April 5, 2016

Planting carrots with seed mats

I worked last weekend on finishing up tilling my garden.  Because it is fenced this year, I had to do it with a hand tiller.  Last year, Frank rolled through it quickly with the tractor and the big tiller.  It was a much longer process by hand, but I got it done.  I tilled in the rye I had planted last fall along with some bedding from the chicken coop and some compost.  When I finished, the soil looked rich and ready for some seeds!

Last night, then, I gathered up my seed mats that I had made for my carrot seeds and headed out to the garden.  I started using seed mats for tiny seeds like carrots last year.  I like them for several reasons:
  1. It saves your back because you can prepare them inside at a table.
  2. It saves seeds because you don't have to thin the plants once they germinate and pop up.
  3. You end up with what my neighbor calls a "Martha Stewart garden" = perfect straight rows.

They are pretty easy to make.  Here's the process:
  1. Get some cheap paper napkins, a ruler, a marker, a pen, a bottle of elmer's glue, and your seeds.
  2. Unfold a napkin and, using the ruler, mark your seed spacing to match the suggested final spacing of your plants.  For carrots, I ended up with about 16 to a napkin.  You probably want to put a piece of paper or something under the napkin because the marker will bleed through.
  3. Once you have your spacing marked, use your glue bottle to dab a small dot on each mark.  Any kind of water-soluble glue will work.
  4. Use your finger or a toothpick to drop one seed on each glue dot.
  5. In the corner of the napkin, write what the seeds are so you'll remember when it's time to plant.
  6. Set aside until dry then store until you are ready to plant.

They look like this when you're finished...

Yesterday, after dinner, I went out with my seed mats to plant my carrots.  For root vegetables like carrots or beets, it's important to loosen the soil pretty deeply so that they can grow freely without hitting obstructions.  So even though I had already tilled, I hit that patch again with my manual soil turner doo-hicky (very precise name, I know).  Once I had it loosened, I raked some soil off to the side, smoothed out what was left, and laid down my seed mats.

I used the soil I had raked off to the side to cover the mats so that they were completely hidden and buried.  I did mine row by row for each of three varieties.  Next I put my labels on the rows so I'd know what was growing where and when I planted them.

Here is the whole patch of carrots.

I watered them well and then called it a night.  Initially, make sure you keep the ground pretty wet if you are planting with seed mats because you need the glue to dissolve in order for the seeds to germinate.  I'll go out and check to make sure the soil is moist each day until I start to see shoots coming up.

I'm getting my garden hands back!  Stained brownish-green and calloused! 

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