Grow Your Own Food - Part 2
Spring Is In The Heir-Loom! When & How To Grow Your Own Food With Blue Monster Prep’s Survival Heirloom Seeds!
From deep in the heart of the Great Depression comes an inspirational tale of a mechanic, some tomatoes, and a mortgage paid in full. It was 1930s West Virginia, and times were tough, so Marshall Cletus Byles, a mechanic otherwise known as Radiator Charlie, decided to explore creative ways of expanding his income. Without any experience or education in growing or breeding tomatoes, Radiator Charlie took four parent tomato plants, and carefully cross pollinated them. The resulting tomato that Radiator Charlie developed was large, hearty, delicious, and most importantly, bred true. Gardeners were so thrilled with Radiator Charlie’s ‘family feeding’ tomato that they would travel up to 200 miles to purchase his amazing creation. Charging a dollar per seedling, Radiator Charlie made so much money, that he was able to pay off his $6,000 mortgage within six years. In honor of his success and prosperity, he christened his tomato “The Mortgage Lifter”. Still in circulation today, Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomato seeds have been successfully inducted into the heirloom family category.
May any of us be so fortunate as to develop a true breeding and famous heirloom plant. Still, what is the likelihood of imitating Radiator Charlie’s success sans education or know-how? To increase those odds and fulfill the promise of last week’s newsletter, — Here is Blue Monster’s quick guide on when and how to plant your heirloom seeds.
When To Plant
Before planting any seeds, the first thing to determine is your area’s plant hardiness zone. A plant hardiness zone map is the tool gardeners use to determine a plant’s likeliness to thrive at a certain location. These maps can be found all over the web with a quick search, but here is a link to the interactive USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
After finding your specific zone, the next thing to understand is which crops grow best for a summer harvest and which crops grow best for a fall one. Below is a summer harvesting planting guide with typical dates for sowing inside and transplanting outside for a general range of hardiness zones throughout the contiguous Unites States.
Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and onions are known as cool weather crops and do best when harvested in the fall. Again, keeping in mind the general hardiness zones of the continental United States, these vegetables should be sown indoors near the end of July and transplanted outside four to five weeks later.
How To Plant — A Few Tips
There are exceptions, but most seedlings are happiest when started indoors.
Seeds planted in shallow containers with drainage holes will do just fine. You can purchase seedling containers or you can use what you find around the house. You can likely come up with many creative ways to make seedling pots on your own, but here are a few ideas just to get you started. Washed plastic deli salad or rotisserie chicken containers, plastic or cardboard egg cartons, egg shells (these can be directly transplanted into the garden when the seedling is ready), toilet paper rolls with one end cut and folded shut, would all make great seedling pots.
A Starting Mix
Comprised of a mixture of vermiculite, perlite, humus, fertilizer, compost, and bark, potting soils and mixes can be much too coarse and even harsh for a developing seedling. While it is not the worst thing ever if these are used as a seedling growing medium, a seed starting mix is usually the best choice for germinating seeds. Most seed starting mixes are composed of soft, fluffy and fine fibered, water retaining sphagnum moss or the similarly characterized coco coir (made from coconut shells), perlite, and vermiculite. As a result, seed starting mixes are gentle on the delicate seedling, as well as superior at draining water while preserving moisture.
Some Like It Hot (Well, In This Case, Warm)...
While there are a few seeds that geminate best when cold (be sure to follow your planting instructions), most seeds prefer to germinate in a warm place. You can purchase a heating mat for seedlings or you can place your newly planted seeds near a source of warmth such as a sunny window, a warm radiator, a wood stove, or even on top of the refrigerator. Placing your seed in any of these places would do just fine to help them germinate.
Let There Be Light Light
Light is required the moment the seedling emerges above its seed starting mixture. Seedlings kept in low light conditions will not thrive, instead they will develop long, spindly, weak stems. Twelve to sixteen hours of daily light either from a south facing window or from a grow light will produce the most vigorous plants.
The Hard Knocks
Usually within 4 to 6 weeks your seedlings have developed a few true leaves and are ready to be transplanted outside, but not just yet. They need to be hardened off first. “What is hardening off?”, you may ask. Essentially, it is the process whereby seedlings are transitioned to being outside. On warm sunny days, take your seedlings outside and provide them with light shelter. In about a week, as you increase the hours of exposure each day, your seedlings will become acclimated to being outside full time.
Yeah! It’s sunny and warm — It must be the perfect day to transplant your newly hardened off seedlings, right? Absolutely not. We cannot have your precious seedlings suffer and wilt in the heat! Instead wait for the cool of the late afternoon or even better, wait for a cool and cloudy day. After planting your seedlings and covering them with loosely with soil, water them gently, but deeply.
Your Food Is Good Food
Perhaps inspired by Radiator Charlie, you will grow some delicious and true breeding crop that will bring you financial freedom. Perhaps your cultivar will even be recognized as part of the heirloom family. To get started right away, you can get your Survival Heirloom Seeds from Blue Monster Prep, put this guide to use, and grow some good, nutritious food for yourself, your family, and your friends — and build your own garden legacy!