Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prepping for our Community Garden Plots, Part 3

In the past I have had difficulties with my seedlings.  They sprout like crazy, grow two inches tall...

and die.

What did I do wrong?

So many things probably. :)  Overwatering, underwatering, fertilizing too soon, moving too soon or too roughly, leaving them in too much sunlight, not allowing them enough sunlight, soil that lacks the proper amendments, is too hard, or too soft.  There are so many variables.

While I have gained SOME wisdom in the growing of my plants, I am hardly an expert.  Looking at my own seedlings this year, and being able to say honestly that I have not lost one, does give me some pride, encouragement, and potentially some bragging rights.  But I think that mostly my limited wisdom is held up by a merciful and loving God, and that He looked on my poor effort to grow green and beautiful plants, and blessed me.

From the beginning of my seedling starts, to now, mid April, I have changed my direction, tools and materials DRASTICALLY.

BEGINNING - I began with egg cartons and jiffy pellets.  I lined my window sill with aluminum foil trays (to reflect warmth and light and to contain drainage) and planted my seeds, 2-3 in each Jiffy pellet, this held gently in each egg cup.  And my seeds did sprout and got to about 2 inches tall.  2 inches = make or break for me.  I struggled finding the appropriate watering levels.  They were too dry.  I watered them.  They were too wet.  The egg carton NEVER dried and mold sprung up on them.  I searched frantically on the internet for a solution for this problem.  I didn't want to lose my tomato plants.  This was my test.  This was my year.  Grow my year of vegetables to feed my family.  And I was already at this crux, near to losing, before I had truly begun.
Many gardeners on the internet had run into these same problems, it seemed, and they recommended a 1-10 solution of bleach water lightly sprayed on the mold.  My heart quailed.  Bleach water??  I clean my bathroom with bleach water.  I didn't want to spray this all over my beloved young plants, that would eventually, hopefully provide my family with lots of delicious fruits.
But the mold spread.  It grew up the cartons, up the netting on the jiffy pellets, and then up the stems of my tender tomato plants.  I made my bleach water solution and sprayed a few plants to test it.  The plant weakened.... the mold did not.

I thought long and hard, and I prayed....  What must I do to SAVE these seedlings?  I had plenty of seed to throw the whole lot out and start again, and again, and probably again.  But why start new ones?!?  Why go to all the trouble of planting and watering and turning and tending new seed pellets and watching the sprouts grow, only to watch them then mold, wither and die, like so many before.

I did not water them while I pondered this, and slowly the mold died.  The plants remained alive, but began to weaken.

I prayed.

And while wandering Walmart, I had a new and I think, ingenious idea.  Try to mimic the store bought starts as much as possible - larger, well drained containers, and good soil, not fake jiffy pellet soil.  My thoughts are that more soil equals better drainage, better root structure, more warmth.

So I purchased some large plastic cups that were on sale.  I got about 150 for $3.  And a large bag of Miracle Grow Garden Soil.  I DID NOT purchase starter soil.  I purchased Garden Soil - ie. as close to real dirt as possible.

I transplanted all my starts into these cups, and used a knife to cut 4 drainage holes in the bottom of each.  I have NO mold.  I have NO weak plants.  I have not lost a single plant!  And next year I intend to plant my seeds direct into the cups to begin with.  I believe that the less you have to transplant, and move and transplant and move, the better.  I would highly recommend this method to anyone.  It worked great for me, black thumbs and all. :)

My own personal take on our goals....

I want my plants to grow big and strong, so that they fulfill their purpose.  Being a christian, I think of myself as a steward, in all areas of my life.  Children, Husband, Home, Animals, Plants.... I try my best to care for them for the Lord.  I look to tending these plants, so that they may do what God intended them to do.  And this year, I pray that they will feed my family, and provide us, not just with our nutritional needs, but some extraordinarily delicious meals.  And I also pray, that the time spent tending them, strengthens my family, doing our physical labors in the sunshine and fresh air, digging in the fresh, rich dirt of the earth, spending our time together, productively with laughter and learning and an end product that delights our eyes and our stomachs and our souls.

1 comment:

  1. Caroline - you're such a good writer! And I like your conclusion :)