Seed Starting and Other Spring Fun (Apr. 15/22)

Spring has arrived on the homestead after a long, cold winter. As promised, I am sharing my steps to prepare my garden. There are also some other important activities I have been busy with that reflect my homestead values. The photo above is of some Nasturtium seeds, which I have prepared for planting by filing them with a nail file. This is supposed to help them germinate. Go for it, Nasturtium seeds!

Seed Starting

First, seed starting. Last year, I started many many seeds. OK, it’s now clear there were perhaps too many. This year, I am being more selective in what seeds I am starting.

There are couple of reasons for this decision. One reason is that I am now living in the eco-cabin and I have a lot less space for my seedlings in this one room cabin that is still under construction! That’s a pretty good reason in and of itself. However, there is another important reason: Some of the seeds I had started may have done better if I had waited and planted them right in the ground. I have found some conflicting information out there as to what seeds are best to start. In previous years, I had decided more was better.

In order to clarify this, I actually consulted with a horticulturalist I know. He encouraged me to try more plants outdoors, particularly my squash, and cucumbers. So, this year, here is the list of plants I am starting indoors for my own garden, All varieties are Heirloom and most are organic:

Roma Tomato                   Brussel Sprouts               Early Cabbage

Cherry Tomato                 Three Varieties of Kale (Lacinato, Curly, Purple)

Beefsteak Tomato            Companion Plants (Marigold and Nasturtium)

Hot Peppers                       Green Peppers                  Genovese Basil

*I will be sharing some of these seedlings with our local community gardens. In a future post, I will write about these wonderful initiatives, powered mainly by volunteers, that help local people in need get great fresh food. Now, more than ever, I consider this a high priority for Half-Acre Homestead outreach.*

Here is a photo of my earliest started seed plantings. These are mainly for the community gardens and to give out for free: 10 Beefsteak Tomatoes, 10 Marigolds, 6 Early Cabbage, 6 Nasturtiums, 4 Genovese Basil. The Marigold and Nasturtiums are companion plants for natural pest control. If you aren’t able to start these early this year, you can usually find TONS of Marigolds on sale at garden centres a bit later in the season!

Everything else will be started in the ground, planted in June or later:

Beets              Carrots            Parsnips             Rutabagas (late crop for storage)

Kidney Beans               Pinto Beans              Corn

Pickling Cucumbers            Waltham Butternut Squash          Black Beauty Zucchini

Arugula             Zesty Lettuce Mix    Onions         Garlic (California Softneck)

 One exception to this is that I will be attempting an early row of turnips, grown for their greens, in a mini hoop house. I plan to plant this over the coming weekend and will keep you posted on its progress.

In future posts, I will share photos of the seedlings and also images of my hand drawn garden plan for this season, along with reasons for plant placement and new ideas and trials. This year, my fenced garden is about 20 feet by 45 feet, not including a side bed I sometimes use for onions and garlic. That’s about 900 square feet, more than twice the size of my eco-cabin!!!

Moth Prevention

Second, although it may seem like a strange spring activity, I have been spending time every day on moth prevention. Last year, we had a massive scourge of LDD moths (Lymantria dispar dispar) formerly called Gypsy Moths. This is an invasive species that wreaks havoc on trees. On my half-acre, around a dozen trees were completely defoliated. I mean the caterpillars ate every single leaf off these trees! This was despite my efforts of spending hours and hours collecting the somewhat spiny caterpillars using gloves and throwing them into bucket after bucket of soapy water.

My particular concern is for the beautiful mature trees on the property, with two maples well over 150 years old. Apparently, a tree can handle losing its leaves once in a season, although it is very stressful to the tree. However, this puts the tree at great risk if another great stress comes along, such as a drought.

To help the trees on the homestead, I decided to research ways to try and reduce the moth population earlier in the season. One piece of good news I learned is that our very very cold winter could have helped reduce the population by killing some of the eggs from the previous year. Hurray!

However, I didn’t want to only rely on the cold. So, I decided to be proactive and try to remove as many of the moths’ egg sacs on my trees as I possibly could. The egg sacs are often low on the tree, and look like a smear of something. They have a slight pink/peach colour to the. Can you spot the egg sacs on this tree?

Using a paint scraper and a dish brush, along with a bucket of soapy water, I have been spending 30 minutes to an hour doing this every morning for around 10 days. I will head out shortly, as it looks like there may be some rain coming! This has been a satisfying activity. I have been out in my beloved nature, listening to the enthusiastic spring bird song, saying hello to the trees and shrubs on the land and doing something that I hope will help them.

Although it’s not possible to remove every egg sac, I hope that I have been able to reduce the population. Here is a photo of how many eggs were in my bucket after working for about an hour. The eggs have been soaking in the soapy water overnight, and separate from the egg sac and get larger, so they are easier to see!

Certainly, I can say that removing the egg sacs has been much more pleasant than pulling the reluctant and SPINY caterpillars off the trees (for hours and hours!).

Half-Acre Homestead Values

When I reflect on my spring activities on the homestead, I hope that the following themes and values come through:

Gardening knowledge is a journey, not a destination: Even after so many years, I am still learning and trying new things.

Being of service to others: Whether it is the trees on the homestead, or people in need of healthy food in my local community, I strive to help others in all I do.

Joy in the Miracle of Nature: Every year, when that first little seedling emerges from the soil, I rejoice in the miracle of nature. Reflecting deeply on these little miracles of life inspires me. Spending time in my beloved nature refreshes my soul. There is a great deal we can do to improve our resiliency and health by deepening our connection to our own food production and nature itself.

 Wishing everyone a wonderful spring!

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