Greetings! Seeding has begun, and as always, it’s a little tricky to keep organized. I decided to try out making our own complete potting soil mix. I did the math, and it is WAY less expensive than purchasing bags of it-not to mention, the only place I know to get it is in Montpelier VT (Vermont Compost Company). They have donated to us in the past, but this year, I didn’t get a chance to write donation request letters to see if they’d give us any. And, the emergency stuff I ordered through the Northeast Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association won’t come in until tomorrow-two weeks before I should have started seeding.
So, I started the quest of finding all of the ingredients for the recipe I am using, including: peat moss, lime, colloidal phosphate, compost, soil, blood meal and green sand. This recipe comes from Elliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower book I’ve been using as a resource since I first started 4 seasons ago. It’s helpful, and honors small-time growers as legitimate, which I find to be reassuring. His recipe is in a reasonably small batch, too.
After about 50 phone calls, I locate everything I need. Some at Bigelow Nurseries in Northborough, MA, some at Worm’s Way in Sutton, MA, but the final ingredient: compost-continued to allude me. I had called the city of Worcester to see if they’d give me some off-season, but they said no. So I called around, and thanks to Ruth Hazzard at the UMASS Extension Vegetable Program gave me some leads, the closet place who had non-manure based compost (in other words, stuff that I am used to, and know how rich and reliable it is from experience) was in Greenfield, MA. I spoke with a friendly guy at Martin’s Farm Recycling-and they had exactly what I needed. So did Ideal Compost in Petersborough, NH. But I REALLY did not want to drive the more than three hours round trip for half a yard of compost. So, I did what any desperate person would do in my position: I called the city back, and negotiated my way to someone who would listen to me. I simply could not take no for an answer. It was ABSOLUTELY CRAZY to me to think that there are hundreds of thousands of yards of finished compost sitting there steaming, and not being used…waiting for just a few more weeks until the season officially opens (for them, but late, in my book). Bah! So, I got what I needed (ask me in person for the complete story!!) and I was on my way-less than 24 hours before the most recent blizzard. Phew! I surprise myself sometimes with how determined (indignant??) I am when time is on the line.
I sifted the compost needed for the potting soil mix-my first of the season really digging my hands in the dirt. Woo! And transported all of my potting soil stuff over to our future seedlings new (albeit temporary) home: my apartment. It’s not ideal-in my bedroom, where there is light, space, and warm ambient air temperature-they won’t get knocked over by anyone but me. If I kept them at the Shop, there would be no guarantee-there are just too many people in and out of there to keep things safe.
The seeding began yesterday after extensive block making, grinding up of phosphorus in a mortar and pestle (it comes pelleted, and needs to be in power form). It worked best when we soaked the phosphorus first before grinding. It’s a clay-like substance, which smells pretty intense.
So far 4 people, including myself, have planted a total of about 1000 seeds!! And we’re no where near done yet! This is the first phase-germinating the all types of vegetables, herbs and flowers in the tiny cell blocks. Once they germinate, they will be potted up to 2″ blocks, and put under lights.
Instead of the method I did the last 2 seasons, using coolers and hot water bottles-I am attempting to use a propagation mat that will heat up the soil, and germinate the seeds more quickly, using a small amount of electricity running through coils inside a molded rubber mat. I tried it out yesterday, and the trouble is, it gets way too hot…I tried attaching a dimmer switch to it today to see if I could regulate the temp that way, but with my less than ideal wiring skills, I believe I fried the switch. I will look it up in more detail and try again. Oops. Live and learn