Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring Planting and Seeding Suggestions

Seeding and Spring Planting Suggestions
By: The Downtown Teaching Farm

Updated 2/28/2014
Combating cabin fever and looking forward to spring and summer bounty go hand in hand.  Many hours can be spent selecting varieties, ordering seeds, and deciding what to start at home.  These are some suggestions we have based on a typical Boise-area spring season.

Secrets to success: 
        Use a seed tray with drainage.  If it doesn’t have prepunched holes, punch about 10 holes in the bottom of the tray.  The seedlings will drown without drainage.
        Fill the tray loosely with soil, and then wet the soil thoroughly and test the drainage before planting.  This helps the soil settle, provides a proper reservoir for watering, and moist soil is much easier to work with; it prevents the seeds from floating around and getting all mixed together.
        The larger the seed, the deeper it needs to go into the soil – a good rule of thumb is that the seed should be about four times deeper than its largest side.
o        One important exception – basil seeds need to have light to germinate, so do not bury them at all.  They will turn whitish as the seed coat absorbs water from the soil, that is normal, and then they will germinate!
        Use a shop-light or other overhead light, dangling it about 6” above the soil/seedling level.  Leave the light on at least 12-14 hours a day.  Expensive UV lights are not usually necessary.  Window light is often not direct enough for healthy growth and results in “leggy” seedlings with weak stems.
        While waiting for the seeds to germinate, cover the tray with saran wrap, this holds water on the surface of the tray and prevents a wet-dry-wet-dry cycle, which is often detrimental to germination.
        Once the seeds have germinated, remove the saran wrap and don’t over water.  Water when your plants look wilted, or test the soil by putting your finger in to the depth of your fingernail, and if the soil feels dry down there, it is time to water.  Once water starts to drain out the holes, you know its saturated enough.
        Plan to transplant your seedlings into larger pots after they have two sets of true leaves.  Also, watch them closely that the growing plants don’t get burned by the light bulbs. 
        If your plants start to look sickly in color, they may need some fertilizer, and they are probably ready for real sunlight.  We use a very dilute (about 1 capful per gallon) solution of Alaskan Fish Fertilizer, being careful to turn the lights out until any extra fertilizer has evaporated from the leaves (it can easily burn).
        A cold frame can be easily made out of clear plastic, old window panes or plexiglass, and many other household “leftovers.”    This is an excellent choice for an intermediate home for your seedlings. By about 8 weeks most plants become too large for their indoor trays, need real sunlight, but it is still too cold to plant them outside.  A cold frame’s purpose is to provide ample light (with a clear roof and sides) and protection from nighttime frost.

In our classrooms at Boise High we plant broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, lettuce, spinach, and perennial flowers in early February, for planting out in the garden in March and April.  Peas, potatoes and mesclun mix can also be started early, but do best straight into the ground in March and April.  We plant peppers and eggplant next, as they take longer to germinate and like to have several sets of leaves before planting in late-May or early June.  Annual flowers, herbs, and tomatoes are usually best started in late February or March – two months of growth is plenty for them to be planted out in late May.  In addition, many of the summer crops do best planted straight into the ground – corn, squash, cucumbers, and beans among them.  Frankly, they do not need or appreciate your loving seed trays – they want real sun and warm soil and will produce when summer tells them its time.



Plant
Start your seedlings indoors:
Plant your seedlings in the garden:
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Cabbage, Onions, Lettuce, Spinach, Perennial Flowers and Herbs
Mid-Late February
March and April
Peas, Potatoes, Spinach, and Mesclun mix (mixed greens), Onion sets and starts
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Direct sow in March and April
Peppers and Eggplants
Mid-Late February, use a heated seed mat to improve germination.  Many DIY seed mat options available online.
Late May and Early June
Annual Flower, Annual Herbs, and Tomatoes
Late February through March.  About 8-10 weeks of growth indoors is ideal.  Plan to transplant into larger pots by mid April when plants have two sets of true leaves.
*Tip: Basil needs light to germinate, let seeds rest right on the top of the soil tray, exposed to the light, and keep moist until germinated.
Late May and Early June
Cilantro
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Plant in early May for June harvest, Plant again in late August for late September harvest (salsa time!)
Corn, Squash, Cucumbers, Beans, Carrots, Beets, Chard
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Direct sow in Late May or Early June when the soil is warm and nights are averaging in the low 50’s.
Garlic
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Plant cloves in October for next spring.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Community Gardener Meeting Scheduled for Tuesday Feb. 11th, 2014 at 6pm

It is time already to begin our planning for the 2014 season at the Downtown Teaching Farm.  Please come and join us, in Ali Ward's classroom at Boise High School, room 204.  

Families that are interested are welcome to come and ask questions, return gardeners' attendance would be much appreciated so we can update contact information and so everyone can meet Michael Bartlet, who is going to be the community garden coordinator for the 2014 season.  

As always, thank you to all the wonderful volunteers and sponsors of our big fantastic project!  

The meeting will be in room 204, starting at 6:00 pm, expected to last until about 7:30.  You may park behind Boise High and enter the Tech Building from the door nearest the New Gym.  









Sunday, January 19, 2014

Looking back, Looking forward...

Well, last year I did a terrible job actually remember to post pictures and information through the blog.  Good news, its a new year, so I can do better!




Here are a bunch of beautiful shots to remind us what we're all working towards.  The students this fall, the families, the food - what a wonderful year it was!












 True story, the boys opened these melons on a road sign.  They could not resist!


 As Mr. Thompson said, regarding our harvest right before frost.  
"Mrs. Ward, this is a little bit of a situation."  

 Seed Saving for the Boise High Seed Library!

 Above: Susan Gann - paraprofessional extraordinaire!
Below:  This is Mr. Quissell and his daughter, the whole project was his idea.  Thank you Erik Quissell!  And way in the back, on the left, working away we can see Heather Cooper - our amazing community gardener coordinator!  Thank you Heather!

































 Mrs. Gann and Mrs. Ross, I don't know what I would do without them!





 This is Mrs. St. Tourangeau who keeps us all smart through our not-so-quiet library, and Ms. Becerra -  our wonderful Chemistry teacher - they're helping host the tomato taste testing day.


Thank you so much to all the volunteers and families and small businesses that helped support this project. Also, a special thank you to the FUMC church for their continued support and use of their land, United Water for providing the water for our project, Pipeco for the good deal on drip irrigation supplies, and to the many nurseries that gave us starts and seedlings.  Also - thank you to NENA for the donation that allowed us to create an official sign for the farm.