Seed Swaps

Lessons From The Trenches

04 Jun 2011
Cloudy 22°C / 72°F

I’ve learned a few things this past week. (Which is the whole point behind this experiment, to see what I can learn now, before we go up north) So far, the compost in a bucket is going well. It did reach a point where it started to smell, which I sort of expected because I hadn’t gotten out to get any dry matter from the woods like I knew I should. So it stopped composting. There was no heat and a gag-worthy smell. No problem, I knew how to fix this. I know a place where someone dumped a bale of hay to rot and I know where there are corn stalks and leaves from last years harvest. So off we went with compost bucket (yes, it has a tight fitting lid) and shovel. We added fallen maple leaves from last year, corn leaves and stalks out of the corn field and a little of the soil too while we scraped and shoveled all that waste matter. I made sure the lid was snapped on securely and rolled it down the road, mixing while we walked. This morning’s check revealed far less smell and heat inside the bucket again. It’s wet and chilly outside today, so I know that heat in the bucket means the compost is fixing itself. One setback dealt with.

I also learned it’s not wise to transplant tomato seedlings. They tend to die. At best, they get shocked and don’t grow. Note to anyone trying to grow tomatoes indoors; soak your seed, then plant in whatever container you will be letting your plant spend it’s life in. If you must use a smaller container first, I recommend small yoghurt or pudding cups that you can slit with a knife when the seedling has outgrown it. That way, when the seedling needs a bigger pot, you slit the cup open and plant that rootmass in it’s new home with as little disturbance to the root hairs as possible. Little disturbance = happier plant. Remember this.

This week taught me that peas are the easiest thing to grow, hands down. They have been the most tolerant and forgiving of any seed I have started here. The tallest is 5" high. All are a good shade of green, the leaves feel firm and the stalks are strong. The only thing more robust than the peas is the parsley and the basil. I will not be transplanting the peas. It was always my intention to let them live their lives in a container. See how tall they grow, see what kind of pods they’d produce, if any, and just generally see how they did. With any luck we’ll get enough peas to eat, and maybe even some to put up.

Another lesson to note; it is possible to dehydrate pineapple slices in an electric dehydrator with holes in the trays. I cut pieces of wax paper and rested the pineapple slices on them. For this experiment, I used a can of pineapple slices. I’ll explain why in a moment. I did not turn the slices when they began to dry, and so three or four stuck to the wax paper. They were a write-off. So, if you use wax paper under the pineapple, discard after the pineapple is no longer drippy. While I was on a dehydrating roll, I also sliced up two Fuji apples. I let the slices rest in the can of pineapple juice for about thirty seconds, to prevent the apple from going brown in the dehydrator. I took the apple slices out, let the juice drip back into the can and plopped them into the dehydrator as well. So far, they are doing well. Still soft, but they are progressing as the books say they should and aren’t brown. So far, so good.

That’s the update from our trenches, where I’m fighting to learn all I can now, before I get to our micro-farm up north. I know urban farming is possible, hundreds are doing it all over the world. But right here, right now, in our dark apartment; I’m still learning.



I wonder what’s happening with your tomato plants? They usually thrive on transplantation into a deeper pot ‘cause then they are able to make new roots from the buried part of the stem. I’ve always followed my father’s example of sowing – well spaced seed – in a small tray, then potting up into 3 or 4 inch diameter pots when first true leaves are out. Then pot on to something larger as needed, burying part of stem each time, ending up in the permanent pot of 12 or more inches (I usually have 14 or 16 inch). Each pot-up the ‘maters put on a spurt of growth as if to say ’ta, I really needed that’

Another thing to be aware of is not to handle the seedlings by their stems when transplanting as they get damaged easily. I find if you loosen them fully from their growing medium with an old table fork or knife then pick them up by a leaf to transfer them to the pot, works every time. A damaged leaf is no great loss but stem damage in a small seedling can be its end.

Maybe it’s your climate/zone of which I’ve no experience. I’m Z 8b here in UK and can’t put tomatoes into their permanent containers outside until mid to late May and even then they need a covering at night for a couple of weeks and one year I lost some to a June 1st frost.

Posted on 19 Jun 11 (almost 5 years ago)

Would you like to add a comment? Sign up for a free account, or log in if you're already a member.