One of the first steps to pursuing my dreams of becoming an organic farmer has been jumping head first into research. I can’t get my hands on enough information: from books, to websites, to conversations with farmers. I submerse myself in every farm term, tip, hint, or idea I can find, drinking it all up as if I can somehow find the way.
You know, the error-free, perfectionist avenue to farming.
Let’s skip ahead and dash that nonsense away. I haven’t purchased farm land yet, but I can already tell you: there is no perfect way to farm or grow your own food. In actuality, I’ve made more mistakes than I haven’t in the past few months (and this is a common confession from gardeners, homesteaders, and farmers alike!)
No matter how small the seed, don’t plant more than 1-3 seeds per soil block.
Despite reading this tip four million and six times (to be precise), I took one look at my lettuce seeds and decided to drop 8-10 seeds in each soil block. They were so itty bitty teeny tiny! A few days later, I had attack of the lettuce beast on my hands. And now, a few months later, my indoor lettuce seedlings have all bid adieu to this sweet world.
When it’s time to transplant / up-pot, choose your location wisely!
Once my seedlings formed true leaves, I was eager to start transplanting / up-potting. I thought I’d be a great seedling mom and bring them outdoors for a bit of fresh air while I up-potted. It was quite the magical day… so magical that mushrooms started sprouting. By up-potting outdoors, I exposed my soil to mushroom spores in the air, and voilà!
Seeds need warmth to germinate, and light to grow.
I created a nice, warm environment for my seedlings, keeping them on a heating pad that cycled on-and-off every 30 minutes. Most of the seeds germinated within 2-4 days, yet I kept the heating pad going for weeks. I started noticing excessive growth in spots, and wilting in others. A quick internet search quickly reminded me: shut the heat off after germination. Sorry, Calabrese broccoli. I got a little cray cray.
Always know what your growing plants need.
When my summer squash plants started growing to large heights, I became convinced they needed stakes. I shoved some stakes in the soil, then began to scratch my head a few days later when I noticed wilting and weakening stems. Oh, that’s right… my squash will grow in a bush, not vertically. Talk about a revelation.
Always use the right type of soil at the right time.
If you research what soil to use and when for organic farming, you get mixed messages. One message that is clear is: don’t use garden soil with young seedlings. Most books and farm websites promote using seed starting mix, or an organic mix of your own. Once again, my excitement got the best of me and I first transplanted my seedlings into what? That’s right, garden soil. Their once again wilting leaves made me realize my error.
Despite all of my mistakes in gardening so far, my seedlings are beautiful plants that are thriving (for now). This past weekend, I dirtied my hands and made my back sore with a few hours of transplanting to larger pots. The plants have stretched their leaves and brightened up, so joyful to just exist in their natural environment.
Mother Nature, you’re pretty forgiving.
Do you have a green thumb or are you self-taught?
What funny mistakes have you made while pursuing dreams?