Monday, May 16, 2011

Learning and Trusting Yourself

I saw a quote recently in my email, “Garden like your life depends on it, because it does!”

This will be a harsh reality for many, and I’m learning all I can now so that when we are in the position to feed ourselves, I’ll be able to. I want to give us the best odds possible, so I learn and experiment now.

I’ve taught myself about green manure crops in theory, now I want to be able to grow my own soil amendments. In pots, on my patio. Why?

How many times have you nursed something through life in a pot on your patio or balcony, or even in your yard, harvested it and wondered what to do with the soil. A lot of apartment dwellers have. Here’s my answer, grow a legume until just before flowering, then take garden scissors and clip as much of the greenery into as small pieces as you can manage. Take a trowel and cut into the soil, break it up well and then turn the greenery under the soil. You’ve just “tilled” your crop under. Now let it sit for a month.


Because this will encourage the breaking down of the plants. The root systems of legumes have already brought nitrogen to the upper layers of soil and once the greenery starts breaking down, it will enrich the soil. You’ll want to turn the soil every now and then with your trowel, just to make sure things are breaking down the way they should. Now, instead of soil that’s been stripped of nutrients, you have a richer soil, one more ready to help you grow bigger, better radishes.

Now what?

Now you find radish seeds you like, heirloom preferably. Why? Because as much fun as garden catalogues are to look at, I don’t want to have to buy seed every year. I’d like to provide my own seed. Why should I give my hard earned dollars over to some big seed company? Anyway, soak your seed overnight on some moist paper towel. Some folks say that the paper towel isn’t a good idea because it may have chemicals in it that would suppress the seed’s ability to sprout. It’s a valid point, but I’ve never had that problem so far, so I carry on with what’s worked. I moisten the paper towel, and start as many seeds as I think I can handle planting the next day. I can’t always buy soil when I’d like, so I’m faced with two considerations: do I have a pot and do I have soil? Let’s assume I have both. My moist paper towel is in an aluminum pie plate, waiting for my seeds. Why one of those pie plates? Because I have them. You know the pies folks bring as a holiday contribution? I wouldn’t feel right just throwing the pie plate out, so I re-use them as seed starting plates. so with however many seeds I want to sprout, carefully spaced on the paper towel, I root through my closet for a plastic bag. I always seem to have at least one clear one, so I’ll grab it, put the pie plate inside it and make the top surface as snug as possible. This provides the seeds with a mini-greenhouse environment. Now they have moisture and humidity, and they happily send out a tiny root.

The next day, open the plastic bag, peel back the paper towel that covered the seeds and plant these in the re-enriched soil that held the legumes only a short time ago. Cover the seeds with a small amount of soil, so you can’t see them anymore and mist the soil gently. If you can, place the pot(s) in either a sunny windowsill or under a lamp. I don’t have sunny windowsills, but I do have a full-spectrum craft lamp on a goose-neck. So I put my seeds under the lamp and have the light a mere 6 inches away from the soil. In less than a week, I have green sprouts. Seems pretty easy, right? Radishes are among the easiest seeds to sprout. They’re forgiving and eager, and it won’t be long before I’m crunching into little red goodness.

Next time, why I think we should all learn how to grow our own food.

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