Five Seed Starting Tips…

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedlings

Here are five tips for seed starting…

1. Use a moist matchstick to plant your seeds. Pour your seeds into a flat container. The moistened stick will pick up one seed at a time and you can easily drop your seed into the hole.

2. Make your own seed tape using paper towels strips and cornstarch moistened with water for glue. Dot the cornstarch mixture onto the paper towel and drop in your seed (using your moistened matchstick). Let dry and roll up. Store in plastic bags until ready to plant. Seed tape eliminates seed waste and gives you super tidy rows!

3. Use only fresh seed for shallots, leeks, onions and parsnips. Seeds for these veggies last only one year.

4. Some seeds last several years. If you are unsure if your seed is still good, give it a test. Moisten a paper towel, sprinkle on 10 seeds and roll it up. Store in a plastic bag for a few days. Check the seed to see if any germinated. If so, you have a good idea of your germination rate. For instance, if five of ten seeds germinate, then you can count on a 50% germination rate for your old seeds.

5. New seedlings need air circulation. The air moves their stems slightly which makes them stronger. Keep a low fan going in the room where you are growing the seedlings. In addition, you can help your plants by “petting” them once or twice a day by gently running your palms over the tops of the plants so them move back and forth a bit. Also, keep rotating your trays so they keep leaning in different directions towards the sun or light source.

FOR YOUR REFERENCE: We handed out a flyer on Seed Starting that one of our gardeners, Steve Abbott, made up a couple of years back. We also included a flyer on local Planting Dates made up by Beth McQuinn.

 

CCOG Gardeners are kicking off a new year!

Our first meeting of the year is coming up!  CCOG’s mission is to work as a community to share, learn and teach organic gardening practices. Our overall focus this year will be to work collectively to share our gardening knowledge with each other.

Perhaps, working together we could learn how to grow cabbages this large!

Perhaps, working together we could learn how to grow cabbages this large!

The theme for March will be  Starting Seeds. CCOG gardeners will share their tips and tricks for starting seeds for the 2013 gardening season. If you have a favorite technique for starting your plants, we would love to hear all about it. If you are a beginner, come and learn!

As usual, we will have light refreshments planned and a free raffle. Feel free to bring a tasty treat to share with the group or if you would like to add to the raffle, we always welcome donations.

Jeff Abbe will have our swap/donation table up and running again! Anyone can contribute extra seeds, plants, gardening magazines, books, extra produce, garden tools, etc. to donate or swap at the table.

We welcome brand new gardeners as well as those who have a lifetime of experience. Whether you garden at home or in a community garden, on your patio or windowsill, you are welcome to join us. Our meetings are free and open to all!

Wednesday, March 20 from 7:00 to 9:00
West Street Ward House, 41 West Street, Concord, NH
(Please note: For March only, we will be meeting at the West Street Ward house at 7 pm. The rest of the year, we will meet at our usual location, Grace Episcopal Church at 6:30 pm.)

Edible Perennials

The Mission of the Capital City Organic Gardeners is to collectively share, learn and teach organic vegetable gardening methods to each other. For our May meeting, CCOG gardeners shared their tips for growing perennial edibles. We talked about dandelions, asparagus and rhubarb for this meeting. There are so many edible perennials that gardeners can grow. We only touched on a few and filled the hour!

DANDELIONS

Starting out with some yummy treats, Mary brought in some delicious Dandelion Cheese Squares to share with the group. Thinking about dandelions as a vegetable and not a weed takes a shift in thinking but the truth is that European settlers brought dandelion seeds to America for food and medicine. The health benefits from eating dandelions are astounding. As one of the first greens that appear in the spring, it would benefit all of us to learn more about it’s healthful properties and work to incorporate dandelions into our diet. Caution! When gathering dandelion greens, make sure you harvest young greens from areas that have not been treated with lawn chemicals. Check out The Health Benefits of Dandelions by Aparup Mukherjee. For advice on cooking dandelions along with some other wild greens, download this article, Facts on Edible Wild Greens in Maine.

ASPARAGUS

Karen did some research on asparagus to share with the group. Asparagus needs sandy, slightly acidic, well-drained soil and should be planted around 8″deep. They enjoy 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Make sure the rows are 2′ apart. Dig a 8″ deep trench and plant the crowns 12-15″ apart. Cover with 2″of soil. As plants begin to grow, keep adding soil 2″ at a time until it is mounded up into a hill.

When choosing asparagus to plant, consider choosing Jersey Male Hybrids. They are the most prolific.

The first and second year that the asparagus comes up, do not harvest. Let the stalks grow into ferns, then cut the ferns back late in the fall after a hard frost. The ferns provide energy to the plant. You can tie up the ferns with stakes and twine so they don’t flop over and stay neat.

The third year you can start to harvest. Cut the asparagus when it is 8″ to 12″ tall. Cut for the first 10 days to 2 weeks, then let the asparagus go to ferns. Each year, you can cut more asparagus for a longer period of time as the plant becomes more robust.

Establishing an asparagus bed takes time and patience. However, once it is established you can harvest this spring vegetable for up to 20 years! What a treat!

RHUBARB

Claudia shared her experiences with growing rhubarb. This tart plant originated in China. Once you establish a patch of rhubarb, you have it for life!

To plant, dig a nice big hole, add in a little manure, then plant it and let it go. Rhubarb can tolerate some shade but not too much. The first year, don’t harvest the stalks. The second year, pull a few for a pie or two. To harvest, pull and twist out the stalks. After that, you can harvest almost as much as you like. Pull stalks that are about the size of your thumb for the best flavor. Be sure to leave at least a third of the plant at the end of the season. Always cut down the flower stalk when it begins to appear.

A final word of caution! Never eat rhubarb leaves. They are poisonous. Just cut off the leaves and throw them in your compost. Use the stalks for cooking.

Check our the article that Claudia wrote for the Concord Insider entitled, “Rhubarb-a neighborly plant perfect for pies” .

We all enjoyed our meeting sharing our knowledge with our fellow gardeners. So many fruits, vegetables and grow as perennials! You can pack an entire garden with edible perennials and enjoy eating from your garden with very little labor. For a complete list, download this handout. Please note: Not all of the plants are appropriate for New England, so do some more research before planting.
Perennial List-Fruits-Veggies

Photo Sources:
Dandelion Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Arcanewizard
Asparagus Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Muffet
Rhubarb Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Mwri

Garden Poetry

Karen Shields read this at our last meeting. Enjoy!

“May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights. The discussion of philosophy is over; it’s time for work to begin.”

by Peter Loewer

Starting Seeds with Donna Miller

We had a terrific turnout for our first meeting of 2012!

Donna Miller was our speaker for the night. Donna is a Master Gardener from Canterbury. Over the past 10 years, she and her husband, Jim, have converted their yard into beautiful theme gardens including children’s, butterfly, heritage, fairy and Halloween gardens. Two years ago they opened Petals in the Pines to the public.

Donna started out the talk with a question. Why start your own seeds?

The answer is that you can grow a huge variety of vegetables  by starting your own seeds. If you only buy your plants from a local nursery, your selection of seedlings is very limited. It’s fun to experiment with different and unusual varieties of plants.

When starting seeds, the first thing you need to do is READ YOUR SEED PACKET! The seed packet normally has all of the information you need for planting.

Follow the directions on your seed packet!

Our area has a 120 day growing season that starts around Memorial Day. Your seedlings should be ready to plant in the ground by then. If you read the back of your seed packet, that should give you all of the information you need about when it is time to start your seeds indoors. For example, if your seed packet says that transplants can be started 6-8 weeks before planting date, then you should start your seeds early to mid-April for planting on Memorial Day.

To start your seeds indoors, all you need are containers with drainage holes, seed starting mixture, water and light.

Containers: You can use any container you like. Many people reuse the containers they get from the garden store. Just make sure that they are scrubbed perfectly clean with soap and hot water. You don’t want to transfer any plant diseases to your sensitive seedlings. You can also use containers you have around the house like food containers. Just make sure to poke drainage holes in the bottom.

Soil: Use a fine, uniform, well aerated, loose soil especially formulated for seedlings. Promix is a good medium to use. Fill your containers with the soil to the top and water the soil. The soil will absorb the water and settle down into the planting container a bit.

Planting: Follow the planting depth recommended on the seed packet. Lightly firm the soil over the seed but do not pack down.Water lightly.

Some seeds benefit from a technique called scarification or stratification. This involves nicking the seed with a sharp knife and then soaking the seeds overnight before planting them. This helps them to germinate faster. Your seed packet will tell you if you need to do this technique.

Label: Make sure to put a label in your containers. Seedlings look remarkably alike when they are small!

Water: Keep planting mixture moist, but not waterlogged.

Heat and Light: Seeds and seedlings need a well lit, controlled environment. between 50-70 degrees.

Transplanting: Once your seeds sprout and have two small leaves, they will be ready to transplant into a larger container. Water the seedlings well, then  loosen the soil around the seedling and its roots with a stick. Lots of gardeners use chopsticks as a tool for this task.  Transfer the seedling to a larger container by gently holding it by one of its leaves. Do not hold it by its stem, it is too delicate. Ease it into the new planting hole and gently tamp down the soil around the seedling. Water and keep out of the sun for 24 hours to recover.

Label Again!!: Make sure to put a label in every container. You think you might remember what a particular vegetable looks like but you can be surprised. Zucchini seedlings look like summer squash which looks like butternut squash which looks like pumpkins which looks like melons. Take the time to label!

Care of seedlings while they grow: Rotate the trays each day so that they are not always leaning one way towards the sun. Fertilize with a diluted fish emulsion once a week. (Follow directions on the container for fertilizing seedlings.)

Getting ready to plant outdoors: Seedlings need to be hardened off before you plant them outside. The process of hardening them off lessens the shock they sustain when they move outside. To harden off your seedlings, put them outside in a protected, shady spot on a mild day. Leave them out for a couple of hours then bring them inside. Over the next few days,  increase the amount of time they are outside and increase the amount of direct sun they receive until they are out 24 hours a day. Keep watering and fertilizing them well.

Transplanting Outdoors: When the plants are hardened off, they can be planted outside. It’s best to plant on a cloudy day at the end of the day. This lessens the shock that the plants receive when transplanting. Gently remove them out of their containers into their planting hole. Tamp down the soil and water well. Make sure to transfer your marker so you will remember what you planted.

Ta Da! You are done!

For more information about starting seeds and caring for seedlings, there is a wealth of information on the UNH Cooperative Extention website. Here are a few resources you can download and print for reference…
Starting Plants Indoors From Seed
Timing Vegetable Transplants
Planting and Maturity Dates of Vegetables in NH

Winter is finally here!

Winter in the Garden

Thank you to everyone who ordered seeds, tubers and supplies through our CCOG Fedco Fundraiser. We appreciate your support!

Winter has FINALLY arrived Concord but soon it will be time to start those seeds! Our first meeting is two months away and before you know it, the garden season will be starting again.

If you need some gardening inspiration, sign up for the NOFA-NH Winter Conference. The keynote speaker this year is Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, a powerful book that launched the local food movement 40 years ago. She has a new book out, EcoMind:Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want. The conference takes place on Saturday, March 3 at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH. The conference is always a lot of fun and a great way to get inspired for the coming season.

Enjoy the snowy weekend!

Concord Chicken Ordinance Revised

The Concord zoning code for raising chickens on urban residential lots has been eased in a 21 month pilot program that was passed by the city council last month.

CCOG testified at the hearing  and would like to thank all of the city councilors who voted to pass the amendment to the zoning code. We plan on helping to educate the citizens of Concord who are interested in raising a small flock of chickens in their backyard. As soon as we are able to get a copy of the amended ordinace, we will post it on our website. In the meantime, if you are dreaming about raising a flock of chickens in Concord, here are the general guidelines for working within the code…

- Single family residences only.
- The minimum lot size is 7,500 square feet.
- The chicken coop must be at least 30 feet from each lot line.
- You can have no more than 5 chickens.
- No roosters are  allowed.
- Chickens cannot be free ranging.
- You cannot sell the eggs or the meat.
- Chicken manure must be disposed of- site or enclosed in a covered container.

We are encouraging everyone who is planning on raising a flock of chickens to read and follow the new code once it is available. Be respectful of your neighbors who might be wary of your new hobby and keep your coop very clean and odor free. We would like to see the pilot program become permanent in 21 months.

We will be posting more resources about building coops and raising chickens after the New Year, so stay tuned!

Concord Monitor  Article: Chickens can Flock to the City by Ben Leubsdorf