This year I am determined to create my first vegetable garden. I am a newbie when it comes to growing vegetables. So, I thought I would start off easy and grow tomatoes, blueberries, cauliflower, and peppers. (Yeah, so much for starting off with a very simple garden!) My organic heirloom tomatoes seedlings came from California because I was too late to grow them from seed. But was last year was full of learning experiences (um mistakes) that I would like to share for all you newbies out there. In ad
Last Year’s Gardening Mistakes
When I prepared the soil, I mix in a ton of compost. When the tomatoes seedlings started to grow, you would have thought I gave their steroids. They became six foot bushes overnight. Everyone kept saying that I gave them too much nitrogen, but they were wrong. Heirloom tomatoes just get really big. (Or, am I kidding myself, and the naysayers are right?)
However, my biggest mistake was I planted the seedlings in July and did not get my first tomato until September. Heck, it was my first vegetable garden! As the plants set out tomato flowers, I kept praying that I would get some tomatoes before it got to cold. And September was one cold month. Garden covers were my only hope that the plants would stay warm so I could just save the seeds.
At the end of October, the tomatoes did not grow much and the weather started to really turn. I must have pulled off 40 different size tomatoes that were not ripe, and held my breath for many weeks hoping they would ripen. Out of those 40, maybe 3 ripened. I saved seeds from 3 plants and tried to save one tomato plant’s seeds, but I think it was an exercise in futility. The tomato was just too green.
A New Year, a New Gardening Adventure
So, this year, I vowed I would start on time. Well, Green Talk, my new infant, has gotten in the way, keeping me up at night and sleep deprived. I just started planting my seeds indoors using an seed starter tray. All you seasoned gardeners are saying, “you are suppose to start 6 weeks before the last frost!” I know…I know.
I read that if you soak the seeds before you plant them, they will germinate sooner. I know I am not going to be able to catch up that quickly but every day counts at this point. I had stored my seed packages from Heirloom seeds in the refrigerator during the year. I noticed that the seeds were kind of floating in the water. Again, I prayed to the gardening gods to let my seeds still be viable.
Environmental Concerns Over the Use of Peat Moss
When I bought my seedling trays filled with peat moss pellets, I had no idea of the environmental controversy behind peat moss. Apparently, the harvesting of peat moss is depleting the bogs.
Users of Canadian sphagnum peat moss are divided into two camps regarding whether or not its use affects the environment. Canada, unlike England and Ireland whose bogs are disappearing “boasts 270 million acres of peatlands. Canada harvests some 40,000 acres of sphagnum and exports 90 percent of it to the United States for lawn and garden use,” according to a 1993 article written by Marc Lecard in Sierra Magazine. However, the article goes on to say
“Some wetlands scientists, however, point out that a managed bog bears little resemblance to a natural one. Like tree farms, these peatlands tend toward monoculture, lacking the biodiversity of an unharvested bog.”
The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association states that peat is a renewable resource and the the “peat in Canada is growing more than 70 times as fast as it is being harvested [According to an issue paper entitled “Canadian Peat Harvesting and the Enviroment,” published by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada)]”
Alternatives to Peat Moss
There are alternatives to peat moss such as Canadian sphagnum peat moss or coco peat moss, but my favorite find has to be Terracycle’s worm poop cell storage unit. The seed starter mix is made of veri-compost, which is worm poop, which every gardner knows is the best type of compost. In addition the seed trays are made out of recycled paper not plastic like most seed starters. Once your seedlings are grown, you can literally tear off the cell and plant it right in the ground. The paper decomposes and there is less stress on the plant.
When I try to switch a plant from its pot to the ground, I inevitably lose half of the soil and distrub the roots. As exicited as I was about the worm poop, Terracycle must have had me in mind with these tearable cells to plant. Want to know more? See Terracycle’s video about this product. They also have great fertilizing products too. You can buy their products in Lowes and Wal-mart.
Lastly, coconut coir bricks are another alternative. Coconut coir bricks expand when combined with water and makes an excellent medium for seedlings. It also holds water rather than sheds it. According to Golden Organic, who sells these bricks, coco peat expands with 2 quarts of water and makes 4 quarts of material enough to fill up two 72 or 36 cell flats. That’s my kind of medium!
Stay tune to Green Talk as the “Garden World Turns.” Day 4 of seedlings, and no signs of anything. The funny thing is my website, Green Talk, and seedlings are so much alike. You got to have patience and give them some love, and they will flourish beyond expectations!
Join the Conversation:
- Are you a newbie to gardening? If not, how long have you been gardening?
- Made any gardening mistakes? (Oh, come on. I know you have made a few.)
- Do you grow seedlings?
- Any favorite gardening advice?