Let’s Talk Health Series gives garden tips to residents

Now is the Time to Start your Seeds!

Let’s Talk Health Series gives garden tips to residents

By, Crystal A. Proxmire

march 1, 2010

Gardening has a wealth of benefits – from healthy eating, good recreation, beauty for your back yard, inexpensive food, and helping the environment by reducing the effects of shipping produce over long distances.

A sustainable, local foods movement is growing in Ferndale.  From the Community Farmstand, the Good Neighbors Garden and FernCare’s Community Garden Project, to the many backyard gardens that can be seen by walking through our neighborhoods, to the popularity of fresh and healthy markets like the Natural Food Patch and Western Market – it’s clear that Ferndale is growing at the art of… well, growing.

That’s why FernCare Board Chairperson Ann Heler invited Master Gardener Trevor Johnson to teach workshops in the Let’s Talk Health Series.  “Good health starts with what we put in our bodies,” Heler said.  “Trevor is just great at getting people excited about food, we’re lucky to have him on board.”

FernCare’s free clinic is expected to open in the spring.  Johnson and other volunteers will be tending to a community garden on site at the clinic, which will provide free medical services to adults up to age 65.  The clinic is a completely grass-roots project that was started by members of the community who saw a lack of access to healthcare and decided to do something about it.  This meshes well with Johnson’s determination to change the way people value the food they eat and the way they get it.

It might be hard to think about gardening when there is snow still on the ground, but now is the time to start seeds in the Ferndale area for those who want healthy, vibrant vegetables through the spring and summer growing seasons.  As participants planted free seeds from FernCare, Johnson gave them a wealth of information about how to encourage the most fruitful plants possible.

● When you start your seeds, make sure you’re using a seed-starting mixture that is labeled “sterilized” or “disease-free.”  Giving seeds a healthy start is crucial for their success.

●When you plant a peat pot outside, make sure that you plant it all the way underground, or it will wick the moisture right out into the air before the roots can get to use it.  Bury it completely.

● If your newly-sprouted plants start to stretch too far and are falling over, it means they are not getting enough sunlight.

● Some seeds won’t germinate if the soil is not consistently at 65 degrees.

● To encourage strong plants, gently rustle the leaves and stems a little every day, this helps them grow thicker stems.

● Onions, leeks and shallots should be started now and transplanted outside before May 10th.

● Tomato, pepper, and eggplant should be started in early March and transplanted outside in early June.

● Lettuce, kale, spinach, khlorabi and cabbage should be started at the end of March and moved outside in early June.

● Keep seeds moist by misting the top of the soil twice a day and keeping it nice and wet.  Seeds need to be in a sunny spot and kept at 65 degrees or warmer.  Once the seeds germinate they don’t need as much water.

● When moving plants outside they should be “hardened off.”  That means acclimating them to the change by putting them outside in the daytime and bringing them in at night, or by putting them in a grow box which has a clear top for sunlight and warmth and sides to protect them from the wind.  After about a week of adjustment time, the plants will be better equipped to deal with outside conditions.

Johnson said that his favorite resource is The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, although there are many resources available online to help the backyard gardener.

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