Sunday, September 09, 2012

Starting Seeds, If At First You Don’t Succeed

Soon after relocating to my present home, last year, I discovered that attempting to direct sow anything, where it was to grow in the yard, was an exercise in futility.  The population of voracious slugs, sow bugs, and earwigs was (and is) completely in excess of my seed supply.  I resorted to starting everything in six packs on the sun porch, and taking the flats outside during the day.  Even when planting fairly large home grown starts, there was less than a 50/50 chance they would survive.  Then I discovered molasses traps, and the tide turned in my favor ever so slightly.  

In the middle of August I began starting seeds for fall, and had a full nursery flat of seedlings I was bringing in at night and carrying out during the day. It was exciting to watch them grow so healthy and strong. Then one hot afternoon when I went out to see if they needed either water or to be moved into the shade, I discovered the birds had pulled up every last seedling.  Time to try, try again.  

My subsequent attempt has been to keep the seedlings on the sun porch, but as you can see, they are leggy because they are not getting enough light.

While they are likely to survive, and possibly even thrive, I want to do better.  I started collecting all kinds of ideas on how to devise a structure to lift the flat up off the ground (to be away from the bugs) and protect it from birds.  One friend suggested covering the nursery flat with another upside down mesh nursery flat to form a bird proof lid—which I tried, but all that black plastic held too much heat and I nearly killed off my seedlings.

Here is my current experiment:

It is based, in part, on the fact that I am nearly flat broke this month, and is made almost entirely of things I had on hand, it is designed so that it can be relocated depending on the season, not so easy for insects to climb, and to discourage the birds.  

The base is four 2.5 gallon plastic pots.  I had a small selection of these, so I choose four that have drain holes in the sides—to provide hiding spots for baby lizards.  I have already watched the cute little bug-eaters run into the holes!  I may eventually need to move this ad hock structure, but before I do I will make sure the lizards have other hiding places.  They are part of my long term pest control plan!

The four pots are nested into a slight depression in the ground, which gives them some stability.  Sitting on top of the pots is a white plastic shelf which was made to be part of a modular shelving system.  The holes in the corners made for an easy place to prop the sticks that help for the awning which I hope will keep the birds out.

The bird awning structure is simply sticks, from my stick pile, and twist ties that I save from bulk grain and bean purchases.  

Twist ties also hold the awning cover in place.  It is made from an old sheer curtain I found at the second hand store for $.13—which they were happy to get for something that would otherwise have been tossed out.  It was ripped in a couple of places, one of which I mended and the other was a good length to trim the whole thing back to for my purposes.  

I set this up and kept an eye on it for a few days before planting any seeds in the six packs.  It gets sun in the morning and afternoon, and is in shade in the middle of the day.  The potting soil has stayed under 100 degrees every day.  That is still too hot for many seeds, but the weather will likely be cooling off at least a little sometime soon.  

The awning is easy to lift to peek inside. The disc in the center is the top of a short probe soil thermometer.


And if it doesn’t work—I will try, try again!

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