Protecting garden tools with linseed oil

Protecting garden tools with linseed oil

This past week while working towards getting our garden in I’ve noticed the wooden handles on a few garden tools were looking pretty rough.  They’ve lost all the sealant applied by the factory and a few are showing signs of weather cracking.  That’s a recipe for having handles break and require them to be replaced.  A little prevention can help make those garden tools last a long time.

Protecting garden tools with boiled linseed oil
Protecting garden tools with boiled linseed oil

Remove old finish or dirt

Before applying a sealant to the wooden handle it is necessary to remove any old existing sealant and dirt.  For this purpose we used a sheet of 120 grit sand paper.  A little of elbow grease and the handle will be ready for a coat of a sealant and protectant.

Apply a coat of protectant/sealant

We just happened to have a quart of boiled linseed oil to help remedy this issue.  A light sanding to remove the remaining finish and to open the grains so they can absorb the oil and we were in business.  We simply poured a bit of the linseed oil onto a rag and then rubbed it into the handle.  Everything has been treated three times so far but two of the pieces with the worst cracking will get several additional coats before we put everything away.
There are no pictures to show what the looked like before we started, but the handles were closer to a white than the brown you see now.

Other ways of protecting wooden tool handles

In addition to keeping a coat of linseed oil on those garden tools you can help protect them by keeping them out of the sun and rain.  Simply storing them while not in use, and keeping them protected with linseed oil, will help them last a long time.

Starting seedlings under grow lights

Starting seedlings under grow lights

Let us talk about grow lights . If you’re going to grow a Mittleider garden, or any garden for that matter, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not using them.  But why use them you ask? Because starting your own seedlings gives you several distinct advantages.    As a result of growing your seedlings indoors you get a jump  on your growing season.  Due to having 4-6 week old seedlings ready to plant as soon as the outdoor temperature is right your growing season will be longer.  Starting seeds in the ground outdoors once it is warm enough versus transplanting healthy seedlings as soon as its time to begin gardening.

Another big advantage of starting seedlings is that the gardener can discard any weak seedlings.  You can also start enough seeds to cover any seeds that fail to germinate.  As a result you will have no empty spaces in your gardens row.  And a full row looks fantastic.  Not to mention, a full row of plants puts more food on your table and in your pantry.

Our grow light and heating mat setup

We setup our second grow light in the basement to start seedlings under.  If you look under the seedling flats you will see the black seedling heat mats.  The grow lights are each the Agrobrite T5, 4 foot long, 6 tube light fixtures.

The grow lights are each suspended with their own pair of Apollo Horticulture GLRP18 grow light hangers.  After using these hangers I can honestly say I’ll never have another grow light setup that doesn’t include them.  They make lifting and lowering the lights for watering or general access the seedlings an absolute breeze.

Grow lights help you to maxamize your growing season
Seedlings started under grow lights in our basement

The seedling heat mats

These heat mats are important because they keep the soil and seed temperatures warm enough for germination to occur. It is especially relevant that if the correct temperature isn’t maintained the seedlings will die or seeds fail to germinate.

Our seedling heat mats are both Hydrofarm MT1009 48 X 20 inch mats that are controlled with a the MTPRTC, digital ETL certified thermostat designed for seedling germination.  This thermostat is digital and very easy to use and setup.  The digital timer to control the lights was more difficult to setup as compared to the thermostat.

Everything is connected to the surge protector and the lights controlled by an inexpensive digital timer/controller.  The lights are on for 18 hours daily and the the heat mats are set to keep the seedling trays at 80 degrees.

Agrobrite grow light and seedling heat mat
agrobrite grow light with seedling heat mat

For a  better look at our system check out this YouTube video:

Building a few more seedling flats for seedling production 

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. 

4 completed Mittleider seedlijng flats
completed seedling flat
conatucting a Mittleider seedling tray
Mittleider seedling flat

Correcting nitrogen deficiency

Correcting nitrogen deficiency in beans

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.

Correcting nitrogen deficiency in green beans
correcting a nitrogen defeciency
urea was used to correct a nitrogen deficiency
urea was used to correct a nitrogen deficiency

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.

Recovery time

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.

Automated watering system for our grown boxes

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.     
   

  

Transplanting seedlings in grow boxes

Transplanting seedlings in grow boxes

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.

Seedlings growing in sawdust and sand
Seedlings growing in sawdust and sand

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.

Transplanting seedlings while holding them by a leaf and NOT a stem
Transplanting seedlings while holding them by a leaf and NOT a stem

 

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.

Transplanting seedlings into grow boxes
Transplanting seedlings into grow boxes

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.

 

Grow boxes for an in garden green house

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.  

Updates:

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 

   
    
    
   

Mixing constant feed for seedlings

Mixing constant feed for seedlings

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.

when mixing constant feed for seedlings you will need 3 gallons of water
when mixing constant feed for seedlings you will need 3 gallons of water

 

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 "high tech" watering device we use to give seedlings constant feed
The “high tech” watering device we use to give seedlings constant feed

You can watch us build the watering can

Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden