Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Be Defiant! Cultivate Seeds

Last weekend I checked out Seedy Saturday, an annual gathering of urban garden enthusiasts who buy and sell heirloom seeds and talk garden shop. The event was so well attended I had to squeeze my way from stall to stall. My efforts were well rewarded though. I came home with a multitude of heirloom seeds with far-out names such as Di Cicco Broccoli, Scarlet Nante carrots and Chicago Warted Hubbard (it’s a squash). I’m even going to grow beans!

What’s the Big Deal? – With the likes of Monsanto claiming proprietorship over seeds, and the whittling away of variety in veggies and fruits over the decades, the act of cultivating nature’s wide diversity is at once an act of defiance and a movement to strengthen our food supply. The latter is of critical importance given what’s ahead of us as the climate changes. Diversity will help us better weather changes that some species find intolerable.

Indoor Incubation
Every year I challenge myself to expand my gardening activities. This year I plan to start my planting early. Real early. In Toronto where I live planting day is typically the end of May when there is no risk of frost. This spring I’m turning my house into a plant incubator. I’m going to start the growing process inside and transplant them to the garden in late May. While at Seedy Saturday, I took in a workshop on indoor planting. This is what I learned:

  • Mix 90 percent potting soil with 10 percent coconut coir. This mixture provides the seeds with nutrition-rich airy soil in which to thrive.
  • Use a potting medium that makes it easy to remove plants during transplantation to the garden bed. Those plastic potting trays with small units are designed for this purpose. You can also use egg cartons. Just make sure to punch a tiny hole in each unit to ensure drainage. For plants such as tomatoes, be sure to use a small pot – something larger than the potting tray.
  • Moisten the soil before planting.
  • Once you’ve planted the seeds, cover the soil with newspaper or, if using egg cartons, the carton lid. This will help retain moisture. Calculate the germination time and mark it in your calendar. You want to remove the lid or paper just before the plants start poking through the soil.
  • For complex plants, like most veggies, you will need to ensure they get full spectrum lighting. I believe you can buy a special lamp. The easier alternative, if you are able, is to place the young plants at a south-facing window so they receive optimum sunlight.
  • Weeks prior to transplanting to the garden, start introducing the plants to the elements. Let them sit outside for six hours or so everyday. You want to get them hardy in preparation for transplantation.
  • Be sure not to over water. Moisten the soil only when it’s dry.
  • When transplanting, the plant should have at least three leaves. Gently pinch the top leaf and use a flat devise like a flat wooden stick to pry up the plant. Ideally you want to the soil to go with the plant. The roots should be while. If they are dark, discard the plant as it’s unhealthy and will likely not survive.

To find out how many weeks to start the seeding process, check out this great Toronto-based site called You Grow Girl. Click here for their guide chart.

The reason to start the edibles indoors is twofold: to give them a heads start so that we can harvest sooner, and to nurture them in a safe environment for greater chance of survival.

Our Problem
I’m all gung-ho about starting my edibles indoors. Our south facing living room is blessed with large windows, great for giving our edibles a head start. However, Jane and I have a bit of a challenge. We have four very curious cats who find green leaves absolutely irresistible to chow down on. So this is what I’m thinking: plenty of cat grass on the floor and giving the containers a douse of lemon. Nothing turns a cat off more than citrus. Blah!


Check out this great little video on one family’s journey to self sufficiency.

In the News

Ontario to prohibit 85 cosmetic pesticides
Rachel Carson would have been pleased.

Endangered Species Act 'has serious holes'
And then there is this.

Harper rolls dice to play oil sands 'wild card'
Great article by The Toronto Star’s Tyler Hamilton

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