Columns

Gardener's Grapevine 2012.02.15

on . Posted in Gardener's Grapevine

Last week I wrote about starting plants inside for outdoor use in the spring and summer. After I wrote that article I got to thinking about my first grade teacher, Mrs. Alice Sutton. Her husband was the town’s veterinarian when I was a child and they both were nature lovers.  Our church yard and landscaping are cared for with an endowment made by Mrs. Sutton in her husband’s memory.

For those of you who never met this powerhouse little lady, you missed out. When I was in her class I learned many things including how to read, and I can’t imagine a life where I was unable to read. I adore snuggling up with a soft blanket, a cup of tea and a good book.

She also taught me to start plants in a cup and what was going on each step of the way. We started pumpkins in clear plastic cups. You could see the seed germinate and sprout, and see the sprout push upward through the soil. My pumpkin went home to our family garden on my Uncle Papp’s (Eldredge) farm. We got some very nice pumpkins for halloween that year.

Teachers give us lessons that stay with us forever and we should thank teachers for all they give us. Today teachers carry an even heavier load of not only educating our young people, but also making sure they learn many things that aren’t taught at home anymore like manners, social graces, nutrition and respect for others. Our teachers give so much and many people do not realize that. I read that there are many children in this country who go home on Friday and don’t know if they will eat again until Monday at school. A little knowledge of gardening and freezing could help solve this problem.

Once plants are in cups and growing, they need transplanting. Transplanting does not necessarily mean moving them to the garden. It means removing them from their current container to another location. After germination when the plants have two good strong leaves, they must be transplanted. Most seeds are so small that many plants wind up in the same container, and if not separated will not grow properly as they have to be able to stretch their roots out and crowding stunts them.

Gently remove the contents of the original container to a place that you can work the plants loose from one another. Using the leaves to lift the tender plants, separate them. Plant one plant per container, being sure to cover the roots completely with growing medium or soil. The same type of soil used to start the seed is fine, but use new soil as the original soil is probably completely wiped out of nutrients.

Water and fertilize the seedlings using house plant fertilizer at half strength. Don’t overwater or let the tender seedlings dry out. Keep newly transplanted seedlings in the shade for a few days and away from direct heat or anything that will dry them out. These seedlings are like an infant that is beginning to be mobile and needs to be protected from potential harm.

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