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Green Thumbery: The Seedlings are Coming!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Okay, it’s not Friday, but I owe you guys a Green Thumbery post. Plus I spent part of yesterday turning over the soil in the two beds I’ll be planting this spring, and I’m eager to share that the beds were full of earthworms! This is news because when I turned over the beds last year, there was little sign of life underground. There was a fragrant crop of onions coming up, courtesy of the last tenants, but that was just about it. As every gardener knows—and new gardeners quickly learn—earthworms are essential to the health of the soil in your garden. The tunnels they create as they burrow helps with aeration and water management; and their excrement adds fertilizer. I counted at least six of these garden helpers, and they were thick, healthy specimens. I don’t plan to touch the soil again until I plant, so I hope they’ll be able to rebuild their tunnels and settle in for the spring.

Many of cups I showed you last time are now hosting seedlings. I need to thin them—remove the extra seedlings from each cup—but I haven’t yet gotten around to it. They are spending their days on the dining room table which gets a fantastic dose of afternoon sun, and a portion of the evening under the light in the hood over the stove.

Trinidadian Scorpion and Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Genovese Basil.

I have had some trouble with damping off, which is a general term that refers to a host of problems that germinating seeds and seedlings can face. The seeds may rot before they can germinate, the shoots may emerge damaged, or the tender stems might be damaged at the soil line. These maladies are usually caused by overwatering, which creates a moist environment that bacteria loves. I thought that by bottom watering I would get away from this, but that doesn’t seem the case. This weekend, I’ll look to reseed anything that hasn’t germinated yet with the hope of seeing some shoots in about a week. We’re moving into warmer temperatures so that means my trays can also spend more time outside which will also help with air circulation.

This year I’m planning to use the square foot method, with an emphasis on companion planting to help create beneficial ecosystems for the vegetables I want to grow. With the square foot method, you somewhat ignore the spacing recommendation that most plants come with and you plant a certain number of a single variety within a square foot. If you ensure that you are planting groups of plants that “get along,” you hopefully create a positive growing environment.

How do plants get along? Some plants seem to do better is planted in certain combinations. For example, tomatoes and borage do well together, but peas and onions do not. Borage will reportedly increase the flavor of tomato, but peas planted near onions will be stunted. I’m willing to test this myself, so we’ll see what this brings.

I drew up the two charts below to represent the beds I have. Each box is a square foot, and the numbers next to the plant name is the number of that type of plant that can be put into a square foot. Here are what my planned beds will look like:

I’ll also have two planters:
Planter A: Sugar Snap Peas (4), Chinese Green Noodle Bean (4)
Planter B: Strawberries

In both beds, I’ve left space for flowers for two reasons: color and bees. All of the plants I’m growing will require pollination; I’m hoping to help that along by creating a hospitable environment for bees. To that end, I’ve chosen blues and purples primarily because those are the colors that they respond to best. I’m looking forward to reporting on this—I’m imagining a garden abuzz with honey bees, and I hope that’s the case.

Did you get any gardening in this weekend? How are you preparing for spring?

Krystal D'Costa About the Author: Krystal D'Costa is an anthropologist working in digital media in New York City. You can follow AiP on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @krystaldcosta.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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