As I brought out in the last post, we’re not required to know every detail to be successful in gardening. With the few essential facts (a/k/a fundamentals) we can achieve success. Nature will do all the complicated stuff for us if we give her a chance.
Although it’s been more than 56 years since I was in high school, I still remember studying “seed “in botany class.
Here’s what I learned:
A seed contains all the nutrients needed to get seedlings off to a good start.
To germinate put seed in moist soil (or grow mix) when temperatures are warm enough.
That’s it. Knowing these 4 essential facts allows anyone to start seed without additional information.
There’s an extremely popular fellow who does videos. He’s organic and I think sincere.
In spite of that, he promotes (and I think he believes it ) the use of a lot of things that are not needed if a gardener is following along with nature.
He and numerous others recommend adding various fertilizers, composts, and such to grow mix before starting seed. In most cases this is NOT necessary, as the seed has everything the seedling will need for some time.
Below are seedlings I started in jug bottoms. Three to a container growing in plain grow mix which has no nutrients. As you can see they’re just fine after being in the same container for 6 weeks or more.
Your Growing Strategy May Indicate Doing it Differently
For example: maybe you want to grow your plants much larger before transplanting and not have to pot -up as they grow.
You could start with a container large enough to accommodate the size plant you’re hoping for. Let’s say a 12” plant.
Add nutrient dense soil to the grow mix, or shredded leaves, or compost. Plant 3 seeds. Keep the strongest.
As the seedling outgrows the seed (its nutrient source), the rich soil, shredded leaves, or compost will provide for the growing plant until it’s transplanted to the garden.
To me it seems obvious, that in most cases, all these advertised additions to grow mix are about selling products, rather than what you need to get the desired results.
Nitrogen – Statistics Show It’s the Most Over Used “Amendment”
It’s easy to understand why the average gardener thinks it necessary to use additional nitrogen. Almost everything you read about many vegetables (and especially onions) say that nitrogen should be applied before and during growth.
The chemical companies have done a good job of “selling” the need for “added” nitrogen.
I can’t over emphasis the fact that if you’re working with nature and replenishing organic materials which will turn to organic matter, you do NOT need to concern yourself with having enough nitrogen.
Nature is efficient and precise. She will release the nitrogen needed by plants at just the right time when temperatures and growing conditions are right.
You need do nothing but watch.
Onions and Nitrogen
Much of what you read about growing onions, especially from commercial sources, recommends adding nitrogen as many as 3 to 4 times after planting.
In most cases when nitrogen is recommended it’s for more and faster growth. In the case of onions it’s said to produce larger onions.
In the almost 40 years that I’ve grown onions, I’ve NEVER added nitrogen. I can tell you first hand, that you can get large onions without added nitrogen.
In spite of the fact that I don’t even want large onions, because the medium sized onions better fit my everyday use of them, I STILL get a lot of very large onions. Even with planting closer than most folks to try to size them down some, many get softball size.
Onions – Storage and Nitrogen
In spite of their recommendation to add nitrogen, a newsletter from one supplier mentioned growing onions with a low nitrogen supply as one way to prolong natural dormancy (for longer storage).
Allowing nature to decide the perfect amount of nitrogen needed, you’ll get good sized onions and onions that store better.
Another Statement I’ve Found to Be Incorrect
Another thing that is commonly said and believed is that all plants should get off to a fast start and keep growing quickly. Often the recommendation is to add nitrogen to force growth to make that a reality.
Had I taken that conventional advice years ago, I would never have known that statement is incorrect. But I didn’t take it, and my warm weather crops, especially my peppers, proved to me it was wrong.
As you may recall, I germinate my seed inside and the next day they go outside; under protection of course when the weather warrants it – and it does in late winter and early spring.
Most warm weather crops are not going to grow a lot until the weather warms. Peppers especially.
If I plant peppers in mid March – they germinate, grow to about 2 inches, look nice and green and healthy and then proceed to do absolutely nothing until it warms to suite them in mid June. Then they grow to 4 to 6 feet (depending on variety) so quickly it’s amazing.
And they produce dozens (and depending on variety it can be hundreds) of peppers.
Another Fundamental Concept – There’s Always a Price
One of the basics to keep in mind is that when you force growth you’re going to pay some type of price for that, even if you can’t “see” it.
One of the most common “prices” that many gardeners pay for added nitrogen is lush growth and no fruit.
Hybrids Are a Great Example of Exchanging One Thing for Another
Most hybrids are created for their fast growth and lots of fruit. (Appealing to market growers, and to basic human nature of wanting more as quickly as possible.)
An open pollinated version might be a lot slower to produce and gives less fruit, but it has more nutrition. Good stuff takes time.
It’s fun to play, but just keep in mind that nature keeps track of everything. When you change one thing, something else changes as well, even if you don’t know about it.
Is It Really Necessary?
As I mentioned in the last post, many products and even growing methods are deemed necessary ONLY as a result of exchanging nature’s simple (but efficient) way for something complicated.
By knowing the few fundamentals, you’ll be able to discern the difference.
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