Wow! This month’s class was so much more than I even hoped it would be!! Even though we had a monsoon hit us, most everyone was able to swim over and attend! And I’m so glad they did…we had such a fun time, plus we learned SO much! The instructor was FULL of awesome tips and tricks for home gardening and dehydrating. She made us feel like the task of growing a successful garden was something attainable, even for the most inexperienced of us.
Some of the things she covered were:
*Seed starting. For our area (Northeast AL) which is in Zone 7, we learned that February 15 is the day to start our seeds indoors. While there are several different ways to do this, the method we got to do hands-on was what I’d call the Ziploc Method. Basically what you do is dampen a paper towel, fold it so that it will fit into a quart size plastic bag, and place your seeds on it. If you’re starting more than one variety on that paper towel, separate them with enough space in between that you can easily tell where one ends and another begins. Then, carefully place the paper towel into the baggie, seal it, and label your seeds on the outside with a marker. Some tips she gave that were really helpful were:
>Store the bag in such a way that the seeds are faced down, and the paper towel is on top of them. This is because the roots that sprout will always grow downward, and laying the baggie with the seeds on the underside prevents their roots from growing into the paper towel. Rather they grow out away from the paper towel. Simple, but genius, right?! I thought so too!
>To give the young sprouts a little boost before moving them to starter pods, open the baggie just a little and breath into it before re-sealing it.
*Planting small seeds that need to be spaced in small increments in order to grow successfully. These kinds of seeds include plants like lettuce, radish, and carrots. Often times, people use something called seed tape to make planting them more uniform and easier. Our instructor showed us how to make our own seed tape-using…wait for it…egg yolk! This was one of my favorite parts! Here’s how she told us to do it:
>Take a paper towel, and cut it lengthwise into about 1” strips. Then, take a small-tip paint brush (something like what your kids get in those kiddie paint sets), and dip it in egg yolk. Use the brush to make small dots along the paper towel that are spaced about an inch apart. Lastly, place a seed on each dot of yolk along your paper towels, and let it dry (see the main image at the top of the page). From here you can take the whole strip of “seed tape” and plant it. Just cover it with enough dirt so that the tape doesn’t get blown away by a gust of wind, but not much more than that. And there you have it! The start to successful carrot-growing!! Easy-peasy!
*Other tidbits of gardening tips and tricks, like:
>Sprinkle cinnamon — a natural anti-fungal — over started seeds to prevent dampening off.
>To prevent overwatering of started seeds, use a squirt bottle set to “mist” and water only when soil is almost dry. Don’t water to the point that the soil is soggy.
>Pro-Mix is the type of soil she recommended for starting seeds due to it’s ability to help prevent dampening off.
>When you have seeds that don’t successfully start, take that block of soil and put it into a large tub. The tub will slowly fill up over time, and you can re-use this soil for future seed starting. All you have to do is take out however much you need, spread it on a baking sheet, and bake it in the oven in order to kill any bacteria. Then it’s good to go!
*Drying out home-grown herbs. Here are some of her best tips for doing this:
>Pick from your herb garden BEFORE the plants bloom.
>Pick after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day has set in. Generally this means sometime between 10 am and 2 pm.
>Dry your herbs as a whole leaf. Don’t crush them until you’re about to use them so that you will get the best flavor out of them.
It was at this point in the class that the food started!! We got to use fresh herbs and dried herbs, and make different kinds of butters and dipping sauces. Then we voted on which we liked best. DELICIOUS!! We also got to discuss using a dehydrator, and then taste different things she had dehydrated. I can’t decide which I liked best, the apples or the pineapples! She showed us some homemade onion powder she had made by dehydrating, and a whole table of other things. It was both beautiful and delicious!
I’m so thankful for everything this month’s class brought to us. We are all growing closer as friends, and the things we are learning along the way are so fun and exciting! I truly can’t wait for next month!!