Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ideal soil temperatures for seed starting


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Adding some bottom heat can greatly increase the germination rate of many vegetables, particularly the heat loving veggies, in the spring.  In the summer, you may need to start seeds indoors or in a shady area.

Summer veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and beans love a little extra heat.  Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers need temps at least 60 F to germinate in a timely manner.  If you try and start the summer lovers in cold soil, many times the seed will rot before it sprouts.

A good rule of thumb is at least 70 F soil temps for starting summer veggies indoors.  You can buy a simple, cheap heat map at any big box store.  For a list of germination rates by temperature and crop, this is a good link http://tomclothier.hort.net/page11.html

For cold crops, hotter is not better.  Lettuce will not germinate if the soil is above 80 F.  This is the reason you may need to start lettuce indoors during the dog days of summer unless you have a cool, shady spot to start the seeds.

If you want to go high tech, I found that using an Aerogarden with the seed starting insert gave an almost 100% germination rate.  Here is a link to their web page:  http://www.aerogarden.com
Look for the "Garden Starter System" accessory for the seed starting insert.

It can be tempting to start all your seeds as soon as you get them.  If you are starting them outdoors, be sure they are sown when the temps are right for the type of crop.  If growing indoors, you can modify the conditions to what suits the type of veggie you are sprouting.

For more on seed starting tips, see Indoor seed starting tips

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quick way to find your first and last frost date


Sunday, April 21, 2013

I like this site to find your first and last frost dates because all you have to do is punch in your zip code, and viola, it brings up your information!

http://www.victoryseeds.com/frost/

This one is set up to give you the date that there is only a 30% chance that frost will occur after that date.  You can also change the setting to 50% if the crop you are planting is not frost sensitive.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive



Saturday, April 20, 2013

If you want to make your own fertilizer, here is an easy, cheap recipe.

For one cup of fertilizer:
1/3 cup of green sand (potash and minerals)
1/3 cup of rock phosphate or bone meal (phosphorous and minerals)
1/3 cup of alfalfa or soybean meal (nitrogen)
1 Tbl Azomite (70 minerals and trace elements)

This is good for 40 quarts of potting soil.  Just mix it in with compost to rejuvenate your old potting soil for this season.  You can add up to 50% of compost to the potting soil.  Compost brings not only nitrogen, but also microbes that boost the plants ability to take up nutrients from the soil.  If you do not want to completely remove the soil to mix in compost, remove at least the top few inches and mix in compost.

Is also great for the garden as well.  It is best to either fertilize and then immediately apply mulch at a rate of 5 pounds per 100 square feet.  Or you can scratch in 2 tablespoons around the roots of each plant if not applying a mulch to keep the fertilizer in place.

Another great thing about natural fertilizers is that you can't burn up a plant with too much like chemical fertilizers.  For fruit bearers, like tomatoes, if you use too much, you will get a jolly green giant plant and no tomatoes because nitrogen stimulates leaf growth.  More is not necessarily better.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Vegetables you can grow in pots




Sunday, April 14, 2013


If you only have pots for your veggies, you can grow almost anything you can in the ground.  There has been a renaissance in growing your own vegetables in small spaces so development of compact, dwarf and patio varieties have proliferated.

Any varieties listed for a smaller pot will be happy in a larger pot, too.  There are many more varieties out there than listed below.  Just look at the seed packet for terms like patio, compact, or dwarf.

For containers 8” wide by 6-8” deep:
Carrots-Thumbelina, Parmex, Tonda di Parigi 
Greens-arugula, corn salad, cress, small pac choi like Tatsoi, purslane
Lettuce or Kale-any type that you are going to continually harvest and not grow into full heads.

For containers 10” wide by 10” deep or larger, these will grow well:
Carrots-Atlas, Little Finger, Adelaide, Short n Sweet
Eggplant with small fruits-Bambino, Casper, Fairytale, Neon, Patio Mohican, Slim Jim, White Egg
Greens-French sorrel, salad burnet, spinach
Herbs-any.  Mediterranean herbs love having dry feet.
Lettuce-Little Gem, Tennis Ball, Tom Thumb if growing to full heads
Peppers, compact types-Blushing Beauty, Chili Pepper Krakatoa F1, Habanero, Hungarian Yellow Wax, Sweet Pepper Ingrid, Prairie Fire, Red Delicious, Sweet Pickle, Zavory
Radishes-Amethyst, Cherry Bell, Pink Slipper, Poloneza, Red Head, Rudi

For containers 14-16” wide and 10” deep or larger:
Beans-compact bush types , Runner Beans
Beets
Broccoli raab
Celery
Chard
Cucumber, compact bush types-Lemon, Little Leaf, Suyo, Salad Bush, Fanfare, Sweet Success. 
All types of eggplant
Horseradish
Kale
Okra-Little Lucy
Onions-Apache, Pompeii or the perennial Egyptian Onion
Peas-dwarf bush types
All types of peppers (sweet peppers tend to be more productive in the ground)
Tomatoes, compact types-BushSteak, Celebrity, Daybreak, Johnny’s 361, Legend, Patio Princess, Sweet Baby Girl, Sweet n Neat F1
Turnips
Summer squash, compact bush types-Gold Rush, Midnight F1, Venus F1, Patio Star

Containers 20” wide by 16” deep:
Beans-any bush type, more compact pole types (look for the ones have vines 6’ or less or you can pinch off the longer types)
Broccoli
Lettuce-all varieties
Peanuts
Peas-all bush types and more compact pole types (look for ones that vine 6’ or less)
Potatoes
Pumpkins-miniature
Shallots
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash, compact bush types-Butterbush Butternut

For really large containers on the scale of a half whiskey or wine barrel:
Beans-all pole beans
Carrots-all varieties
Cucumbers-bush and vining types
Summer squash-Bush Baby, Space Miser, Egg Ball, Papaya Pear
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Winter squash-Honey Bear, Carnival, Discus Bush Buttercup

When growing veggies in containers, they will require more watering and more liquid fertilizer than if they were in the ground.  In the summer, you may have to water some water lovers every day.

To reduce watering, purchase or make pots that have a water reservoir in the bottom.  A couple on the market today are “Earthbox” and “Grow Box”.  With these type of pots, you can water weekly.  They are easy to make out of 5 gallon buckets or other plastic containers.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Extending or starting the garden earlier

Cloche to protect tender plant

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It is spring, but you are dreaming of summer veggies.  What to do?  Try these season stretchers!

The first thing you can do to extend the season is to start your seeds indoors or purchase plants from your neighborhood nursery or big box store.  Basil, tomatoes, and rosemary are already at my neighborhood stores.

To get your plants a safe early start, you can buy cloches, Wall of Water, a green house, or use a fabric covering to put your plants in or under.  If you are using a cloche or green house, be careful to vent anytime the sun is shining or you will fry your plants.


Be careful if using a greenhouse or cloche.  When the sun is out, it gets hot inside the plastic fast!  Be sure to open the greenhouse or cloche so you don't fry your plant.


Another trick is to lay clear plastic over your garden bed two weeks before you are planning on planting.  Make sure the soil is watered well first.  Clear plastic will raise the soil temperature by 8-14 degrees F.  This gives your plants a head start when they are placed in the pre-warmed soil.

You can either remove the plastic, plant, and then cover with mulch or leave the plastic in place and cut slits into the plastic and plant through the slits.  I personally don’t like to leave the plastic in place and use mulch.

Some would think that black plastic would give an even bigger temp boost, but it does not.  Temps will raise by 3-5 degrees F.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What we planted this week end



Monday, April 8, 2013


It finally felt like spring!  It actually got into the 70’s on Sunday.  It is forecasted to rain many days this week.  Perfect spring growing conditions!

This week end, we planted Windsor fava beans, Ozark Beauty strawberry plants, Red Sails lettuce, Buttercrunch lettuce, Packman broccoli, 45 Day Golden Cross cabbage, Space Hybrid spinach.

The bulbs have really taken off.  The daffodils, hyacinths, and crocus are all blooming right now.  The forsythias are in bud and should be blooming this week.