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Starting seeds and Fertilizer

It has been a busy few weeks trying to figure out how to start my seeds indoors and sourcing the impossible fertilizer recommendation of 3-0-3, 12-0-12, or 22-0-22 from the MSU soil testing lab.

Let’s start with the fertilizer quandary. The three sets of three numbers all mean the same fertilizer but in different amounts: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium. It takes a lot more of the 3-0-3 to cover the 3000 square feet of garden than the 22-0-22. And guess what? No one carries this exact product. I did find a golf course type of supplier that listed 22-0-22 on its web site and was shot down very quickly by the customer service rep. Under no circumstances am I to put lawn fertilizer in a vegetable garden. Evidently golf course 22-0-22 is very different than what I am looking for.

After many phone calls and online research, I finally found a solution: Crop Production Services (CPS) in Wayland, MI. I have two choices – buy a bag of 19-19-19 and apply the extra phosphorus MSU says I don’t need (and the CPS contact says is okay) or separately buy a bag of Urea a.k.a Nitrogen (46-0-0) and a bag of Potash a.k.a Potassium (0-0-62). I was given the details of how much to apply to the garden to equal the 22-0-22. Both options are very reasonable – under $35.00 to fertilizer the 3000 square feet. Both are granular and can be applied using a typical home garden spreader. I’ll need to do this before having the soil tilled in May.

Regarding the organic matter content that my garden is also grossly lacking, to spread enough bagged compost to actually make a difference (two inches thick) is an exorbitant expense well beyond my budget. If this garden area hadn’t been stripped clean year after year in fall, I wouldn’t have this issue. I did have all of the dead matter from last year’s garden tilled under in the fall and this year, I will leave the dying/dead vegetation through fall and winter and have it tilled under in the spring instead. I can buy a few bags of compost to work in the soil for specific vegetables this May but the garden as a whole will need to naturally create its own compost over time. And I am also just now remembering the MSU Extension master gardener’s suggestion to research permaculture. That’ll need to wait.

Now onto starting seeds indoors. Trying to do this in my house is not going to work. I have no room on the main level and the basement is too cold. Miraculously, I was connected with someone who has available lighted shelving for seed starting and greenhouse space to allow me to start my seeds. This will give me another year to figure out how to do this myself somewhere on my own property as I can’t expect this generous offer to go beyond this planting season. I will start my seeds indoors on March 30 – marigolds, peppers, and tomatoes.

It won’t be long before I can start sharing photos of the progress. Meanwhile, enjoy finding tulips poking up out of the ground along with blooming snow drops, hellebore, Dutch iris, hyacinths and crocus – it’s finally spring!

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