Sunday, June 9, 2013

a few notes on what we have learned so far

This was the first year that we have started a lot of seeds for the garden start to finish in the greenhouse.  We had some successes and some failures.  Some things didn't germinate at all.  Some germinated but did not grow.  I don't know all the reasons but I have a few observations.

1. Seed Starting. 

A few of the first seeds planted I filled the cells with the seed mix without wetting it first and then watered it.  I am not sure that the dry mix took up the water the same as if I had mixed it in.  After the first seeds were planted I was watching some seed starting videos and one of the video hosts was talking about seed starting mix needing to be wet when the seed goes in.  After that I wet all of the seed starting mix before using it.  I think there is room for more knowledge with the seed mats

2. Potting Up.

When reading the planting instructions for the vine crops--the melon's, pumpkins and squashes--there were directions for planting as hills and in rows.  I decided to do some of each as an experiment and compare the productivity to see which is a better use of space.  I started some seeds singly per cell to plant out as a row and some of the seeds with three seeds to a cell to plant out as a hill.  They all germinated and I was concerned about the hill groups being crowded so I transferred them to a bigger container fairly quickly after the were up.  They quickly grew tall with large leaves.  About that same time I was gone for a couple days and had lots to catch up when i returned so the singles did not get transplanted to a bigger cup.  The size difference was amazing.  The same thing happened with the tomatoes.  A few of them I potted up into large pots for Nikole to take back to the city and those in the pots grew at a faster rate than the others.  All of the tomatoes had been potted up once from a cell to a 9 oz cup but they never really changed much in the 9 oz cup.  I think that if i had moved them up to a red solo cup or a four inch pot they might have gotten a little bigger before transplanting outside.

This makes me wonder if the impatiens would have done more if I had potted them up right away after they germinated.

Similar things happened with the greens.  I planted a lot of kale and some of it went into self-watering pots or planters, some of it went into Nikole's salad bowls and Asha's garden and some of it went into gutters as transplants.  The kale in the gutters never really grew very much.  The kale in the planters got bigger and the kale in the gutters did not keep up.  I transplanted the kale out of the gutters into the potager in raised beds and it has take off.  the lettuces that were in Nikole's salad bowl were much bigger than the same varieties of lettuces in the gutters.  Next year I will experiment with different spacing in the gutters and see if that makes a difference. 

3. Record Keeping.

This is the system that I used.  I bought alphabet and number stickers.  I labeled all of the gutters.  I labeled all of the white tubs.  I labeled all of the black trays that hold the cells.  I was able to record what was planted in each of the gutters.  I was able to record what was transplanted into the white tubs and if a black tray held all of the same seeds I could record what was in that tray.  I created an Excel page for the gutters and a similar page for the tubs and for the trays.  I listed the numbers or letters down the left side with a space for information about what was growing there.

In addition I bought some plastic row markers.  I have had difficulty with the markings coming off the plastic that I have used in the past so I this time I added stickers with numbers and letters.  The row markers come with three colors to a package, yellow, blue and green.  I bought enough packages that I had 30 of each color and labeled them with the 26 letters of the alphabet and the four extras were numbered 1, 2, 3. and 4.  I then created a sheet in Excel for each color marker with all of the letters/numbers listed down the left side and a place for information about what was planted. 

The final step in my system was colored stickers.  I bought a package of multicolored small blank stickers.  I could then write a number or letter on the sticker and attach the sticker to the cups as I potted up into clear cups or solo cups.  Because the stickers were handwritten I could label all of the transplants from a cell pack the same.

What worked well

The labeling of the gutters, tubs and trays worked great.  I didn't have any stickers that come off.  The plastic markers worked nice.  They were a good choice.  The stickers on the cups worked okay as well.  It wasn't a nuisance to have to hand letter them. I think that it could be that if planning ahead I could figure out how many cups would need to be labeled and that could be done ahead of time, perhaps in the house in the evening, instead of labeling them as I filled them.

What could have worked better

My original plan was to have all of the info in the computer.  The first few entries got into the computer and new sheets printed.  I put the sheets in page protectors in a binder.  My plan was to jot down on the sheet any changes, bring the sheet to the compute at the end of a greenhouse session and put the updates into computer and print a new sheet for the binder. As things got more harried this system fell apart.  I started making notes on post its and scrap paper, my papers got shuffled around a lot and  even misplaced.  I pulled the sheets out of the page protectors but rarely got them back in promptly.   I think next season I will use the same system but instead of a binder I will use a series of clipboards and leave the sheets in the greenhouse with their handwritten updates and maybe weekly bring them up to the house to enter the data in the computer.

I think I will also try and come up with a color coding system for the stickers.  This season the cups were labeled without any thought to the color of the stickers.  I think I can do better with that if I just give it a little thought.  This year we grew several different varieties of some fruits and vegetables.  this occurred partly because of conscious choices we made (tomatoes) and partly because we were using up some old seed with new seed (cantaloupe) or saved seeds with new seed (cucumbers and melons).  I think that next season I will try to label things more consistently and with some planning.

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