Homemade Seed Mats or Seed Tapes

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Since spring arrived so late this year, I tried to plan ahead as much as I could so planting the garden could be completed quickly once the snow melted and the soil warmed. I planted some extra spring seedlings under lights. That way they could still grow on schedule even though they were not growing in the garden.

Another task I completed while the snow was still covering the garden was to make up some seed mats (or seed tapes) so when the garden beds are ready, sowing the will be fast.

The inspiration for making seed mats came from Granny at Annie’s Kitchen Garden. I have used seed mats for sowing carrots, lettuce, and spinach with good results over the years. This year, I prepared seed mats for carrots, lettuce and succession plantings of spinach.

Seed mats are helpful for planting tiny seeds, such as lettuce and carrots that are hard to sow one at a time. Instead of scattering seeds then thinning later, creating seed mats allows you to space out the seeds according to the suggested spacing on the back of the seed package or Square Foot Garden spacing recommendations.

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Seed mats made with napkins work particularly well for the Square Foot Gardens because one napkin fits into one square. Even if you garden in rows, strips of napkins or even bathroom tissue can be used to make your seed tape.

How to Make the Seed Mats:

You’ll need:

  • 12 x 12 inch cardboard square
  • Marker
  • Ruler
  • Thin napkins
  • Flour and enough water to make a paste
  • Toothpicks
  • Seeds
  • Tweezers

Make a Template:

Check the back of the seed package for the recommended seed spacing or refer to the Square Foot Garden’s guidelines. This example is for carrots which are 3-inches or 16 per square foot.
Measure 1.5 inches (half of 3) in from the upper left corner, then measure 3-inches across and mark along your cardboard. Do the same along the other edges and then draw your lines. Place a dot with your marker where the lines intersect. There are 3-inches between each dot.

seed mat template

Make Your Seed Mat:

  • Mix the flour and water together to make a paste. It should coat a toothpick without dripping off.
  • Open up the napkin and layer it on your template.
  • Using the dots as a guide, dab a drop of the paste onto the napkin with your toothpick.
  • Use tweezers to place two seeds into each dab of paste.
  • Write the name of the variety on each mat and allow it to dry completely.

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Once the seed mats are dry, they can be folded up and stored in a zipper bag until ready to plant. When planting time comes, it is easy to place the seed mats in the beds, cover with soil, and water.

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At first it seems like extra work to make the seeds mats compared to sowing the seeds directly in the garden. But having the seed mats prepared ahead of time to plant when the soil is ready will save some time. I find it easier to make seed mats at my leisure inside rather than hovering over a garden bed trying to space out tiny seeds evenly.

gardening_for_granny_graphicGranny says: “…it takes a lot less time to make the mats than it does to plant a row of seeds and then have to thin out half of them. And the wind doesn’t carry my seed away when I’m sitting in my kitchen!”

Thanks Granny for the original inspiration for using homemade seed mats. I hope sharing your seed mat method encourages others to give it a try.

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The Spring Garden: Feeling Behind Before I Even Begin

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Finally, true spring weather has arrived here in Maine. Over the past week, the snow receded across the yard like a wave withdrawing from the shore. Although the garden was calling, I remained inside besieged with graphic design project deadlines. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and I love being so busy, but winter was long, harsh, and sunshine and warmth were calling me. I had to settle for wide-open windows that allowed a slight breeze in to chase the stale air of winter out of the house. The music I usually listen to as I work was muted so I could hear the birds singing from outside.

I woke early Saturday morning refreshed and eager to leave the stress of the workweek behind. I let the dogs out and walked to the coop to release the chickens into their pen. It was the first morning that didn’t require bundling up with a coat, hat, and gloves. I watched the girls forage around their pen and took a deep breath to take pleasure in the smell of fresh spring air. It was heavy with the fragrance of mud, moss, and decomposing wood. Overall, not a pleasant scent but earthy and organic.

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As I looked around, my mind began compiling a mental list of things that needed to be tended to. The yard is a mess and the garden beds are still so wet to work in. The melting snow revealed rodent mounds and mud, and dead foliage. I know soon the grass will green up and push its way through the drab ground and leaves will fill out the woods that surround us but for now everything looks as weary from the long winter as I have been feeling.

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Oh where to begin?

I knew once the snow finally melted this year we would begin scrambling to get things done. Usually I have plenty of time to putter around the yard and prepare the garden beds. Not so this year because the days and nights were much colder than normal and the hardened snow melted slowly. Organizing a list of things to accomplish and setting priorities will be the only way to tackle it all and not drive myself crazy.

First, the spring seedlings will enjoy some sheltered time outside for the first time:

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Spring Seedlings Enjoying Some Time Outside

Then, I will ooh and aww over the green that is sprouting in the garden:

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Garlic Pushing Its Way Through the Straw

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Chives

Other items on the list:

  • Yard raking
  • Branch Trimming
  • Raised Bed Replacement
  • Prepare the Garden Beds for Planting
  • Fix the Garden Fence to Keep the Dogs Out
  • Trim the Raspberry Canes
  • Tame the Concord Grape Vines
  • Clean Out the Chicken Pen and Fill in the Holes
  • Fix Our Broken Picket Fence
  • Harden off the Spring Seedlings

Happy gardening!

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Square Foot Gardening: A Quick and Easy Way to Begin a Garden

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I grew up in a small town where my parents and extended family tended several vegetable gardens on our property. Each spring, the gardens were layered with manure delivered by a local farmer, and tilled into the native soil. Then the soil was raked and planted with long rows of vegetables. Since they were retired, my grandparents and great aunt did most of the work in the gardens over the growing season. As a child, I remembered that involved a lot of weeding and hoeing, weeding and hoeing. They probably enjoyed working in the garden each day, but to me it seemed like a chore.

When I purchased my home, I was thrilled that it came with a small vegetable garden bed. I dreamed of growing a garden like my grandparents did, filling the freezers full of home grown vegetables, and canning tomato sauce.

The first year wasn’t stellar. The garden beds were infested with weeds, the soil was in poor shape, and I quickly discovered that I didn’t have enough time to weed and hoe each day. The good news was that even with the challenges I was able to harvest enough veggies to feed the two of us. I was optimistic by what I could grow and I knew I could get more yields for my efforts if my veggies didn’t have to battle the weeds for water and nutrients. I had to do something different.

All New Square Foot GardeningOver the winter of 2009 I began reading, All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition by Mel Bartholomew. The concept of Square Foot Gardening is to use a raised bed filled with a soil blend called Mel’s Mix (1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost from as many sources as you can). The bed is divided into one-foot sections and each square is planted according to the plant spacing described in the book.

While reading the book, I was also introduced to vertical gardening as a way to save valuable garden space by growing vining vegetables on trellises instead of sprawled on the ground.

The square-foot gardening concept immediately appealed to me because it was fast. Build a bed, fill with soil and plant according to the charts in the book. The concept is also simple, organized, and makes it easy to plan your growing beds. I loved the idea of starting with fresh soil because I didn’t have to worry about the weed infestation of the other beds. I liked organizing and plotting out the garden beds by square.

sfg-planting-chart

I decided to test the Square Foot Gardening method out by adding three 4×4 square foot beds to the south end of our garden area. We built, filled, and planted these beds in just a weekend. You can see the process here: Assembling the SFG. The vegetables planted in these beds did very well.

Over the years, the garden has expanded to include additional raised beds. Adding fresh compost each year has helps maintain the soil’s fertility. Although there were minimal weeds in the beginning, over time a few began to pop up. But they are much easier to control than my other beds. I still use the recommended Square Foot Gardening plant spacing in most of my raised beds. Some have been adjusted over the years to accommodate my growing conditions or the varieties of plants I grow. The garden is an ever evolving and ever growing process, but it was encouraging to have a fresh start.

If you are just starting a garden or want to expand your growing space, the Square Foot Gardening method is worth considering. The beds are easy to build with no digging or tilling required. Or you can purchase ready to assemble raised beds like the 4′ x 4′ Cedar Raised Bed or 4′ x 4′ Rustic Cedar Raised Bed at Gardener’s Supply:

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4′ x 4′ Cedar Raised Bed from Gardener’s Supply

Gardener’s Supply also has many accessories for raised beds too such as their Aquacorner™ Raised Bed Soaker Systems and Raised Bed Corners, Set of 2:

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Aquacorner™ Raised Bed Soaker Systems from Gardener’s Supply

Shared at: Green Thumb Thursday, From the Farm Blog Hop at Better Hens and Gardens, The Homesteaders Hop, Simple Life Sunday, Down Home Blog Hop

Gardening for Granny

You may have noticed the “Gardening for Granny” icon in my sidebar. Most longtime readers know Granny who blogs at Annie’s Kitchen Garden. Granny has inspired so many garden bloggers over the years and we were shocked with the news that she is fighting cancer and didn’t think she would be able to enjoy gardening this year.

When a local family member, neighbor, or friend becomes ill it is much easier to jump in and try to help out. Granny’s family has done just that and Annie’s Kitchen Garden has been affectionately renamed, “Granny’s Family Garden” as her children and grandchildren are helping her tend to the garden she loves so much.

As bloggers living so far away, many of us wondered what we could or how we could help. Then 1st Man at Two Men and a Little Farm organized “Gardening for Granny.” 1st Man explains, “…we thought it would be nice to show her how much we all appreciate her years of sharing her tips and advice, as well as her kind and considerate nature, with all of us via her gardening blog. Maybe we could all plant something, grow something, harvest something, so that she could be inspired by us.”

An idea was born and Tammy at Gammy’s House created a lovely graphic for us to share to show our support and love for a person who has been inspirational to us:

http://annieskitchengarden.blogspot.com/

I “met” Granny back in 2008 or so on the Garden Web forums. She was so nice and helpful offering advice in such a beautiful and humble way. I learned a lot from her from the forums and was happy to discover she had a blog. In fact, Granny inspired me to start my first gardening blog.

Granny, has planted “seeds” in many of us by inspiring, teaching, and encouraging us along the way. She always responded to comments we left for her on her blog and made time to visit our blogs frequently and share her thoughts and encouragement. When Granny discovered a new blog that she loved she was sure to share it because she knew we would enjoy it too.

Granny: Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you as you battle with this disease. I hope that as we “Garden for Granny” you will reap some of what you has sown in all of us and enjoy some laughs at some of our failures and celebrate our success. All the while knowing and feeling that you are in our thoughts and prayers with each seed planted and every harvest gathered.

Old Dogs: Millie is Feelin’ Good

The latest illness Millie suffered several weeks ago turned out to be a UTI and she once again responded to treatment and is feeling much better. Earlier this week she was doing something she loves: rolling in the snow:

Loving and caring for animals is easy. Dealing with sickness, age, and eventual death sucks. That is why we treasure each and every day that Millie is feeling good and enjoying life.

We were blessed to have Millie join our household mid-November 2011. Kevin’s mother, Millie’s previous owner took great care of her until she became ill and eventually passed away. Millie arrived very in poor health and in grief. To be honest, at the time we didn’t think she had much time left in this world. Both Kevin and I were determined to make the best of the time she had left and immediately lavished her with love and attention. “You can stay as long as you like.” is something I say to her often. Although we have had our ups and downs, Millie is still with us and can truly stay as long as she is living a quality life.

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Millie and Kevin Enjoying a Warm, Sunny Day

Most of Millie’s immediate health issues were due to allergies. Turns out she was allergic to her food, grass, and other unknown things. She suffered from ear and blood infections due to allergies. We were able to control and correct most of the issues that made her sick by transitioning her to new food and medication. Her hearing, eyesight, and overall bodily stiffness improved.

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Millie when she first arrived and explored her new yard.

Millie, like most Goldens also suffers from Lipomas or fatty cell tumors. She had one on her paw that opened up and became infected. Under out vet’s instructions, Kevin cleaned and dressed the paw for several months before our vet attempted to cauterize the wound that refused to heal. The surgery didn’t go as expected and they ended up removing the tumor that they didn’t think they could remove. The paw healed and Millie continued to enjoy the good life in our household. She has a few other lipomas on her body. Right now there is one on her elbow that we are keeping bandaged up so she won’t get at it.

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Millie recovering from surgery

Millie also has Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). This is not typically seen in dogs. Unfortunately, an overactive thyroid in a dog is usually a sign of thyroid carcinoma, a cancerous thyroid tumor. Some of the symptoms that Millie experienced were extreme hunger, weight loss, increased thirst, frequent urination, rapid breathing, restlessness, hyperactivity, irritability and a dull-looking, untidy coat. Our vet is treating the symptoms with medication. So far the medication is allowing Millie to feel much better.

So far, we have managed to control Millie’s health issues so she can live comfortably. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to shift the balance. Each time we are faced with a health issue and think, “Oh boy, this might be it,” Millie bounces back. We joke often that as long as she is eating, drinking, and generally feeling ok, we will keep patching her up. I don’t even want to think of the amount of money we have spent on vet bills and medication. Some times you have to do what you have to do.

Millie’s days are numbered. To be honest with you, they have been numbered since the day we took her in. We take each day as it comes and enjoy the time we have with her. As long as she is relatively healthy, eating and drinking normally and in no pain, we will continue to spoil her rotten and enjoy the time we have with her.