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Feb. 06, 2014 | Donna Balzer

Gardening For The Fuzzy Slipper Crowd

I am working on my garden and the soil is hitting the ground but I haven't left the kitchen. It's a Sunday morning in January and I am planting micro-greens. I am also wear my fuzzy slippers.

Sold at many markets, so called "baby" lettuce is also called microgreens and I am growing my own. From seed, they take a few weeks to mature and size up for eating. It doesn't really matter when you get started and I wouldn't plan a dinner party around it, but micro-greens grown indoors under lights germinate overnight and keep growing until cut. I started on a Saturday night with a chunk of growing mix chipped out of the giant compressed bale of soil I bought earlier this year. This 107-litre (3.8 cubic foot) bag is enough for a whole season of growing indoors and out. It's a hefty 27.2 kg (60 lbs.) and I could barely drag it into the greenhouse when I got home with it.

Before I plant, I'm washing out last year's black plastic flats. I know I should have washed last night's dishes first because the dinner plates and pots are getting in my way as I struggle to get the long flats into the awkward double sink. On second thought, maybe I should just renovate the kitchen. A giant single sink would make this gardening job much easier. I scrub the flats with hot soapy water because you never know what diseases are lurking in dirty flats.

Disease spread through soil can cause the whole emerging batch of seedlings to crash and collapse, a condition called "damping off" in technical circles. Note to self: I should have cleaned these flats as soon as I finished with them last year.

There is no water in the compressed soil so I add a splash of hot water to the bucket of soil and work it with my hands. I want a moist-damp soil, not a stew-like slurry.

A flat is the tray-like container normally used to hold pots. I dump the pre-moistened soil into the flat. I don't just use plastic. I also use old wooden flats I got from a guy at Macworld. Yes, my computer salesman Peter gave me his mom's old wooden flats when he sold me my new laptop. That Titanium computer was replaced years ago now, but the wooden flats are still in rotation with the old black plastic and the just purchased pricey but cool new green plastic flats.

Once the flat is filled I liberally sprinkle seed over the surface of the soil. Today I plant a flat of peas and a mix of Vesey's Bright Mix Mesclun, Green Forest Romaine and Aroma 2 Basil. This is not a precise job. Two peas or six lettuce seeds per square centimeter (half an inch) should give a healthy crop for clipping. I rub extra soil between my hands letting it fall to gently cover the seed. I sprinkle each flat with warm tap water and place the flats over a special water-proof heating pad, flip on the grow lights and make myself a cup of coffee. What have you started from seeds this year? Did you wash your used containers first? Follow my seed sowing adventure on my blog at www.gardenguru. net.

I am drinking coffee, still in my fuzzy slippers and I am feeling pretty smug when I spot the bucket I used to bring the soil indoors. Bits of manure and mixed compost are sticking to the inside and I realize I forgot to wash it before using it. Oops.

PTQ-Donna-Balzer---webBalzer speaks and writes about gardening, tweets @NoGuffGardener and blogs at - See more at: garden to do list october

Tagged: Calgary Real Estate | Calgary Real Estate News | Donna Balzer | Guest Column

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