Sunday, March 30, 2014


I’ve never before tried starting either beets or spinach indoors, but I figured only two things could happen: failure, from which I could learn, or success, from which I could eat.  Or something in-between.  Transplanting beets would seem difficult, but a few years ago I watched a good friend do so with almost 100% success. Her "secret" was making a planting hole the same depth and diameter as the root ball, then carefully holding the root ball together and sliding it down into the hole, and then watering immediately.

So this morning, I started Red Ace F1 and Detroit Dark Red beets, and some Red Kitten F1 early flat-leaf spinach.  Instead of my usual milled sphagnum, I covered these with moist coir.  Like the sphagnum, coir is said to have antifungal properties, minimizing the chance of damping-off problems.

The Brassicas I planted 10 days ago are doing fine. They’re getting only bottom watering now, and I’ve begun thinning.  Germination was above 90%, and there’s at least one healthy (so far!) plant in each cell.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


That word has many possible meanings these days; you’ve likely heard it lately in the saying, “Spring has sprung.”  I recall my father using it to mean something badly warped or bent out of its normal shape and not recovering.  So at least in our corner of Michigan, this spring is, apparently, “sprung.”

But true to my calendar, I started the first of this year’s Tendersweet F1 cabbage, Diplomat F1 broccoli, and Red Russian kale on a heat mat set for 75 degrees in my chilly basement just a couple hours after the Vernal Equinox this past Thursday.  (If you haven’t started some, it’s definitely not too late!)  The Red Russian (Brassica napus pabularia) is a different species from all of the other popular kales.  It’s quite sweet, and my clear favorite for eating fresh and raw, in salads or just rolled up and munched right in the garden.  The Tendersweet is true to its name, and we’ll see about the Diplomat—I haven’t previously tried it.

I planted three seeds per cell in a sterilized plastic cell tray, covered them with about 1/8 inch of milled sphagnum, moistened them gently, and covered the tray with clear plastic to hold in the moisture.  By this morning, at least one seed in each cell (all three in most) had germinated and had nice green cotyledons unfolding.  I took them off the heat and put them just an inch or so under fluorescent lights just inside the basement window.  I’ll thin to one plant per cell as soon as their first true leaves are growing well.  A few cells had tiny white spots of fungus growing in spite of my efforts to sterilize the trays and planting tweezers; and I used a good fresh commercial starter mix.  I carefully spritzed them with cool chamomile tea, which should discourage the fungus.  Here’s a typical cell of the cabbages:
With care and luck, these should be ready to transplant outdoors by about the first of May or when our soil temperature climbs into the upper 40's, whichever comes first.