Friday, February 20, 2015

Seedlings

The key to gardening is knowing when to plant your seedlings. We are fortunate enough to have Joel's parents who take urban homesteading to the next level, so we get lots of helpful tips from their hard earned experience. If you don't have folks like my in-laws then I'd get familiar with some great urban gardening YouTube channels. You can find anything you need on YouTube when it comes to homesteading. My father-in-law recommended this star to me: Kaye Kittrell .

To find out when to plant your seedlings, it is important to know what season you are in and what can be planted during that season. It is also worthwhile to consider what types of plants you want to eat. Everyone tends to get really excited about plants like tomatoes or peppers. These veggies are delicious. However, it is also helpful to think about how much of the plant goes to waste when you harvest. You can only eat the literal fruit of these two, but if you plant kale or collards you can eat the whole plant and it regenerates so you can keep harvesting it. Just something to consider. 

This is a helpful chart to give you an idea how what vegetables and fruits you can plant in each season: 


chart from uncg.edu
Remember when you look up a planting chart to search one for your area of the Country. This one is specific for Piedmont North Carolina.

Once you have decided what vegetables you'd like to have in your garden and figured out if it is possible grow them in the season you are in, then you have to decide how many to plant in each garden box. Joel's Dad instructed us to plant 6 seedlings by 3 seedlings depending on the types of vegetables we decided on (remember our beds are 4x8 feet). For example, we planted two rows of purple bell peppers (3 across), 2 rows of green bell peppers (3 across), and two rows of eggplant (3 across) in one box. In another box, we planted a row of cucumbers (growing up the headboard-3 across), 2 rows of hot cherry peppers (3 across) and then two rows of okra (3 across). This was a learning experience for us because we did not realize that okra can grow up to 8 feet tall. By the end of the season our okra (which was wonderfully prolific!) had created enough shade to seriously deplete our peppers which seemed to shrivel on the vine. A little more research would have helped us choose a better location for our okra trees. 




There are lots of places you can purchase your seedlings if you have not planted them from seed yourself. We will grow our seedlings ourselves this year from the seeds we dried out from last summer, but last spring we did not have that opportunity. We checked around our area for the best deals on seedlings. In the process, we discovered that some places offer you nice plants that are GMO grade (genetically modified, which means they have pesticides already tagged to their DNA) and some can offer you nice plants that are Heritage Crops (still in their original evolved state). What you choose is up to you. I prefer heritage crops, myself. Joel prefers what is least expensive and won't be eaten by bugs. Some research shows that heritage crops have almost double the nutritional value of GMO crops, but often they are destroyed by pests before you can enjoy them (if you don't use pesticides). It felt like a toss up until we found "Dilworth's little Secret", Campbell's Nursery in Charlotte. They offered the best quality, heritage seedlings for a fraction of the cost. I paid $1.25 for a package of 3 plants. That is roughly 41 cents a plant and when we are talking green peppers, we gleaned between 10-15 peppers from each plant this summer. That is a huge savings when one green pepper from Food Lion can cost up to $1.25 on it's own. We were delighted! Not to mention, their seedlings were hearty and lasted all summer. 




Once you purchase your seedlings, you just plant them according to their instructions on the tab or according to the information on the planting chart above. Then you water them really well. Watering seedlings is very important and it is best to water your plants in the evening during the summer months so they get the most our of your efforts. We watered our plants every night (for the most part) which is one way to do it. My in-laws cover the top of their soil around the plants with wood chips which retains water and keeps the plants moist longer so they don't have to water their plants much at all. 


I add marigolds in the garden to attract bees and detour pests who don't like the smell.