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Dear Editor,

I’m an avid organic believer. It’s hard for me to find baby organics plants so I decided to start some seeds this year. I used peat moss and good organic dirt in small pots. Some of my seeds came up, but others are not. I keep the soil moist and they’re 1/2 in the sun in the late afternoon only. I’ve built my raised beds and I’ll be ready to plant as soon as the seedlings are ready, but for those that didn’t come up, what am I doing wrong?

VE—

Dear VE,

You must use peat moss wisely, as it is highly acidic. Let me give you an example of what acidity can do to a garden. Years ago, new to the gardening scene, I simply went outside and tilled up a garden plot. Even though the state I live in is composed mostly of clay, the acreage I have is near a reservoir and has very sandy soil that dries out fairly quickly. That year, everything I planted was stunted, sparse, and came up hardly at all.

I decided to get a soil sample and send it off for analysis. The results should have been no surprise—I was dealing with highly acidic soil. I limed my garden area, applied compost, and the next year had a bumper crop of everything that I put in the dirt.

There are plants that need acidic soil—fruits like strawberries and blueberries, and plants such as azaleas. The rest probably need a more neutral pH composition to properly grow. Well-drained soil is also necessary. If your seeds are sitting in too wet a soil, they could be drowning and rotting instead of germinating.

Some of my sources tell me that a perfect seed-starting medium is to mix equal parts of peat, perlite, vermiculite, and compost, adding some wood ash to sweeten the mix (wood ash counteracts the acidity of the peat moss). Use a couple of tablespoons of wood ash for a big pot and about a quarter cup for a wheelbarrow load of the mixture.

Hope this helps your future seedlings!

The Editor

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Dear Editor,

An item in a recent post was incorrect and I’d like to see you address it. If you can your own produce in glass jars and use metal disposable lids, they too are coated with a substance containing BPA. One would need to use either Tattler reusable lids, which, although plastic, contain no BPA, and rubber seals or the older and increasingly difficult to find glass reusable lids and rubber seals. Just for your info.

AA—

Dear AA,

You are correct—BPA is present in the coating of the canning lid. So you have a conundrum—you’re trying to grow things organically, chemical-free, and the canning process puts your food in possible contact with BPA, a synthetic estrogen that is used to harden plastic and keep metal from rusting. BPA is in use in a lot of the metal cans and plastics we use every day, and some studies have shown that it has the potential to cause serious health issues.

So…what is a canner to do? You have correctly stated that Tattler reusable lids are BPA free. They are more expensive and can take some getting used to in order to get the hang of canning successfully with them. And despite the fact that they are “reusable,” they do not last indefinitely. (Tattler would not sell the rubber gaskets in cases of 100 if they lasted forever.)

If you are leaving the appropriate headspace and not over-packing the jars, ideally your food should not be coming in contact with the lid anyway. While heat activates BPA, your food has to be in direct contact with the lid for the chemical to transfer into your food. After canning, your jars should be stored upright, and then no contact is made between the food and the lid. Yes, during the canning process the liquid in the jar can boil up and touch the lid. Unfortunately studies have only been done on foods in direct contact with BPA for long periods of time, not foods in contact with BPA for only a few seconds as is the case in a home-canned jar of food.

It all comes down to a matter of choice and what you prefer. We all have to do what we are most comfortable with. I, for one, have chosen to continue using my metal lids for now.  In the future, I may switch out to reusable lids, but unless more information comes to light, it’ll be a matter of economics and not BPA that helps me decide.

The Editor

 

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