The seeds we've been planting in my greenhouse are growing so nicely. My gardeners, Ryan and Wilmer, plant seeds into flats every week from now through March, when the weather is warm enough to garden outdoors. For now, they are being nurtured indoors where temperature, humidity and light can be properly controlled.
Starting from seed is not difficult, but it does require careful attention and patience. During these early stages of growth, they also need regular maintenance - thinning out those that are weak, pricking out those that are growing too big for their seed starting trays, and transplanting them into larger pots and flats.
Here are some photos of how we care for our young sprouts - enjoy.
These seedlings are in different stages of growth. They were planted from seed over the last few weeks. As they germinate and begin to mature, it’s important to check their development, so they continue to thrive.
Regardless of how perfect seeds may appear, germination is never guaranteed, so multiple seeds are always planted in each seed starting tray cell. This provides a better chance at least one in each cell will take root.
When the seedlings are a couple inches tall, and have reached their “true leaf” stage, which is when each seedling has sprouted a second set of leaves, it’s time for a process called selective thinning.
Selective thinning prevents overcrowding, so seedlings don’t have competition for soil nutrients or room to grow.
When thinning, carefully inspect the seedlings and determine the strongest ones. Look for fleshy leaves, upright stems, and center positioning in the space. The smaller, weaker, more spindly looking seedlings are removed, leaving only the stronger ones to mature.
Once selective thinning is complete, there should only be one seedling in each cell of the seed starting tray or container.
The stronger plants now have more room to grow before getting transplanted into larger pots or into the ground.
The span of windows helps to concentrate heat and sunshine to maximize plant growth.
As seedlings outgrow seed starting cell trays, they also need to be pricked out and transferred to individual pots, or larger trays.
A good quality organic mix designed for seedlings will be fast draining, and light. It will usually contain sphagnum moss and perlite or vermiculite. These mixes are formulated to encourage strong, healthy growth in new plants.
Fill the tray and using fingers or the end of a thick marker pen, make a hole in the center of each cell.
The tool on the left is great for seed starting – it’s from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It’s called a widger. It has a convex stainless steel blade that delicately separates seedlings. On the right, 10-inch gardening tweezers that are also helpful for handling young plants. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-9765-widger.aspx
When it is time to move the seedling, carefully loosen the soil around the seedling with the widger. The widger also helps to avoid damage to the plant’s leaves, or roots.
Place the seedling in the hole and gently firm up the surrounding soil. Avoid handling the seedling by its tender stems, which bruise easily.
The growing seedling will remain in the new larger cell tray or pot until it is ready to plant into the ground.
Here is Wilmer transplanting a tray of seedlings. The purpose of transplanting is to provide enough room – overcrowding can stress the sprouts.
These look so much better in the new tray.
There are also many different kinds of pots and trays available in different sizes and materials. These are Fertil pots from Johnny’s that are made from 80-percent wood fiber and 20-percent peat moss. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7606-fertil-pots-round-3-18-dia-x-3-18-h-90-pots.aspx
These pots are very easy to use and fill, especially when planting in an assembly line fashion.
Experiment with pots made from different materials to see which ones work best for what plants. And, always choose containers or trays that have proper drainage holes at the bottom.
These lupines were planted just a couple weeks ago – they are so green and healthy.
This is a heat mat specifically designed for seedlings. It warms the area and helps to improve root growth and increase germination rate.
Once seedlings are transferred, they’re given a good drink of water and returned to the greenhouse to continue growing.
Keep all seed starting trays moist and in a warm, sunny place. I dedicate an entire table in my greenhouse for seedings – it is so nice to be able to grow vegetables and flowers during these colder months in preparation for spring when they are moved outdoors.
As many of you know, I am a very passionate gardener and love to grow lots and lots of vegetables. I enjoy them in my daily green juice, and always share them with my daughter and grandchildren.
During the winter months, I am very fortunate to have my own indoor vegetable greenhouse, where I can continue to grow delicious and organic produce. I also have three Urban Cultivator units that allow me to sprout greens in appliance-sized devices right inside my main greenhouse. Urban Cultivator is a hydroponics company in Canada that creates these amazing indoor gardening machines. There's no need to use any pesticides or chemicals of any kind, so we know we're nurturing the highest quality plants. It's exciting to have all our favorite herbs and vegetables all year long.
My head gardener, Ryan McCallister, recently seeded some trays - enjoy these photos.
This is our commercial-sized Urban Cultivator. It is kept in the head house of my main greenhouse. It weighs 545-pounds and can hold up to 16-flats. http://www.urbancultivator.net
The unit has four grow drawers for the seed trays – well spaced so there is plenty of room for seedling growth.
There are also 16-grow lights – four on every shelf.
The seed trays sit over these reservoirs and are automatically watered from the back of the unit.
These Cultivators provide the proper aeration and circulation for its plants.
The Urban Cultivator’s pre-programmed control center adds just the right amount of water, light, humidity and air.
This is the Urban Cultivator residential unit. This unit takes up the same footprint as a dishwasher and is plumbed to water and electrical in the same way.
This smaller unit also has a pre-programmed control center to ensure greens get exactly the right amount of water and light.
The seeds that the Urban Cultivator provides have all been tested specifically for the machines. They are non-GMO (non genetically modified organism), organic, and come in a wide variety.
Seeds, seed sheets, humidity domes, and other cultivator accessories are stored neatly on shelves, where they can be kept handy and dry.
Urban Cultivator provides several options for growing seeds. For this option, Ryan filled a residential cultivator tray with about three-fourths of an inch of growing medium. This is a natural and organic mix recommended by Urban Cultivator. It’s called Sunshine Advanced Growing Mix 4, which includes peat moss, coir, and perlite for optimal plant growth and drainage. http://sunshineadvanced.com/
Ryan then sprinkles about a cup of seeds evenly throughout the entire tray.
After seeding, he adds a little more growing medium onto the seeds. It’s now ready to go into the Urban Cultivator.
Another growing option… Ryan lines the tray with a filter mat to keep the growing medium contained. One filter mat fits perfectly in a cultivator tray.
Growing medium is scooped into the tray – again, nearly an inch deep.
Ryan lightly tamps down the layer of soil and drops the seed. He adds a little more of the soil medium and lines it up to go into the Cultivator.
When seeding several trays, we often create an assembly line process.
This is a collection of various seed sheets, which fit perfectly into a cultivator tray.
Compressed peat sheets are used as an alternative to soil – they make clean-up much easier.
The compressed peat sheets come in pairs of squares that fit right into the tray – no cutting needed at all.
Ryan places one seed sheet on top of the peat sheets. Each seed sheet has seeds spread evenly across for best growing.
And that’s it – it’s ready to go into the Cultivator – so easy.
These seed sheets combine compressed peat with the seeds already on them. Here, we’re preparing a tray of basil.
Simply place two squares into the tray, and place into the cultivator unit.
Ryan places all the seed trays into the commercial Urban Cultivator.
Urban Cultivator provides humidity domes for each tray. The humidity dome remains positioned over the seed tray until germination begins. Each tray receives about 18-hours of light a day.
We programmed the watering intervals to once every four days.
Here, you can see the water coming out of the back of the Urban Cultivator. It is absorbed through the holes at the bottom of each tray.
About a week later, we checked on the trays. These trays are in different stages of growth. Inside the Urban Cultivator, they are receiving the best growing conditions. It is fascinating to watch the plants grow.
We had one tray of wheatgrass ready for Blackie to try – he loves it.
It’s wonderful to be able to grow all these delicious lush greens inside our greenhouse all year long.
So many of you ask about my pets - my dogs, cats, canaries, horses, donkeys, chickens, and the peafowl. I love giving you updates on all of them. My youngest dogs, Bete Noire and Creme Brûlée, are thriving here at the farm. These two one-year old female French Bulldogs are extremely exuberant, and love to get into everything.
Recently, I decided it was time to build a more suitable fence for all my dogs - one that enclosed a courtyard space behind my Winter House, where they could relax and play when not out with me or on long walks around the property. I wanted the fence to be durable, and to coordinate well with my home. I discussed plans with my carpenter, John Kowalczyk, owner of JK Home Remodeling in Stamford, Connecticut, and he started work on it right away.
Here are some photos of the building process. Enjoy.
There’s a lot of activity going on outside our workshop. My carpenter, John Kowalczyk, owner of JK Home Remodeling, is laying out the pieces for our new dog fence.
Each panel is made from wood cut right here at the farm. We’re using cedar, which won’t warp despite weather, humidity or changing temperature conditions. It is among the best types of wood for building.
This frame was painted my signature “Bedford Gray”. The team completed one frame, so I could see what the finished product would look like before they continued with the rest.
Once we were all set with the plans for the fence, Fernando began priming and painting all the wooden pieces.
These four-inch wooden boards are about 10-feet long. The fence will match all the other structures at the farm.
Each piece was cut to size – we were able to repurpose a lot of good lumber.
I wanted to use a very strong wire for the fence. This is quarter-inch steel with one-inch by one-inch squares – rabbit wire – we don’t want any doggie paws or noses to get stuck.
To fit the dimensions of the frames, Pete cuts the wire by hand.
The wire cutter is very easy to use and gets the job done quickly.
John lays the rabbit wire onto the frame.
It is measured out perfectly, so there is just the right amount of overlap on the wooden edges.
A second piece of wood is placed over the wire.
And then using one-and-a half-inch screws, John secures the wire between the cedar pieces.
John places screws evenly down the length of the frame.
After all the frames are painted, and all the wire is installed, the fence panels are brought down to the courtyard outside my Winter House kitchen. Fernando brings some of the shorter pieces.
Here are Pete and John carrying the longer pieces.
It is so exciting to see the fence come together.
The first panel is the most important because it sets up the fence dimensions – it must be straight, level and square.
Here is a view of a fence frame from the top – the rabbit wire is sandwiched tightly between these pieces.
John screws the panels together.
Fernando helps to hold the panels in place.
The same size screws are used to attach corner panels to wooden stakes, which will help to anchor the fence.
This is a seven-inch framing measurement ruler. It is used as a protractor, miter, or framing square, and is a
must-have carpenter’s tool for making precise right-angles.
One side is complete – so far, it looks great.
John installs the stainless steel latches for the gates. These gate latches are rust resistant and close very securely. The safety of my dogs is very important.
John also installed the heavy duty stainless steel strap hinges. We need several gates along the fence for convenient access from all sides.
During the summer, I also like to keep tropical plants in this courtyard, so placing the fence gates strategically will allow equipment and my big outdoor containers to be moved around easily.
Pete makes final cuts using an electric “five saw” hand saw.
A level is used to ensure all the panels are perfectly straight.
What a nice fence – but the real testers need to take a look too…
Here is Bete Noire – I wonder what she thinks of the new enclosure.
Bete Noire’s sister, Creme Brûlée, seems to like it.
My regal Chow Chow, GK, seems to approve also. This fence will provide years of safe fun for my pets.