Denise and Lindsay's Iris

Denise and Lindsay's Iris
Photo by J Hulse

Friday, December 9, 2011


It’s a freezing 32 degrees outside this morning.  My indoor carrot seeds have been germinating for the past 3 weeks.  All are up and beginning to show just the tiniest of true leaves.  The cotyledons have been present for more than a week.  The variety I have chosen for this planting  is called Imperator.   I started some outdoor imperator carrots (in situ) two weeks before.   Here’s what I did.

I’m experimenting.  First, I wetted two attached sheets of paper towel.  I spread seed evenly over the bottom sheet and covered it with the second sheet.  I folded them up nicely and put them in a plastic sandwich bag.  (Carrots need to soak at least 12 hours before sowing, according to the packet instructions.)  I took them the next day to my client’s raised bed.  This was November 1, 2011.  I first amended the soil with compost (mostly comprised of lawn clippings and leaves from last year), Epsom salts, (see below*), a little dolomitic lime, and a healthy dose of chicken manure.  I turned it deeply, because carrots are long, and those roots prefer a soil that offers little resistance.  I Took out the wetted paper towels, unfolded them till there was just one whole towel covering the others, and I cut them into 8 strips.  (That’s enough for 2 rows about 4 ft long).  I made a shallow trench and set the strips in and covered them up. ).  It is 5 weeks later, Dec. 9, and the carrot tops stand about 5 inches tall.  Outside.  In the  cold.  They’re lovely! 
The second part of the experiment was started two weeks later, on November 15.  I bought the Burpee Ultimate Growing System  for 19.95.
It contains 72 cells, each with a small, nickel-size disc of compressed, organic peat moss at the bottom of each individual cell.  Just add water, and VOILA, you have a cell full of starter soil.  There’s a soaker tray, and a platform that sets inside it.  Then there’s a little wicking blanket that goes on top to cover  the platform.  The plastic cell pack sets on top of the blanket.  I sprinkled carrot seeds on top, added about a gallon of water to the soaking tray, put the clear plastic dome (supplied) on top, and set the whole contraption in a sunny window.
One week later (without soaking the seeds first, or without covering them at all with soil), they began to sprout.  Within 4 days all cells showed sprouting activity.  And, no additional water was necessary.  By Nov 29 (2 weeks), I began setting the tray of seedlings (including the dome) outside on my back porch (full sun) during the day.  Daytime temps have been reaching the low 60’s.   I bring the seedlings in around 4pm when the temp goes down to about 50 degrees.   The seedlings have a long, long root now, but not much ‘true leaf’ in evidence yet.  I suspect I will be seeing some real growth by next Tuesday (Dec 13).  That will be just about a month from the date of sowing.    Before these may be planted, they will need some additional hardening-off.  (That means, I’ll need to leave them out overnight for 3 or 4 days before planting.  That reduces the shock of transplanting.) 
I’m hoping to get them in the ground before I leave for Christmas in Kansas. 
What I’m looking for in this experiment, is:
1.      Which plants produce better carrots
2.      Which method produces in the shorter time frame
3.      Will my carrots even grow in rainy, rainy Northern California winter?EN
Tentatively, I can see the efficacy of the Burpee system for plants of the solanum family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) which require more heat to thrive.  They may be started inside as early as January (if you have enough good light) in order to plant them outside as early as March 15.  The solanacea, however, should be moved up to a larger size (4 inch) vessel for 4 weeks, in order to develop a more extensive root system, before planting in the ground. 
The Burpee system is a bit flimsy.  But, I think, when treated with care, it may be re-used one more time before it hits the recycling bin. 

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and the final results when they’re in. 

Have a great day and go rake some leaves.


*Why Epsom Salt Works in the Garden
Composed almost exclusively of Magnesium Sulfate, Epsom salt is intensely rich in these two minerals that are both crucial to healthy plant life. These same minerals which are so beneficial for bathing and using around the house are also a wonderful facilitator to your garden, helping it reach its fullest potential and creating a lush and vibrant outdoor space. Unlike common fertilizers, Epsom Salt does not build up in the soil over time, so it is very safe to use.
Magnesium is beneficial to plants from the beginning of their life, right when the seed begins to develop. It assists with the process of seed germination; infusing the seed with this important mineral and helping to strengthen the plant cell walls, so that the plant can receive essential nutrients. Magnesium also plays a crucial role in photosynthesis by assisting with the creation of chlorophyll, used by plants to convert sunlight into food. In addition, it is a wonderful help in allowing the plant to soak up phosphorus and nitrogen, which serve as vital fertilizer components for the soil. Magnesium is believed to bring more flowers and fruit to your garden, increasing the bounty as well as the beauty of your space.
Sulfate, a mineral form of sulfur found in nature, is an equally important nutrient for plant life. Sulfate is essential to the health and longevity of plants, and aides in the production of chlorophyll. It joins with the soil to make key nutrients more effective for plants, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Sulfate works in conjunction with Magnesium to create a “vitamin” full of minerals, nourishment and health benefits for your garden.

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