Seeding Session @ the Dickinson Farm

I attended this session last month but it took all month for me to transcribe my notes.  Are they good notes?  Probably not all that useful for most other people but I will personally use them of course.  I didn’t make them pretty, they are literally just my random notes as the session went on.  Enjoy the images though!

February’s session focused on starting seeds in flats and transplanting as well as mixing your own potting soil.  I usually have my seeds started already but I am little behind.  This is probably a good thing though since I will be able to take some advice from this workshop and apply it right away.  Once again, my notes might not be super helpful for everyone but I see no reason in attending these if I don’t try to write down every nugget of information that I possibly can.

Seeds are essentially dormant embryos that need different elements to break their dormancy such as a period of cold followed by light & heat.  Each seed is different and requires different things to succeed.  I had heard all of the different terms used to describe different types of seeds but  I don’t think I fully understood what each meant.

Heirloom-‘Grow true to type’ This means that if you save the seeds each year, you will get the same plant each year.
Hybrid-Cross bred to obtain a particular characteristic.  I never thought about this but if you save hybrid seeds and replant them, they won’t be ‘true to type’ because the seeds will start to revert back to it’s ancestry.  Fascinating.
Genetically Modified-DNA is modified, might be modified with DNA from Fish/Algae/Bacteria to produce a particular characteristic

Annuals-Fruit and seed same year
Biannuals-Fruit first year & seed second (carrots)
Perennial-Fruit and seed yearly

Things to evaluate when saving seeds:

Seed quality

  • Reflect back on previous season
  • Did it wilt and die?
  • Did it bolt and seed?
  • Were the days to maturity consistent across plants?
  • Appearance?
  • Was it a convenient plant or did it need a lot of help?
  • Trelis/Staking
  • Was it self sufficient?
  • Did it roll with the season? (handle dry times and wet times well?)
  • Vigor-How well did it perform?

 Seed Quantity – How much to purchase?
Transplanting is better than  seeding, you will always need less seed with transplanting.  It is harder to succeed with transplanting certain vegetables.

Transplants
Onions
Iceberg Lettuce
Peppers
Tomatoes
Eggplant
Leeks

Direct sow crops
Root Crops-Carrot, Beet, Potato
Spinach
Mesculin Mix

Using a precision seeder can help limit your seed waste by helping to seed with more control. (Johnny’s Farm Catalog)
Different seed varieties have different seed viability (how long it can be stored).
Parsnip seed shelf life is only a year. Lettuce=5 years.

Seed Storage
Cool+Dry+Dark
To test if seeds are still good use germination test.
Drop 10 seeds onto moist paper towel and put in ziploc baggie.
#planted vs # sprouts = viability
Important to count how many you planted to know germination rate.
Seeds need to be between 70-75 degrees to germinate so you can use a heat mat to ensure consistent temperature.

Working with Seedlings
Rough up seedlings to strengthen them.  Touch them  to make them hardy/sturdy.  Short stocky transplants are better, long leggy plants break more.  Build inner strength by not watering them everyday, train them to deal with imperfect weather.

Jen displaying various flats

Seed Flats
Can use flats with individual cells or an open flat filled with dirt.  If you choose the open flats, you will prick them out into individual cells when they get to a certain size.  They start Tomatoes, Peppers & Eggplants in open flats and then Transfer them to cells once they grow 2 sets of leaves.

When transferring to the garden try to move them when they are on the small size.  Less wind will catch them, less resistance.
Some seeds do better when they are pelleted (encased in a clay mixture to help to retain moisture).

Anna Farb Mixing the Potting Soil

Anna Farb-Student Intern
Making your own organic potting mix

Ingredients
Peat Moss-Comes from Peat Bogs in Canada
Great for holding water but not really sustainable.  It degrades the habitat and slow to reproduce.

Possible substitute-COIR-Coconut Fiber
Has a more neutral PH so it won’t need as much Lime
Comes in a compressed brick that you add 7-8 gallons of water to expand.  Shipped in but they use a local supplier in PA.

Vermiculate
Verma (Worm) Compost
adds (good) microbs and nutrients to seedlings, adds water retention
Green Sand-Potassium
Bone Char used instead of rock phosphate
blood meal
Lime to balance out peat

They are testing what percentage of compost works best in the mix 10 % & 30% worked best (not 20% for some reason).

Other options-composted pine bark
You can find many recipes for potting soil online
Try to find a sustainable mix-Peat trucked to US, COIR is shipped so it is better environmentally

Ingredients for Potting Soil-Coir?

COIR is from Sri Lanka but could also come from Mexico so that would cut down on the travel/environmental impact.

The recipe
COIR-5 parts
Vermiculate- 3 parts
Verma Compost-2 parts

Flower potting soil might need more compost for long term nutrition
If you are going to buy mix use Organic Mechanics or DR. Earth potting mix
Local-Martins Potting Supply- Pro Mix PGX-Shippensburg
Look for OMRI certified
Potting soil usually comes sterile.  Kills bacteria and fungi that you want to keep.
They have ‘volunteer’ seeds that emerge from the compost and are not sure how they are coming through the worm’s digestive system so their mix isn’t perfect but at least it retains the good microbs.

The farm uses 2 pallets a year so they are trying to find a good recipe to make their own.

Seeding
Don’t want to bury seed any deeper than it is big so it is a shallow bury.  If it is super tiny, just drop it on top and gently press with your finger.
When pricking out seedlings for transplanting you don’t want dry flats.  Moisture=better root system
If you bury seedlings just below the leaves it will encourage the stem to strengthen. Keep the seedlings short and stocky.
Transplant when first cataleens (sp?) appear.  Bury seedlings up to just the leaves, this will strengthen the stem and increase stability.

Best practices for certain plants:

Garlic-Save biggest cloves/heads for planting
Use onion sets if seeding doesn’t work (it has never worked for me, that is for sure)

Rosemary Flat

Propagate Perenials:
Rosemary-Use cuttings, pluck leaves 1 1/2 inches from bottom (don’t strip them) then just put them into flats.  It will take a a few months while but they will sprout and can be transplanted.
80% survival rate
Water and Put on heat immediately

Brambles
Blackberries/Raspberries
Allow to curve & replant themselves then cut the pieces in half and you have 2 plants that can be transplanted elsewhere

Sweet Potatoes
Planted using slips
They are trying to create their own slips.  (I think this sounds like a lot of work but here is the process)
Submerge in water, cure in nice warm area.
Create bed-2 inches hay, add potatoes, sand, burlap, manure.
Manure addes heat and makes it rot.
It needs to be 80-90 degress to create slips

Damping off Seedlings
Prepares them for temperature change when planted in soil.

Issues with some seedlings, stems starts to buckle just above soil line.  Make sure you aren’t overwatering.

Diluted form of silicon or horsetail increase light absorption.
1/8 cup to gallon of water or 1/5 ration.  Spray onto plants.

Pests
Aphids excrete  honeydew type of liquid which attracts ants & lady bugs.  If you see lots of these, you probably will find aphids.

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