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Are you ready to plant???

We have been waiting so eagerly to put our hands in the soil and grow…whether you started your plants from seed 😉 , purchased them from an Alaskan farm, garden center, Master Gardener plant sale or the Palmer FFA – plants need to be hardened off to your landscape prior to being transplanting.

What does this mean and why? For those plants grown indoors under lights or glazing (greenhouse coverings) they have enjoyed a lot of cotteling. Including but not limited too: constant consistent temperatures, timely watering, frequent feedings, reduced UV light exposure, minimal wind, limited pest pressure and lack of exposure to the soil ecosystem.

All of these protective measure have grown strong healthy plants but can they withstand the forces of nature on your landscape? If we take our juvenile plants and place them directly into the outdoor environment without a hardening off period, there may be some rather shocking impacts.

Suddenly plants that have adapted to a protective environment are now subjected to fierce drying winds, massive fluctuations in temperature, intense UV exposure, “pest” pressure and cooler soil temperatures. A period of gradual transition to their new home will allow for adaptation to occur so that they may thrive in nature.

Excluding the warm loving plants that may suffer tissue damage below 45F (tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, corn, dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias and others) many cultivated varieties can handle cooler temperatures. What they cannot handle is direct and immediate exposure to UV rays. Sunburn and sunscald are the most common concerns that will come up during this time of year.

Taking a broad focus to include as many plants as possible:

In a protective location out of the wind and direct light- away from pets, littles and wild animals

Start hardening off with time: setting plants out plants each day for a period of time (start with one hour and increase every day over a 10 day period)

Use directional hardening off: start in the North, move to the East, then to the West and finally the South

Increase watering and fertility: we want to give our plants the best chance at survival and the capacity to fend off “pests” and disease. Restricting food and water (although are adaptations in the wild) decreases a plants health and vitality. We are growing in managed ecologies with a goal of food production…our actions should reflect that.

Once your plants are in their new homes you may find that they are not looking so well. This is a period of adjustment as plants are taken from the current vessel that lacks all the biodiversity that living soil has to offer. Once transplanted, new relationships within the soil will begin to form with millions of microorganisms, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa. Your plant is now the new kid at school and it will take time for the root system to become part of an even bigger system. Help your plants through this phase with light feedings, warm water, staking and of course wind protection.

Once our trees fully leaf, the temperatures are consistently in the 60Fs and soil temperatures are above 50F…we will begin to see a massive influx of insects who are hungry! Will your plants be strong and healthy enough to fend off this initial pressure? They will because you have hardened them off 🙂

 

 

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What seeds are we starting this week?

Tomatoes!

Everyone’s favorite fruit 🙂

Timing is of the essence here as we would like to transplant them outside after all fear have frost has passed and temperatures are above 45F. Tomatoes may suffer tissue damage otherwise.

We want to transplant without fruit and flowers as these are critical growing stages and can be very shocking. Starting seeds at the right time (nowish).

Tomato seeds like warm soil temperature and even moisture. Tomatoes are not a large seed and should be sown at 1/8″-1/4″.

We have around 2.5 months prior to our target date- start them in 4″ pots so they have room to grow and reduce the amount of “potting ups”.

Feed your tomatoes every couple of weeks and provide them adequate light and heat. Interplant with aromatic herbs such as basil, parsley and oregano. Depending on your type use cages or trellising…homegrown sweetness is just around the corner (well roughly 5 months).

Yes we do have tomato seeds available: https://seedsandsoilorganics.com/product-category/shop-seeds/

Alaska sown-Alaska Grown

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To soak or not to soak…that is the question (?)

The ecological relationship between seed and soil is like a symphony; there are natural cues that promote germination.

One of the major cues is moisture level! When the conditions are right, the seed will follow its own instinct and begin to swell. Once the seed coat is soft and moist the new seedling erupts into life.

The germination time for seeds varies greatly depending on the species. Some seeds can take years for germination (peonies) and others germinate in less than three days (cabbage family). We can use a mechanical force to speed the germination time (soaking).

Large seeds with hard coats (sunflowers, honeywort, peas, beans, corn and sweet peas) will appreciate a longer soaking- up to 24 hours.

Larger seeds with softer coats such as pumpkins, squash, chard, beets, nasturtium and cucumber are perfect to soak overnight.

Small seeds like lettuce, radish, carrots and tomatoes can become mushy and sticky if soaked too long (15-30 min) is appropriate.

Find a shallow bowl, place your seeds and top with water. Set away from pets, kids and spouses out of direct sunlight and in a warm location. Warm water is best but any water will do (what would nature do).

Once seeds have soaked and swelled…it is time to plant! Follow your seed packet guidelines for planting depth or reference our write up: https://seedsandsoilorganics.com/…/seed-starting-simply/

When in doubt…ask the question: What would nature do?

Alaska Sown-Alaska Grown

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Give me shelter from the storm

People have basic needs: food, air, shelter and water. The plants that we grow in our gardens and farms also have the same basic requirements.

The beneficial insects and “pests” have these same needs too. When we observe our growing space at the start of the season, we reflect and ask are all their needs being met and if not… how can I meet those needs?

If an issue arises such as an infestation or disease, it is a time to pause and determine if all needs are being met at the proper amounts. An overabundance of water may have some not so desirable results and too much nitrogen can be a detriment to a plant’s system. Too much food and water may inhibit proper growth.

Now is the perfect time to design which elements can be incorporated into our growing spaces to invite life back onto the landscape. Maybe some shallow dishes filled with stones will provide the local pollinators with a drink of water. Another option would to pile rocks with damp leaves so that ground crawlers can seek refuge. Even adding some mulch on top of the soil to reduce evaporation and retain moisture will aid microbial life and provide an opportunity to thrive.

Systems thinking… we become a part of the system in which we grow.

Alaska sown-Alaska grown

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What seeds are we starting this week?

Artichokes!

These beauties really take the stage as part of an edible landscaping or in the Alaska home garden.

Artichokes grow slowly…and require a cold period (vernalization) to influence this perennial into growing a heart as an annual. There are many options on how and when the cold processing can be completed. Here is our process:

We start our Artichokes in 4″ pots and keep the temperature 60F-70F. It can take up to three weeks for germination.

We pot up as these giants slowly grow over the next three months. Around the end of April or beginning of May we set the starts outside when the temperatures are above 34F and below 50F for about 2-3 weeks.

Once all danger of a killing frost has passed, we transplant outside. Design and bed preparation is key as these show stoppers need a minimum of 4′ sq. ft.

Alaska sown- Alaska grown