Okay. So this post is about, you read it, what NOT to do when gardening.
I’ve talked to quite a few farmers/gardeners now, and it seems we are all learning together.
The best way to learn in life, is to f** things up, pardon my language.
You can read as many books as you want, you can create as many charts as you want, and you can intern for as long as you want, but really, sometimes the best way to get things started is to just jump in and get dirty.
Which means you are going to make mistakes.
So I thought I would share my mistakes with you, so that perhaps you can avoid them. (However, you might not really understand until you go ahead and make them yourself.)
So, things started off well.
I planted one seed per tray and most of my seedlings germinated (thank you Greta’s organics and Jardins de l’écoumène)
I misted them 2-3 times a day, making sure they never went too dry.
And I bought a SunBlaser lamp (for germinating). However, I feel like this was an unnecessary investment. I think they would have germinated just as well (practically) without it. I think they would have done just fine in regular sunlight.
All of my seedlings seemed to grow upwards too quickly. So they were tall (wonderful!) but their stems were too thin, and therefore they weren’t as sturdy as they could have been.
I do have to look into this matter a bit more, but I think this was due to the sunlamp. Perhaps it was because it was positioned too high above the trays, but regardless. I still feel strongly that it was unnecessary. And so in the future, either my plants will be in a greenhouse, or they will simply grow inside with the help of natural light. (Granted when you do this, you do have to rotate your trays often as the stems grow towards the light, causing your plants to grow slanted).
I feel the sunlamp may have also provided too much light (I didn’t think that was possible with vegetables) but when we are talking about artificial light and sensitive seedlings, I think it may be possible. It almost seemed as if some of the seedlings were burnt by the lamp (too much light). However, this burnt/yellow affect could have been caused by moisture or soil quality, but again, I would put my money on the lamp.
But that does bring me to my next mistake.
Using store bought soil and not homemade compost.
I have read over and over how homemade compost is the best. How if you want to do it right, start making your own compost. It may require an initial investment (building a compost heap), and time, but it totally pays off in the end.
When seeding and transplanting I bought seedling and potting soil from the store. I didn’t add anything to my seedling mix (first mistake), such as compost/fertilizer/other nutrients. I did buy certified organic bone meal to add to my potting mix (which the dogs loved by the way), but even that probably wasn’t the best idea.
My stuff grew well, but they looked sad in comparison to the spaghetti squash seedlings that a friend gave to me. They didn’t even plant spaghetti squash seeds. They sprouted in their compost, all by themselves (they must have thrown out some spaghetti squash seeds at some point).
I tell you, after seeing these spaghetti squash, I now understand why homemade compost is the best. And I will make sure to have my own compost for next year. There is no going back!
Next: it’s never a good idea to do any type of gardening in the middle of the day (11am-2pm). Basically, avoid the hottest part of the day. Not only is it better for you, but it is also better for the plants.
Always water plants in the morning or the evening, if not, you risk “frying” them.
Also, do not transplant your seedlings during the hottest part of the day.
And to top that off, make sure to harden off your plants properly. And do not leave them exposed to extreme conditions, too long or too quickly.
I transplanted my tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis during the middle of the day, in the 30degree heat and sun a week or two back, and a bunch of the leaves turned white and translucent. This is due to too much sun (an extreme change in weather) before they were really ready to be left outside.
I don’t know what I was thinking. But I can tell you I won’t be doing that again. I was able to revive most of them as I brought them in once I realized why they were turning white. But alas, there are some that simply did not make it.
It is for these reasons that I am happy that I am taking this summer to figure stuff out on my own. I didn’t really want anyone to be relying on my for advice too much, seeing as I am still figuring this stuff out. If I make mistakes that cost me money, at least it’s my own money, not someone else’s.
And last but not least, (and I can’t really speak against this yet from personal experience) but do not till. I still feel guilty that I used a rototiller for the garden, instead of mulching. Everything I have read, and continue to read, has only made me more sure that mulching is the best long term solution to weed suppression and healthy soil. Basically, mulching will help improve your soil, whereas tilling will diminish the quality of your soil. Tilling may be the easier solution and provide short term benefits, but they will wear out in the long run.
So to recap:
- Grow lites are not absolutely necessary. Unless you are growing pot for money, or have a commercial garden (in which case you would have a greenhouse, not growlites) growing your seedlings in natural light will work just fine.
- Homemade compost. Homemade compost. Homemade compost! (I don’t think I can stress that enough)
- Avoid doing any type of gardening work during the hottest part of the day. Take a siesta instead!
- Take the time to harden your plants off properly before transplanting.
- Don’t till. Mulch!
So there you go.
I’m sure I will have more mistakes and mishaps to share with you as the summer progresses. But hopefully, I will also have some amazing results to share with you at the end, despite my mishaps.
Till next time!