Last Thursday I spoke about Planning for Seed Saving for the local Master Gardener group, then the next day I gave an open-to-the-public "Lunch & Learn" presentation about Vermicompost, and on Monday, I will be talking about Organic Gardening for the Marietta Garden Club.
This may all sound disconnected and crazy (and maybe like I'm some kind of amazing sucker for saying "yes" to three requests for different topics so close together); however, in my mind, this all ties together in a way that makes total sense.
As I plan my garden for the year, in working out when to plant which varieties to allow for my little efforts at seed-saving, having the information fresh in my mind from giving the talk is a huge help. I will be starting seeds in February for some crops, and my vermicompost will come in handy at that time.
There are two main streams of thought when it comes to starting seeds. One is that you should use a completely sterile starting mix to minimize the risk of damping off as the seedlings develop; the other is that you should use a starting mix with so many beneficial microorganisms that they out-compete the damping off fungus. Also, I've run across a few studies that indicate that mixing as much as 20% by volume of vermicompost with the usual seed-starting medium actually enhances seed germination and seedling vigor.
I'm running with that second group for most of my seed starting this year (although I will still have some of those Jiffy Pellet seed-starting sets in my office, for demonstration purposes). The vermicompost that I have harvested from my little worm bin will come in handy as I begin to set up my flats for spring seeds.
Supporting beneficial microorganisms within the soil community is key to organic gardening. When I transplant those seedlings that got their start in an environment that is rich in microbial life, my organically-managed garden can only benefit.
I'm looking forward to the last of these three getting-ready-for-gardening talks!
As a bonus, along the way, I've had the joy of hanging out with many other gardeners, three work-days in a row, exchanging ideas as we all gear up for spring.