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Cultural Events

Real Food CT Guiding Gardeners From Seeding To Transplanting



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Newtown’s own Real Food CT (formerly Real Food Share), hosted its Grow Your Own Garden Workshop Series: Seed Starting and Transplants at Sticks and Stones Farm on Saturday, May 14.

The nonprofit organization maintains the farm’s Giving Garden, producing fresh produce for Newtown’s FAITH Food Pantry and similar organizations throughout Connecticut.

The Grow Your Own Garden Workshop Series is part of Real Food CT’s monthly programming to help bring out the inner farmer inside everyone — and get them started on achieving their gardening dreams.

Real Food CT member and CT Master Gardener Nancy Zychek led the May session, which drew about half a dozen local gardeners.

She first discussed the process of filling a metal gardening tool called a soil block maker to get seeds started.

“What we do is we have seed starting mix and compost. You have to get it the right moisture level so if you squeeze it, you only have one or two drops of water come out. You don’t want it saturated, and you don’t want it too dry,” Zychek explained.

Then the soil can be packed into the square sections of the device and released to give the desired block shape for seeding. The tool comes in different sizes depending on the plant.

“This way, you’re not dealing with all the plastic and the roots get a lot of air,” she added.

The seedling can then be easily transplanted into a garden.

Zychek recommended people try using a liquid called Quantum Growth when watering the plants.

“Instead of using Miracle-Gro fertilizer, if you want to be really organic, it’s got a lot of things that are good for the microbiome of the soil,” she said. “You only need a little bit, read the instructions. When we use it, we only put about a teaspoon in a watering can. It’s great when you transplant your plants and give them a little watering.”

Zychek noted that purchasing a gallon container of Quantum Growth will easily last someone all growing season.

Another piece of advice that she gave was to not immediately take an indoor plant and plant it outside.

“If you start plants indoors, you have to acclimate them to the outside before you just stick them in your garden. You want to put them out in the sun for a couple of hours … then the next day a little longer. After three or four days you can leave them out overnight,” Zychek said.

She usually does this process for about a week for her own plants.

In addition to Zychek giving a tutorial on seed starting and transplanting, attendees were also able to ask a variety of questions specific to their home gardens to get her advice.

Upcoming Workshops

Real Food CT’s monthly Grow Your Own Garden Workshop Series will continue next month with a program about Garden Maintenance on Saturday, June 11. According to Real Food CT’s website, the event will “cover natural weed and pest control, how to check for diseases and what to do about it, row covers, and watering.”

On Saturday, July 9, attendees can learn all about harvesting. Its website description reads, “This workshop focuses on how to care for your plants as they begin to produce. We demonstrate pruning, staking, and how to know when your vegetables are ready to harvest. We also talk about how often to harvest to keep your plants producing, and how to clean and store your harvest.”

Then on Saturday, August 13, there will be a talk about Succession Planting. The website details, “August is a great month to fill empty spaces that have been harvested with succession plants to carry you through the next few months. We suggest fast-maturing plants that you can still harvest before the end of the growing season. We will also demonstrate cold-frames that you can set up to extend your growing season into the colder weather.”

The Grow Your Own Garden Workshop Series will wrap up the season with an event on Saturday, September 10, about Planning for Spring Harvest and one on Saturday, October 8 about Putting Your Garden to Bed for Winter.

All the workshops are free to attend and take place at Sticks and Stones Farm, 197 Huntingtown Road, from 11 am to noon.

To learn more about upcoming Real Food CT programs, visit facebook.com/realfoodshare.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Real Food CT member and CT Master Gardener Nancy Zychek holds a metal gardening tool called a soil block maker that creates small, square blocks of soil that a seed can be placed in. The soil holds its shape and makes it convenient for transplanting. In front of her are zinnia and nasturtium seedlings she grew using the device. —Bee Photos, Silber
Nancy Zychek holds up a zinnia seedling to show its roots growing at the bottom of the soil during Real Food CT’s Grow Your Own Garden Workshop Series: Seed Starting and Transplants on May 14.
There are two garden beds in front of the entrance to Sticks and Stones Farm’s Giving Garden, on Huntingtown Road, where seedlings from the Real Food CT workshop presentation would later be transplanted in to help pollinators.
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