Spring - A Time for Resurrection

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You plant the seed (touch your finger to the child’s lower back).  You pat it in (gently pat the “seed” you planted).  Thunder lightening, thunder lightening (make a fist and gently pound the tops of the child’s shoulders).  Here’s the sun (draw a circle with your finger on the child’s back).  It shines down on the seed (move your finger down the back to the place you “planted the seed”) and the seed grows and grows and grows (make your fingers crawl up the child’s back until it reaches the neck and give it a gentle squeeze).  Of course, if you start this game of seed planting with a child, you will have to do it again and again!  I played this little game with my own children (almost 40 years ago) and again when their children were small.  They never seemed to tire of it.  And neither do I tire of  the game that brings the giggles, nor the planting of real seeds each Spring. 

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This past week I made my way to the garage and emptied my little indoor greenhouse of last year’s plant containers and leftover potting soil and shook off its dust and cobwebs.  Next, I pulled out a large plastic bin and began adding the ingredients for my potting soil.  Jason Adkins, the Director of Trevecca Urban Farm, calls it “Resurrection Batter.”  Besides peat and perlite, the mixture calls for lime, cottonseed meal, green sand, bone meal, and kelp meal.  Once these are mixed together worm castings finish off the list of ingredients.  The next step is adding water.  At the farm I use the fish water from our Aquaponics system, but at home I use water from my rain barrel. 

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Then comes the fun part – making soil blocks.  In the winter of 2014 I began volunteering at Trevecca Urban Farm so I could accumulate the required 40 hours of volunteer work to become a certified Master Gardener.  At the time I had no idea farming would become my occupation, and learning to create soil blocks for seed starting in the greenhouse was just the beginning. 

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Each rectangle of blocks holds 20 seeds, so this year I figured I should fill the entire tray and plant in every block - all 300 of them!  Many of my crops will be directly seeded in the ground, but others can get a quick jump start in the warm indoors.  In order to germinate, seeds need moisture and warmth.  Since I haven’t bought a seedling heat mat yet, I improvised by placing an old heating pad in a trash bag and situating it under the tray of seeds.  The tray has a domed lid, so this keeps the moisture and warmth inside.  I use a little glass mister to keep things wet and the gentle spray keeps the seeds from being disturbed. 

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And then it happened…the first signs of life pushing their green, little selves right up out of that resurrection batter!  In just a week’s time I will have to transplant these lovely plants into larger blocks.  That’s what I love about this system – each small block can be carefully broken off and placed down into the perfect square made by the larger soil blocker.  I’m not sure why that’s so satisfying, but I think the seedlings like it too since no roots will be disturbed in the process. 

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The Spring of Tennessee comes in fits and starts and except for the onions and garlic, the rest of the seeds may need a few more warm days before joining them outdoors.   This is such a time of hope – a time before the heat of summer, the overload of pest pressure or diseases caused by the pests.  So I savor the little green glimmers of hope pushing through the soil promising flowers and herbs and vegetables – a garden full of resurrection miracles.

Jason's Resurrection Batter Recipe

30 qts (7 ½ gallons) peat/perlite (Faford Superfine Germinating mix)

½ cup lime (brings pH down)

Mix together then add:

1 cup cottonseed meal (N nitrogen, aids in leaf growth)

1 cup green sand (K potassium, aids in growth of fruit and general health of plant)

1 cup bone meal (P phosphorus, aids in growth of roots and flowers)

1 cup kelp meal (contains trace minerals)

Mix

Add: 20 qts sifted compost/worm castings

NOTE:  Once seeds are placed in each block, gently water, then add additional potting soil to cover seeds, then water again.  Depth of soil will depend on the size of the seed.