Shirley Barber, Master Gardener from St. Augustine, Florida, was the expert leading the first of a series of gardening workshops on Thursday evening at the Ag Center in Chipley. Shirley’s knowledge and experience, gained over a 30 year period of gardening, plus her enthusiasm for growing from seed, made the workshop a real plus for the attendees. Shirley and her group of St. Johns County Master Gardeners have donated over the years thousands of plants grown from seed to numerous public gardens, school projects, community assisted agriculture and the St. Johns County Ag Center gardens.
Shirley starts all seeds indoors, highly favors fluorescent lights, watches closely each stage of development, uses the knowledge she has developed over the years to maximize each stage of development. Here are some of her “how-to’s”.
Almost any container will do as long as it is at least 2 to 3 inches deep, with drainage holes. You can buy peat flats, and flats with individual growing cells. When you reuse containers, be sure to wash them with a soap/bleach solution to avoid mold or disease.
To give your seeds optimum growing conditions, start with a soilless growing mix. Shirley recommends a mix of l/3 each vermiculite, perlite and sphagnum moss. Since this has few nutrients, you need to feed seedlings a weak fertilizer solution as soon as they germinate and weekly until you transplant them into the garden. After the seedlings are up and growing, transfer them into small pots and add compost or garden soil to your soilless blend.
When starting seeds indoors, Shirley favors placing the seeds under a plain shop fluorescent light that is placed close to the tray. She has had great success with fluorescent lights and gave many tips on maximizing their use.
Germination requires consistent moisture, so feel the growing medium and keep it moist but not soggy. If your water is chlorinated, fill containers and let sit overnight for the chlorine to dissipate before you use it. Use room-temp water; no ice water.
Once the weather is right for you to think about transferring your plants into the garden, allow about a week for “hardening off”. This means gradually exposing your plants to the outside environment. Reduce the amount of water and fertilizer and place your plants on a porch or under the shade of a tree for an hour a day, increasing the time of exposure each day until you plant. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have an overcast or a drizzly day – perfect for getting your little treasures into the ground! If not, plant in the late afternoon and water well.
MORE WORKSHOPS IN THIS SERIES:
Glenda Wilson, President of Washington County Master Gardeners, has announced other workshops for the home gardener in this series. Cost is nominal and the benefits great. All workshops will be 5:30 to 8:30 at the Washington County Ag Center. Consider one or all of these learning opportunities:
September 1 – Fall and Winter Vegetables
September 8 – Ornamentals and Landscaping
September 15 – Fruits
September 22 – Growing and cooking with Herbs
Call the Ag Center at 638-6180 to register with Cynthia. If you want more information on any one of the workshops, call Glenda Wilson at 638-9138.