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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Starting the Garden!

It is time to plant the first few seeds indoors.  That is usually the best single day of the season (well, maybe eating the 1st ripe tomato is, too).  So I took my seed tray out of the fridge, opened the index card tray of which seeds to plant (more on that later), and went to open my seed list.  Hmm, the seed list isn't there in the seed tray.  So I looked around at likely spots.  Couldn't find it...

OK, I should explain my system...  Several years ago, I got tired of trying to remember when I should plant seeds of each crop.  I sat down and thought about a system for such stuff.  The 1st thing I decided was that knowing when each type of seed should be planted depended on the average last frost date (AKFD).  8 weeks before ALFD, 4 weeks, plus-two weeks, etc.  And I needed a quick reference for how deep, what kind of light, germination time, etc.

ALFD was easy to determine (April 20 here).  So I took a calendar and marked the Saturdays plus or minus from the ALFD.  Two weeks before ALFD is -2; four weeks after is +4, etc.

Then I bought index cards and dividers.  I marked all the dividers with - or + week numbers (-12 through +12).  Then I designed a card template suitable for all crops.  The top line names the crop and the - or + weeks from ALFD.  The next line says what action is required ("plant seed inside", "transplant to larger pot", "transplant outside", plant seed outside", etc.

Notes on the further lines mention unique requirements regarding fertilizer, transplant depth, spacing, etc. For example, there are individual cards for initial tomato seeds planted inside, (-8 weeks) inside transplant (-4 weeks), and outside transplant (+2 weeks) all based on ALFD.  So on each weekend, I look at the marked calendar to see the - or + week number, open my index card box, and take out all the cards with that number.  Then I now exactly what I have to do for the day...

The other half of my system is my seed storage method.  Years ago, I found medical specimen vials for sale cheap.  They are about the size of your index finger.  I marked them all with indelible marker numbers.  I placed each type of seed in individual vials and made a list of the vial #, seed type, variety, and year.  Then I made a wooden holder for them.  I just took a piece or pegboard and used it to mark spots, then drilled holes in plywood that fit the vials.  I glued a bottom on the plywood and now I have a permanent holder for all the seed vials!

There is even space in the tray for my index card box and all the seed packets (for detailed information should I need it).  I keep the seed vial list in the index card box.  The seed list is done in Excel (easy columns, and it is also stored on the computer.  When I buy new seeds, I merely write the changes on the list in red ink and change it on the Excel file each season.

So, why did I have a problem this year?  Because I didn't follow through on the Excel file changes...  I got many new seeds last year and this year.  I made the manual changes to the list.  I put the changed list on the computer table to update the Excel file.

And didn't do it...

I make notes on scrap paper all the time.  Any piece of paper around the computer may have bits on information on several subjects.  I go through them from time to time and throw away the ones I no longer need.

So there I was, with no updated seed list in the index box, in my gardening notebook, nor sitting around the computer.  But I couldn't find the hand-written changes of vials identifications!  I felt sick...  Yes, I can tell corn seeds from bean seeds, but I can't tell among 5 varieties of lettuce or 5 varieties of tomatoes or 5 varieties of peppers, etc.

I searched the house from top to bottom.  I'm not the most organized person.  I write notes on scrap paper, on the backs of stuff I print out, on old envelopes.  But still, I had checked all my piles of scrap paper, the index card box, the gardening notebook, etc.  I had run out of spots.  I even checked under the fridge vegetable crisper in case the list had fallen over the side.

So I checked the piles again.  At the very bottom of the pile on the floor next to the computer, I noticed the list of this year's seed order.  And when I turned it over,,,  The LIST!  Oh, I was, I was SO RELIEVED!!!

I think that was the single deepest breath I have taken in months!

I immediately updated it on Excel with a few seeds I bought locally, and printed out 3 copies.  One for the seed tray, one for the index card box, and one for my gardening notebook! 

At least now, I am ready to plant the -8 week seeds this evening and know which all my seeds are...


1 comment:

Jacqueline said...

You put a lot of thought and effort into your system and it sounds like a good one!...I write notes on scraps of paper sometimes too and they're easy to lose=glad you found this year's seed list!