by Nicole White
The planting process
• Seed starting
• Transplanting from little "greenhouses" to trays or pots
• Growing indoors until 3rd week of May
• Hardening Off ~1 week (or until they are ready)
• Outdoor planting into the garden
Benefits of growing your own seed
One of the wonders of growing your own seeds is you get to choose which variety you want to grow and eat. The seed catalogs are amass with all sorts of choices. Box stores and even greenhouses only select a few varieties, which they feel will sell. You can also pick varieties that are known to have more phytonutrients, which are good for your health. Other things to think about include your growing season (long or short) and disease pressures.
• The objective is to create a warm moist environment for your seeds to germinate.
• Easily done with a closed container with cellophane over top. Plastic or glass top will work equally well.
• Want to create a greenhouse environment.
• The best indoor dirt is dirt that isn’t dirt, which is usually made of sphagnum moss, etc. If you use potting soil, it tends to get very dense when wet and will suffocate or drown your roots.
• The best potting soil is that specifically listed for seedlings. Most seedling potting soil* is soilless. Soilless means that it’s usually peat moss or sphagnum moss with some perlite in it. If you use outdoor soil, it is not sterile and will compact indoors. Your seedlings will die due to compaction (no air for the roots). The roots will also rot due to too much water. And lastly, they may give in to disease due to live organisms in your garden soil. Kmart has a really nice seed starting** mix that is organically certified; it’s the only one they offer this year.
• Water the dirt enough to get it wet but not make it soggy.
• Errors occur where the dirt becomes too wet and your seeds will rot.
• Errors also occur with underwatering:
- Wet dirt is slightly dark or black-colored
- Dry dirt tends to be become brown or light brown
• Solution - DO OVER!
• Easiest and most ideal plant lamps are fluorescent shop lights:
- Find at hardware store or Craigslist or garage sales
• Place lamps directly over the seedling (almost touching):
- Keep the light almost touching all the time
- Move the lamps up as the seedling grows
- Always keep the lamps almost touching the leaves. If not, they will get leggy.
• Indoor lighting needs to be on for more than 8 hours day:
- I use a timer set for 16 hours (8 hours in the dark)
- You must mimic the sunlight in terms of letting night set in
*Sold at New England Nurseries - Espoma Organic Seed Starter mix.
**Sold at Kmart - Greenworld Organic Seed Starting and Herb mix.
by Cecile Sandwen (firstname.lastname@example.org )
What a fall! When have we ever been picking tomatoes the week of Halloween? But I think most of us have had frost now, and that means it is time to dig dahlias and other non-hardy spring bulbs and tubers, such as gladiolus, elephant ears, canna, and calla lilies. If you have a cool place to store these it is easy to overwinter them and save time and money next spring.
Once the foliage is black, dig up the tuber. Be careful to start from several inches away so you don’t accidently cut it. Once it is out of the ground, leave it in a sunny place for a few days until the dirt flakes off. Refill the holes in your garden with compost so the soil is ready for replanting in the spring. At this point you can divide, or wait until spring. For storage I use cedar cat litter from Crosby’s which is pretty cheap and fill paper shopping bags. I put some litter in the bottom, put a few tubers in and cover them with the litter. I then store them in a cool part of my basement – should be around 40 to 55 degrees, not too warm, but not freezing. I tried the garage once, but they froze and were no good. Be sure to label the bags with color/type.
During the winter they should be checked once a month, and watered if shriveling. Be careful – if left in too much water they will rot, so porous materials only. Last year I left some dahlias planted in pots and brought them into the basement. I watered once a month and they sprung right back in spring. I was surprised. The part of the basement they were in was not cool, but maybe they got enough cold outside?
If anyone else has dahlias and wants to trade, I have quite a number of Sunshine (yellow and red) and also a pink.
Other November Chores:
Submitted by Joeth Barlas
Last year, the deer developed a taste for my tender young sedums as they emerged in the spring. This year I'm going to try a simple home remedy from ehow.com, which was recommended in a recent article in Horticulture magazine.
1. Combine in a blender; one whole egg, one cup of milk (skim or regular or the equivalent amount of powdered milk), a few tablespoons of cooking oil and one tablespoon of liquid soap with one quart of water. Add one teaspoon of hot chili oil if you have it on hand.
2. Set the blender on low and mix.
3. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray the mix onto susceptible garden plants every five to seven days.
Submitted by Kathy Ballas
It’s finally spring, although I confess it hardly feels like it as I write this. It’s too cold to do much in the garden yet, but it’s the perfect time to clean and sharpen your pruning shears and loppers, dress warmly and get out there and start pruning.
Almost any tree or shrub can be pruned now without damage to the plant, although some plants such as maples and birches will bleed a distressing amount of sap. HOWEVER, if you prune spring bloomers such as forsythia, lilac or rhododendron, you will sacrifice this year’s flowers. If you are really trying to rejuvenate an old leggy shrub, this is often the best way to go because the plant has maximal energy reserves stored in its root system right now. All that stored energy will go to new branches and vegetation which is ultimately what you’re trying to achieve with a rejuvenation pruning. For normal maintenance pruning however, it’s best to hold off on pruning these plants until after they finish blooming.
Here are the basic rules of pruning
Well, then, what constitutes good form? This is where practice comes in. Take a cut, step back, take a cut, step back. If you’re not stepping back to take a look, you’re doing it wrong. One good thing to keep in mind when pruning is that you’re not hurting the plant by pruning it. It will grow back and probably faster than you thought it would.
by Ken Druse
A Book Review By Joeth Barlas
Amazing photos by Ellen Hoverkamp who uses a digital flatbed scanner. You'll gasp! In short and imaginative sections, Druse explains how he chooses "bedmates," and in prose that's both wonderfully informative and inspiring. As one Amazon reviewer noted, "it's so rich with ideas, you'll want to dip into it over and over."