Just as we are transplanting tomatoes in the garden they’re beging to set fruit. The idea of a fresh picked tomato right out of the garden sounds amazing. I am anxiously awaiting that first picked tomato of the year.
We are late in getting these seeds started, but today we got enough seeds in grow boxes that we can do one full 30 foot grow bed in bush beans. There are 9 rows in this seedling flat with 15 seeds in each row.
Notice the old vegetable can with sand and a white handled spoon sticking out of it? IRS my preferred method to cover those seeds with wet sand. It cover the seeds and the use the back of the spoon to even out the sand with the growing medium. The sand, when wet, just doesn’t shake out of the can easily.
After the picture was taken the rest of the seeds were covered and the seedling flat was covered with burlap. We water the seeds daily through the burlap seeds sprout. The burlap diffuses the water and helps prevent the seeds from being washout out of the sand.
Want to build your own seedling flats? See this blog entry.
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.
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.
The rain is dealing us fits in getting it setup, but in the video below you can see our progress. We’ve got a few grow beds made up and of course the in garden green house is done and ready to roll. Watch the video below and see our progress so far.
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.
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.
For a better look at our system check out this YouTube video:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.