With the spring season coming to a close, I wanted to begin sharing our most recent updates with you all. If you are not already aware, my husband and I grow mainly heirloom plants in our garden. Most of these are grown from seed and we are working towards building our own “seed library”. Last year was our first year starting seeds together and we were absolutely thrilled with the outcome. Simultaneously, we started to build raised beds – which we discovered could be done on a budget, costing a grand total of around $12 for the wood materials (the link to our post about this is below). This allowed us to put together a 6×6 OR two 3×6 raised bed(s) that were 6 inches high (more details can be found in our earlier post about building the raised bed). If you already do your own compost, there won’t be extra costs to put the garden together. However, we are not to that point and instead we visit the local recycling center each year with a truck and we pay around $22 for a truckload of compost. It’s basically garden gold. When we use this for our garden, we find that we grow healthier and more productive plants than we ever had experienced. I think it could be deduced that soil is a MAJOR component of growing a successful garden.
Last year we grew tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, and a few herbs and calendulas. It may not sound like it, but that was me holding back! I tried to start small and see if we had any luck growing from seed and having a productive garden. The year prior, we did not do raised beds and were unable to begin the garden until June due to a move. As a result, our garden did not thrive. It can feel disheartening, but each year offers an opportunity to learn, problem solve, and ask around for advice. So if you haven’t hit your stride with gardening yet, don’t lose hope! My hope is that this blog may offer some inspiration and advice.
Fast forward from last year (and our latest post), our first round of broccoli and cabbage did not survive. You may remember the photos posted, and if so, you may have realized the seedlings were extremely leggy. We used the paper towel method, and they germinated quickly – before we had a good light source for them. When we had a nice day outside, I set them out, but by evening they began to appear snapped in half and falling over. By the next morning, they were almost all like this. Before long, ALL of the broccoli and cabbage seedlings were gone. After searching on google for what causes seedling to fall over randomly, I came to the conclusion that they suffered damping off. Damping off is one of those terrifying events gardeners may experience when starting from seed because the fungus quickly kills seedlings and there is really nothing to do about it – except prevent it. It’s discussed so widely, yet how DO you prevent it? After trying diluted hydrogen peroxide and sprinkling cinnamon (a link about these two solutions and damping off is below), one solution stood out the most. I began to read “Epic Tomatoes” by Craig LeHoullier (an amazing book by the way), and then heard him on a garden podcast by Margaret Roach called “A Way to Garden” (more about my favorite gardening podcasts to come, but for now a link to this episode is below), and he described his technique of dense planting. Listening to him discuss it, he basically said that with any plant you can sow many seeds into a single cell and divide them later (of course, some plants you’ll see on the seed packet are not too keen about being transplanted or having their roots disturbed – these should probably be excluded from this plan. I not only did this with the tomatoes (although not to the extreme he does it), but when I planted the broccoli and cabbage seeds again, I placed many seeds in the same cell. Then, they were kept watered and placed in the sunlight RIGHT after sprouting. I did NOT use the paper towel method this second time.
You know what? NONE of our broccoli and cabbage seedlings appeared to have damped off or become very leggy. I can’t help but consider how plants grow in nature. Many seeds fall to the ground, often seeds land amongst other plants, and they get water when it rains (and even then it drains down). By planting multiple seeds together, once they sprout , this scenario is replicated in a sense when multiple roots soak up the water together and instead of stagnate soaked mix, they all work together to soak up that water. Combined with using half soilless mix and half potting mix (the soilless mix I purchased grew MOLD while in the original bag!), I also contacted Baker Creek Seeds for advice on growing these types of seeds. They responded quickly with advice (how amazing is that?!). I documented the growth progress our brassicas went through by photographing them each week (or as close to that as I could remember!). I found a gap in information online, not seeing anywhere that had consecutive photos of seedlings so that I could more accurately see if my plants were on the right track or not. So, I’m sharing my photos with you for that reason. I still don’t know how “on track” they were, but hopefully it can help someone else!
Once the night temperatures were above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the broccoli and cabbage plants were planted in the garden. They have grown beyond what we expected! By trial and error, we found what worked for us, and I encourage you to actively research for solutions to your garden problems, reach out to others, but most of all, try out a solution and see what happens. Gardening is full of little experiments, and its all about working WITH nature.
2/25/18 – First round of seedlings didn’t go so well.
NOW (WEEK 11?)
Additionally, we implemented companion planting with all our plants. What we decided to try this year with brassica family:
Broccoli – Potatoes, Chives, Onions, Geranium
Cabbage – Cosmos, Cucumbers, Lima Beans, Bush Watermelon, Snow Princess (flower), Dill
We have sighted the white cabbage butterfly around the garden, but as of now we have seen barely any sort of insect damage.
Until next time, have fun creating the garden of your dreams and good luck this season!
Are your broccoli plants wilting, yet they have plenty of water? We found that this was due to them being exposed to more heat than they were accustomed to experiencing. Cool them down, and they hopefully will perk up! Harden the seedlings off to get them used to the new temperatures.
See additional links for more information: