Saturday, January 19, 2019

gardening tip

It may seem early, but isn't Winter the best time for planning gardens? I learned a useful thing today, so I'm going to share it now, lest I forget to mention it when Spring rolls around.

Last year, with the luxury of the little tinkertoy greenhouse ("Q" as I called it, which I genuinely believe is the only pun I have ever made in my life), I planted many types of seed in a variety of containers, but all filled with a high-quality organic soil purchased in bags at the feed store. I puttered in the greenhouse every day, and enjoyed it tremendously.

Fortunately, the last of the trays of seedlings had just been removed to transplant when a tree fell right across the greenhouse, destroying most of the frame.

In happy times. Before the smash.

I haven't yet decided how I'm going to start everything from seed again this year. I loved having the headstart of a little greenhouse, but I don't think I can afford to buy another - I bought the first one on a half-price sale, and was hoping to use it carefully for years. The method of having little covered trays on windowsills has never worked out well for me, so I really don't want to do that this year. Well, perhaps I can cobble together some way of reusing the greenhouse cover, which survived.

Anyway, back to the gardening tip.

Since some of my flats had low germination and some seedlings were attacked by invisible bugs and died after sprouting, I'd like to re-use the organic soil from those trays. So I emailed the company and asked if I should sterilize it first.

Here is the answer, which I hope a reader or two may find useful. I'll skip the part where the person recommends buying new soil, and skip to the good news:

"Old mix can, however, be sterilized for reuse. It will not be as fresh, but the sterilization process will ensure it is pest and disease free. In fact, I sometimes sterilize fresh seedling mix when I am starting prized seeds. To sterilize mix, I place it in a large, oven-safe pan, add some water to moisten the mix, and then cover it with aluminum foil. Then I bake it at 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes. The soil’s internal temperature should be at least 180 degrees F for sterilization. Allow the mix to cool before use."

So there we are. It will be interesting to see what baking soil smells like. If anyone tries it - or has tried it in the past - please share in the comments!

A real snowstorm is predicted to begin this afternoon and continue right through Sunday as either snow or freezing rain. I'm going out to batten down the hatches and also take Piper for a little walk in the woods before it begins.
Happy weekend, everyone!