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Seed class and swap inspires new gardeners

A garden class and seed swap in North Plains last weekend brought together green thumbs and those with an interest in the local food system.

The events were a direct result of the North Plains Community Conversation event hosted by the Oregon Food Bank and the North Plains Farmers’ Market last month, where community members and city leaders decided to make gardening classes a priority. by: COURTESY PHOTO: VANESSA VANDOMELEN - Pukhraj Deol (right) of the OSU Extension Service demonstrates planting lettuce seeds in North Plains. Gaston resident Lydia Smith said the class made her all exhilarated with new seeds to grow.

Pukhraj Deol, an urban and community horticulture instructor for the OSU Extension Service in Washington County, taught the class on seed-starting and demonstrated planting in one of the community garden beds.

Deol discussed starting seeds and keeping those seeds growing into healthy plant starts. Four elements are paramount for starting seeds: water, oxygen, light and temperature.

There are many options to promote seed germination. A fluorescent light hung on chains six inches above the seedlings can provide sufficient light for germination if a south-facing window is not available.

Several seeds can be started in a pot and transplanted, providing room for extra starts and increasing the odds of successful germination.

According to Deol, when the second set of leaves or “true leaves” appear, plants can be transplanted to a larger pot from a seed starting tray.

When transplanting, the seedlings should be handled gently by the leaves. To help seeds acclimate to the outdoors, seedlings need to be taken outside and kept in a protected spot for several days prior to planting in the garden.

It is crucial not to plant starts in the garden until the soil temperature is correct for the plant, Deol explained. The soil temperature needs to be at least 50 degrees to plant beans and tomatoes, and 60 degrees for peppers and corn. Deol recommended not placing tomato and pepper starts outside until mid-June.

It’s also important to keep in mind that some seeds take longer to germinate than others. Peppers, for example, can take up to three weeks to germinate.

Cucumbers can germinate quickly when the soil temperature is right in the garden, but are plagued frequently by cucumber beetles that eat stems and leaves. Planting established oregano starts in between the cucumber seeds will keep the cucumber starts insect free.

Online resources on propagation are available at metromastergardeners.org.

Polly Gottesman of Pumpkin Ridge Gardens, who donated the seeds for the swap along with Dairy Creek Community Food Web, will teach a class on preparing for “Winter Gardening” at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the North Plains community gardens.

—Vanessa VanDomelen is

manager of the North Plains

farmers market and runs Mountaindale Farms in North Plains.

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