing seed is also part of making a statement about our food system, inform yourself about the seed grower and his growing methods. Here is a good place to start to understand the importance of seeds and find seed companies.

For more information on climate and growing tips, visit Yellowknife Garden Collective. The Territorial farmer’s website is also filled with resources.  One that is certainly interesting at this time is How to read a seed catalog.

University of Alaska also has helpful vegetable starting charts and more. Note that they plan outside June 1st, one to two weeks prior to us. Adjust to chart!