Today the table saw came out and we quickly constructed a few more seedling flats. It’s time to bump up a few of the vegetables under out grow lights, starting with the kale. They’re pretty simple to make and relatively inexpensive.
The flats are 18″ X 18″. The instructions for building your own can be found on page 181 of the MGM book. We used the table saw to cut the two widths of the slats for the bottom of the seedling tray and a pneumatic staple gun to assemble each part.
Recently we found ourselves correcting a nitrogen deficiency in our green beans. They were beginning to turn yellow throughout the entire plant, meaning we have a nutritional deficiency.
To ensure we correctly identified the deficiency and made the right correction, we went to the MGC book. On page 147 of the Mittleider Gardening Course shows us a general yellowing of the entire plant is a nitrogen deficiency. It calls for a correction of 1/4 ounce per linear foot of nitrogen to be added. The nitrogen should be worked into the soil and watered into the soil.
Urea is available locally, 46-0-0, so we will use it as our form of nitrogen.
What caused the deficiency?
It is normal to see deficiencies in your garden. Some plants use more nitrogen than others, making them more susceptible to some form of nutrient deficiency .
In our case these beans were started in some recently mixed sand and sawdust in a grow box. The natural decomposition of that sawdust used up the available nitrogen. One application of the urea 46-0-0 was enough to bring the beans green color back.
It may take a week or two for plants to recover if you have correctly identified the problem. If after one week no improvement is seen then look for other possible causes. As always, it would behoove the gardener to refer to the Mittleider Gardening Course book.
With the grow boxes filled with medium and seedlings transplanted our next project was the completion of the automated watering system. Lesson 16 in the MGC book, page 125, covers the construction details of the automated watering system. Three holes were drilled every 4 inches of the 3/4 inch schedule 30 pvc pipe to water our grow box. The holes are small, we ordered the number 57 drill bit from Amazon as our local stores don’t carry anything so small.
The holes are positioned to get a stream of water to squirt straight down into the bed and the other two at an angle towards the outside of the box. Our system will be drained in the winter as it turns cold. For all the piping that is below ground we elected to go with schedule 40 to help ensure we don’t have to dig up a broken pipe.
Currently we water by connecting a garden hose to the system. At some point we may go high tech and use a truly automated system.
We have green beans ready to go into the garden, it is time for transplanting seedlings into our Mittleider garden grow boxes. They show a little overall yellowing, so after they are transplanted we will give them a corrective treatment of Nitrogen.
It’s time to transplant green beans in the first grow box for our fall garden. Referring to the Garden Planting Details sheet on page 237 of the Mittleider Gardening Course book, we will plant our bush beans 3 inches apart. It also shows us that we need to plant two rows in our 18 inch grow box.
Tips on transplanting properly
Always avoid handling the seedling by the stem. If you accidentally break the stem you will kill the plant. Instead of the stem, grab the plant by the leaves as shown in this next photo.
I have not yet made the tool for marking grow beds and boxes for transplanting so I enlisted the help of the girls to get our 3 inch spacing.
Do you see the yellow color in the beans we just transplanted above? They are showing symptoms of a nitrogen deficiency. They are in desperate need a correction for a nitrogen deficiency.
Our grow boxes and in garden green house is beginning to come together. We now have two 18 inch wide by 30 feet long grow boxes built from treated 2 x 8 lumber in our garden. To those grow boxes we are adding the structure to allow us to grow vertically and support our in garden green house. The grow box construction is covered on page 78 of the MGC.
Before mixing and adding our growing medium, sawdust and sand for us, we added our pre-plant mix to the bottom of the grow box. Page 85 in the MGC book tells us to add one ounce per linear foot. So to this 30 foot grow box we measured out and added 30 ounces of pre-plant fertilizer. The grow box is now ready to be filled with a custom growing medium.
We utilized the free sawdust we were able to get locally to make our custom growing medium and sand. Following the MGC book, we mixed three parts sawdust to one part sand. This is mixed by volume and NOT by weight.
One 50 pound bag of all purpose sand filled a 5 gallon bucket so we used that as our measuring tool. After each bucketful of sawdust was added to our wheel barrow we added approximately 1/3 of a bag of sand. After the 15 gallons of saw dust and 5 gallons of sand were in the wheel barrow we mixed everything with a shovel before pouring it into the grow box. Each 10 foot section of our 30 foot grow boxes required 15 gallons of sand and 135 gallons of sand.
Once the grow box is full and level we have to add our pre-plant and weekly fertilizer to the medium and mix it in thoroughly. Page 87 in the MGC book calls for 1 ounce per linear foot of the pre-plant fertilizer mix and 1/2 ounce per linear foot of the weekly feed.
The fertilizer can be mixed in with a potatoe for or a shovel, but we have an attachment for our gas powered weed eater and will be using it.
These are a little late in coming, but both boxes are now full and there is more progress on the green house portion. Later today we will order the green house plastic to cover the structure
If you are starting seedlings you will need constant feed. After your seeds have germinated the seedlings require a smaller dose of fertilizer than what would be applied in the garden. To give them a full dose of the weekly feed in a small container would burn them.
The MGC Book, on page 183 calls for the mixing of 1 ounce of the weekly feed fertilizer to 3 gallons of water. The nutrients do not dissolve immediately. Typically we will mix up a new batch and allow it to sit overnight to ensure everything dissolves.
If the constant feed is needed immediately one could add the weekly feed to a small amount of hot water and stir until dissolved. Add that solution to your bucket with 3 gallons of water and stir before using.
What containers can I use for the constant feed
My favorite container for solution is an old rectangular laundry detergent bucket. The shape makes it ideal for getting up close to the edge of the seedling table and our seedling flats. We can get the constant to the seedlings without slopping the liquid every where.
You can see the side of my bucket below. A measured 3 gallons of water was poured into the bucket. Then the water line marked on the outside of the bucket with a marker.
If you will have a LOT of seedlings then a plastic barrel or trash can with a lid would work to hold your constant feed. Avoid using metal containers, the solution will cause rust. To use the constant feed from a large container one would simply stir the solution and dip the watering bucket into the barrel.
The special device for watering seedlings with constant feed
A sprinkling can is simply a can with holes made with a small nail and hammer. For our own use here at home we took an empty 16 ounce can of green beans and made the holes. A small nail like the one shown below is ideal.
The beans I recently started from seeds for my fall crops are growing like mad and will need to be bumped up before I transplant them in the garden. To allow room for them to grow when we bump them up (transplant) we built a couple more seedling flats.
In your Mittleider Gardening Course book you can find a description and dimensions of the seedling flats on page 181.
The flat was filled with the same sawdust, sand and perlite mix that was used in the first one where our seeds are now growing. The beans will be transplanted into the new flat soon.
This morning I watered the seeds in the seedling flat that I planted less than 48 hours ago. Once watering was complete I peeled back the burlap to check on them and was surprised to see germination already! Now that I have germination the burlap will be removed. I will still water through the burlap to help protect the seeds.
From left to right in the picture that has currently germinated you will see arugula, kale, peas and the beginning of my beans. I will need to build some additional seedling flats so I can bump up the seedlings as they grow and become confined. These will be planted in our grow boxes and will have an in garden green house built over them to extend our gardening season.
These 30 foot long and 18 inch wide boxes are being built for our fall crops. We will also be building an in garden green house over these boxes. This will allow us to extend our growing season by 12 weeks.
Once construction is complete they will be filled with a mix of sand and sawdust as our growing medium. As that growing medium contains no nutrients for the plants we will be providing all of the necessary nutrients via an inexpensive mix that is applied on a weekly basis.
The PVC you see next to the treated 2×8 serve a few purposes. They help hold the boxes level and in place once filled with our sawdust and sand growing medium. They also support the a-frames we will be making by heating and bending some half inch pvc. Once the mini a-frames are in place they can then be covered with green house plastic to protect our fall crops.
Next to the grow boxes you can see our sweet potatoes growing like mad.
Mixing up a batch of Mittleider pre-plant is an easy task and is inexpensive to do. The three ingredients in Mittleider pre-plant are lime or gypsum, boron and epsom salt.
Do I need gypsum or lime?
It is easy to determine which one you need. If your annual rainfall is 20 inches or more you will need lime. If you receive less than 20 inches annual of rain then you will need gypsum. Don’t know your average annual rainfall? You can ask your local extension office or simply Google it.
Mittleider pre-plant mixing instructions
According to the Mittleider Gardening Course book, 4th edition, on page 51, we are going to mix 5 pounds lime of gypsum, 1 ounce of boron from 20 Mule Team Borax20 Mule Team Borax, and 4 ounces of magnesium sulfate from plain old Epsom Salt. Check your Walmart or favorite store for the best prices. The Borax is a washing additive in the laundry detergent area and the epsom slat will be in health and beauty. You will also need an inexpensive digital kitchen scale to weigh everything.
Lime is generally sold in a 40 pound bag. We like to mix the entire bag of lime at once. So to the 40 pound bag of lime we add 2 pounds of Epsom Salt and 8 ounces of 20 Mule Team Borax. This comes from page 53 of the 5th edition of the Mittleider Gardening Course book.
Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden