Spring Gardening Activities with the Office Crew - by Lindsay, Trial Garden Manager
As the gardening season gets underway, we always like to involve everyone at the Renee's Garden business office with our trial garden activities by having the group over four regular visits every few weeks. Whether it be sowing seed, weeding, thinning seedlings or just touring the trials of different varieties, it is always something that everyone really enjoys and learns from. It is a great way to reconnect as a group of co-workers and share the garden. Last week, Cheri, Calley, Heidi, Nellie, Kathy, and Rick came to the garden to practice their seed starting skills.
Last season, the groups' main focus was on vegetables, specifically peppers and tomatoes, so everyone could experience the entire process, from sowing seeds to harvest. We started seeds in the greenhouse and I kept the seed flats watered in the until they germinated and ready for the next step.
When the young seedlings were large enough to handle, everyone came back to transplant them from their seedling flats into individual pots. I really like to have people that do not have a ton of experience with growing from seed to transplant tomatoes and peppers because they are resilient and quick to grow.
Once the seedlings grew into larger and stronger plants, and acclimated to the outdoors, we had a planting day to plant the sturdy seedlings out into the beds to grow to maturity. Later everyone harvested the fruit from the plants that they had sown themselves.
This spring, I am changing the focus to flowers. And not just varieties we are evaluating in the trial garden, but flowers for everybody to take home for their own gardens. I chose 6 different easy to grow flowers that would grow in similar conditions, attract pollinators and look nice together: Sunflower ‘Junior’, Salvia ‘Marble Arch’, Cosmos ‘Dancing Petticoats’, Zinnia ‘Persian Carpet’, Dahlia ‘Watercolors’ (a new introduction in 2011), and Nasturtium ‘Vanilla Berry’. I prepared a kit for each person that had the seed packets, "6 pack" containers and sterile soil mix, plant tags for labeling, and a list of simple instructions of how to sow the seed them.
Our first session sowing the flowers went very smoothly, and everyone enjoyed themselves: There’s nothing like the gardeners version of chatting and "relaxing over a couple of 6 packs. " I was really happy to see everyone with their newly sown flats of 6 packs, bringing them into the greenhouse. I will keep them watered and tended until the seedlings have germinated and it is time for the next step.
Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, each person can choose to thin out extra seedlings either by just cutting them off at the base, leaving just one seedling remaining with space to grow, or by dividing the seedlings in each 6 pack, transplanting them into individual pots. This just depends on how many plants each person wants to end up with.
It's normal for beginners to want to keep as many seedlings as they can. I remember a day that I wouldn’t think of thinning plants out either, but wanted to keep them all. I guess I have just developed a little different mentality since growing plants is something that I do every day. Thinning out extra seedlings has become a necessity to avoid being totally overwhelmed by so many plants. Thinning seedlings properly also gives each little young plant the room it really needs to grow to maturity successfully.
When the plants are large enough, we will gradually acclimate them to the outdoors to "harden off " or get accustomed to outdoor conditions for a week or so. After that, each person will pick them home to plant and enjoy. Hopefully I am helping “plant a new seed” in everyone’s confidence in growing flowers.