Wednesday, March 25, 2015

6 steps to start growing indoors

It was so cold for so long, that it's just now feeling like spring. Every year, I think about starting seeds indoors and most years, I don't get a round "tuit."  This year will be different though. Rather than think about it and talk about it,  I am going to just do it. Wait, I'll post this first...

6 steps to growing indoors:
1. For containers, use plastic cell containers with covers or egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom and saran wrap on top. (Or reuse the annual flats from last year.) You can also use wood pulp pots or peat pellets. Whatever you use, make sure it has drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil, preferably a mix with sphagnum peat moss. Moisten the soil. 
3.Plant a few seeds, not many, about 1/8 inch deep and pat the soil lightly. Then cover with plastic and place in a very warm place, out of direct sunlight.
4. Keep watered. Once the seeds sprout, move the pots to a bright spot, a south-facing window is best. Water often, but not too much or too fast. The plants are fragile. If they get too big for their containers, move them to bigger pots. 
5. When it gets close to planting time, it's time to harden them by placing them outside during the day, to get used to it, but not in direct sunlight at first. Bring them in every night.
6. When it's warm enough at night, transplant to the garden. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the pot and put the plant in, supporting it with your fingers. Firm the soil gently around the stem. Water carefully.

For tomatoes, it takes 6-8 weeks before they'll be ready to transplant outside. We always wait until Memorial Day to put tomatoes and peppers out, because you don't gain any growing time by putting them out too early. The plants grow much better when it's warmer at night. Besides, I don't like covering plants in the garden every time there's a frost warning.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

It's time for maple syrup

We are tapping maple trees and right now, boiling down the watery sap for maple syrup in the Blake kitchen.
The process is pretty straightforward, but you need a little bit of equipment and clean buckets or milk jugs to collect the sap. So if you drive by trees that have jugs hanging on them, you can bet they're being tapped for sap. 
The next step is to strain the sap with mesh strainer and then boil it down to syrup. It takes a lot of sap to make a little syrup, but it's delicious. Here's a link with step by step instructions, maple syrup.

There are maple syrup events happening in Oakland County this weekend and next weekend.
For Indian Springs Metro Park in White Lake, call 248-625-7280 to register. It's $5 per person plus park admission (if you don't have a pass) to attend. Huron-Clinton Metroparks

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Get your garden soil ready

It feels like spring and most greens can be planted right now: lettuce, parsley, Swiss chard, kale, spinach and peas, to name a few.
But first, it's necessary to prepare the garden soil. After clearing the garden or a space for a new garden, work some aged manure or compost into the soil before planting with a pitchfork or rototiller. If you want to be scientific, you can get your soil tested at the Oakland County Extension office,
There are a number of places that sell manure, such as horse farms; Be sure it is aged and wear rubber gloves when handling it. Do not use raw manure. Cook's Farm Dairy in Ortonville sells cow manure.
Commercially packed manure is pre-composted, and can be purchased at most garden centers.
South Oakland County Recycling Partners sells screened compost at a very reasonable price.
To make your own compost, see the page on this blog about organic farmers' solutions. 3 challenges of organic gardening
If possible, let the garden rest a day or two before planting.