Originally Posted on March 17, 2013
Greetings Farmers and Gardeners,
Valley Oak Tool Co. is proud to be part of the sustainable, local food revolution. Every home gardener, farmer, and market gardener who uses our tools is making a great contribution to creating more sustainable communities. We're proud to provide an important tool in your sustainability tool shed.
Starting Seeds in Newspaper Pots
Starting Seeds is high on the current to-do list for getting the garden going. In our last issue we visited Sawmill Creek Farms, and they had greenhouses bursting with seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, and other plants. Some of the home gardeners at Valley Oak Tool Co. procrastinate when it comes to starting seeds. Some folks on our team end up buying starts at the Farmer’s Market, or getting extra starts from friends who are more proactive. Why the delay? Maybe the greenhouse needs a good cleaning; the pots need washing, and the starting mix needs mixing.
This year we thought we’d try starting seeds in newspaper pots. We saw some newspaper pots being used during our visit to Sawmill Creek Farms. We took a copy of our free local weekly paper, and using a ruler tore the paper into strips about 5 inches by 20 inches. Rather than buy that cute little wooden set to make newspaper pots, we chose to use a small jar as a form around which to roll up the newspaper. We mushed the bottom together and had our pots.
The pots were a bit tippy when they were empty, but once they were in a tray, and filled with growing medium, the pots stabilized and were ready to plant. Our tray of newspaper pots was sown with seeds, and set in a south-facing window, and that was that. It took about forty-five minutes to make the flat of newspaper pots. We sowed seeds of a few tomatoes, some dill, tomatillos, and Thai basil. It's a good re-use of newspaper, which will decompose once planted in the garden. And plastic pots have been taken out of the equation, this year.
We’re still direct sowing seeds of kale, radishes, carrots, chard, and collards. We like to work with micro-climates in the garden to try to extend the spring crops. We have lettuce growing under the canopy of a deciduous tree, which will allow morning sun to hit the lettuce, and shade the lettuce from hot afternoon sun once the tree leafs out. Do you have part of your garden that offers shade from the afternoon sun? It could be a good spot to experiment with getting lettuce plants to yield into early summer, or other plants with a tendency to bolt as the days grow longer.
Or you can try planting a heat-tolerant variety of lettuce. We are intrigued by the description of “Mascara” in the Wild Garden Seed catalog. They call it “an heirloom standard that all new red oaks must go up against… it retains its color well into summer… good flavor… heat tolerant, and slow to bolt.” Perhaps it is not too late for you to order “Mascara” seeds and give it a try. If you do, drop us a line and let us know how it goes and we’ll pass along the information to other readers.
Gardening and Farming Books We Like
Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers, by Oscar A. Lorenz and Donald N. Maynard (John Wiley & Sons)
A rich resource of detailed information on seeding, crop spacing, soil nutrients, pest and disease descriptions and solutions, and much more. Commercial vegetable growers will appreciate the in-depth, scientific treatment the authors give to the subject of growing vegetables.
Gardening When It Counts, by Steve Solomon (New Society Publishers)
Written by the founder of Territorial Seed Company, Solomon found that growing crops using the very popular intensive gardening method was not the best way. In fact he advocates wide spacing of plants. He offers to be “the gardening grandfather you never had,” to help you learn how to grow food when resources become more scarce. The book covers tool care, soil amendments, watering (or not watering), compost, pests and diseases, and more.
The New Organic Grower, by Eliot Coleman (Chelsea Green Publishing)
One of the most popular books for market gardeners and farmers, Coleman’s decades of farming experience is thoughtfully presented with farmers and market gardeners in mind. He advocates the use of broadforks, and wheel hoes. Crop rotations, organic soil amendments, seed starting, harvesting, crop care, and marketing are all important topics Coleman covers. Charming illustrations accompany the text.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, by Edward C. Smith (Storey Publishing)
Presenting a similar philosophy to Gardening When It Counts, Smith advocates the use of wide, deep, raised beds, with plenty of room for roots to grow. Filled with beautiful color photos, Smith covers seeding, spacing, harvest time, tools, cover crops, pests and diseases, and more. Also includes a plant encyclopedia, covering many commonly grown crops.
Do you have some books you can recommend to our readers? Email us a short review of your favorite book and we might put it in a future newsletter.
Our Chicks are Growing!
Last time we wrote about a hatch of chicks still peeping out from their hen’s feathers. Now, just a couple weeks later, the chicks are feathering out, chasing bugs, scratching for food, and running around in the sun. Watch out if one gets hold of a grub! The chase is on, in a game of keep-away that is too cute. They peep with such excitement as they run around, using evasive maneuvers, to try to keep the prize.
Their hen is giving them climbing and perching lessons. She was encouraging them to make a sixteen inch high jump, and a few of the chicks made it, others were flinging themselves at the perch, and not quite making it, but they had a soft landing on a pile of straw. It'll be several more weeks before we know the genders of the chicks, until then, we'll enjoy watching the little birds grow up.