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Thinning Seedlings

Our Salina students are now busy thinning plants.  Because we wanted to ensure germination we didn’t start seeds out with the desired final spacing.  Instead, we sowed more than we hoped for in order to improve our chances.   We now have more than our space can handle and it’s time to start thinning.   Once seedlings have at least 1 set of true leaves (seedlings always start out with sprout leaves which eventually turn yellow and wilt–it does not mean your seedlings are unhealthy) it is time to start thinning.

We thin our seedlings in order to give them the right amount of space they need.  If we don’t give our plants the growing room they need, they will start competing for water and minerals which will eventually inhibit growth.

This is our first time thinning and we wanted to leave about an inch between each seedling.  Larger seedlings need about 2-3 inches of space on each side. We are not thinning to the desired amount of space because we want to get more out of our crop–in about 1-2 weeks we will thin again and use them to make salad.

Thinnings have a tremendous amount of nutrients so feel free to harvested and toss into your salad.  Rather than tossing them, you can also re-plant in pots or other areas in your garden.  Below is an example of a pot in Mrs. Alheyasi’s classroom that is being used to grow some of our seedlings.

Planting Outside

Salina Elementary students have been busy sowing seeds outdoors and transplanting our young plants.

Sowing Seeds

Kale, spinach, radish, onions, salad mix and arugula seeds were sown in the ground in rows early in May.

We first worked the soil using a garden tiller and our hands. Next, we made furrows for the seeds and we made sure to space them out in order to be able to safely harvest our vegetables in June without damaging any.  Finally, we sowed our seeds in the furrows, covered lightly with soil and watered with a fine spray.

Transplanting Our Young Plants

Early in April, we noticed that our young plants (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) were getting too large for our mini-greenhouse but evening temperatures were still too cold for them to be transplanted outside.  Students worked together to develop a plan that would solve our problem.

We decided to transplant them into small pots that would be placed on a cart, taken outside during the day and rolled back indoors at sunset.  We re-potted them with organic potting soil to provide them with sufficient nutrients (seed starting potting soil only has a limited supply of nutrients) and root space.

Moving young plants outside during the day and indoors at night will also work to prevent transplant shock.  They are hardened off by being exposed to sunlight and wind during the day before being planted in the ground.

This process is continued until Mid May when there are no more signs of late frost.  Young plants by now are at least double the size they were during our 1st transplant and are ready to be placed in the ground.





Growing Peas

Too early to garden outdoors? Not if you are growing peas! Peas are a cool season crop that are sown in the ground 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost.  You want to get them in the ground while the soil is still cool.  No need to worry, they can tolerate a bit of frost.  They do however have a very limited growing season, so to get the most out of your harvest you want to start right away. 

Planting Our Peas

  • We started by soaking our seeds for a few hours.  It’s best to soak seeds overnight–this helps seeds with the germination process.

  • Before planting pea seeds, we made sure our soil had been turned over and properly worked. 

  • Pea plants climb and their vines cling on anything they can grab. We will be building trellises using pole stakes (prepared for us by Edsel Ford High’s Wood Tech students) and garden twine to support them as they grow. 

  • We planted our seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart.

  • It’s a good idea to add a little mulch or wood ash to the soil to loosen it up and give the roots a little bit of wiggle room.  We covered our seeds (loosely) with soil and then watered.  We will continue to water every couple days. 

While our peas are thriving outside in the cold, our seedlings (summer crop) are warm and cozy in their indoor mini-greenhouse waiting to be transplanted mid May. 

Note: more cool season crop (radish, lettuce, kale, onion) seeds will be going in the ground Mid April.  Stay tuned!!


Starting Seeds Indoors

If you are thinking about gardening this year and want to start your seeds indoors, the last couple of weeks in March would be a good time to start for Michiganders.  For most plants, that would be  6-8 weeks before the average last frost–mid May for our Salina students (zone 6).

If you are not in zone 6, you can click here to see your average last frost date.

Peppers and Eggplant need a little bit of extra time, so we decided to sow our seeds last week.  However it is not too late to start.  

Sowing tomato, eggplant, okra and bell pepper seeds. We will be planting other fruits and vegetables (radish, lettuce, peas and beans) in our garden but through direct sowing in April and May

We sowed our seeds in small seed starter pots that have drainage holes (very important in order for excess water to drain away) using organic seed starter potting mix.   

After filling each container with seed starter potting mix, we placed 3-4 seeds in each pot.  Although we only want 1 plant per pot, we added additional seeds to ensure germination takes place.  

Since we don’t have a greenhouse and since placing our seedlings next to a window will not ensure that they get the light they need, we purchased a mini indoor greenhouse.  Once the seeds were sowed (1/4 to an inch deep depending on the seed–refer to the seed packet), the small starter pots were placed in our greenhouse and watered.  Lighting will be used once the seedlings emerge.