Sunday, January 27, 2013

When do plants start growing again?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

If you have noticed that plants stop growing in the winter, whether indoors or out, you would be right.  It is not just the temperatures that affect this slow down.  It is the amount of sunlight.

Basically, plants go dormant when receiving less than 10 hours of daylight.  For my latitude, this is from November 17-January 24.  You can look on the weather channel to see when your daylight hits 10 hours.

When planting in the fall for winter crops, you need to plan that they are at full, harvestable size by November 17th.  They will remain this size until the end of January, when they begin regrowing.

Growth starts back up at the end of January, for indoor and outdoor plants.  The lettuce, chard, sorrel, cabbage, kale, celery, and herbs that have overwintered will start growing with vigor again after this time with clear days and warmer temperatures.

You can scatter sow seeds now of cold hardy crops and they will be primed for the longer days.  It is surprising to see the little greens popping their heads out in February.  The force of life is amazing.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What is still surviving in the January garden?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

In our Zone 6 garden, kale, cabbage, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, spinach are all still green in January.

To keep your cold hardy crops going as long as possible, be sure to apply a good layer of mulch in the fall.  

Mulch is not only good for retaining moisture and keeping the soil cooler in the summer, but does the same in winter, keeping the soil warmer.  This lengthens the winter harvest and protects more tender crops so that they have a better chance of reviving in the spring to give an extra early spring harvest.

You can also use cloches, covers, and greenhouses to extend the harvest and get a jump on spring.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January is seed starting time!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I know it seems spring is far, far away in January.  Luckily for us gardeners we get to start spring early!  End of January into February is seed starting time indoors.

Lowes already has Burpee seeds (organic and heirloom, too) and seed starting supplies in their stores.
So, what seeds can you start indoors at the end of this month?  The cold season crops:
Summer savory

March is when you start your warm season crops like basil, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, and beans.

You can also start perennial flowers indoors as well.  For any plant, look at the seed packet for when to plant according to your frost date.  Then back up the time from there on when to start indoors.  Typical seed starting is 6-8 weeks prior to the plant out date.

Here is a link to frost dates:  
You can change the settings to how lucky you are feeling.  Choosing 50% would be the average date of the last frost.  Changing it to 30% chance means there is only a 30% chance, on average, you will get another frost.

What are the tricks to successful seed starting?  The most sure fire I have found with a gadget is the Aerogarden with the seed starting tray.  I have almost 100% germination rate with it.

You can also start seeds in pots you make yourself with newspaper, toilet paper cores, paper towel cores, or paper cups and sterile, organic seed starting mix.  A nifty way to do it is to cut used paper towel cores into sections and line with old newspaper.  You can plant the whole thing or push out the newspaper insert and compost the core.

There are also the peat pellets and peat pots.  Peat is not a renewable resource, but there are substitutes for it now on the market.  Just read the labels.  I just bought ones made with coir at Lowes.

The key is using sterile seed starting mix, pots and containers.  You can make your own seed starting mix with peat moss or coir (renewable), compost, and vermiculite.  Just be sure to heat the compost to at least 150 degrees to kill any pathogens before using to start seeds.

Place the seeds in the starter mix in the pots and allow to wet thoroughly from the bottom (watering from the top can dislodge seeds).  After fully saturated, they are ready to put in a catch pan.  Make sure any catch pan that you use has been thoroughly washed in a bleach solution so all pathogens are killed.  The one I just bought has a water reservoir in the bottom of it that wicks the moisture up under the seedlings.

I put my seed starts in a plastic tray with a clear plastic lid in a sunny window that I have had for years that you can buy at any big box store.  Keep moist, but not wet, and with the clear cover on until seedling emerges.  Once seedling emerges, remove the clear lid.

Make sure you label your seedlings as soon as you plant them; you may think you will remember 2 months from now what was where, but likely not.  Now is also a great time to start keeping a journal.  Start tracking what you planted when so you can review next year what worked well to repeat and what didn’t work so well to tweak.

Your seedling’s first leaves are not “true” leaves, think of them as baby teeth.  The second set of leaves are their true leaves.  They are ready to be hardened off when they have their first set of true leaves.  Seedlings must be hardened and not just thrown outside.  You take them out a little at a time, gradually increasing their exposure to sun and cold, only during the daytime.  I try and plant when there is a warm spell forecasted to minimize the shock.
There are great selections of herbs and veggies at nurseries and big box stores nowadays so you have great options just waiting until spring is officially here and picking up what looks good at your nearby store in a couple of months.  This is also a great back up if your first seed starting adventure goes a little awry...........

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Grow an easy garden cooking staple-celery

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Try an easy to grow garden staple-celery.

Celery’s grandparents grew wild from the Europe to western Asia, known as smallage.  It was very bitter.  Celery was developed in Italy in the 1500‘s to what we would recognize today.  It was grown for its medicinal properties to help hangovers, kidney stones, digestion, and as an aphrodisiac.  It became popular in English cooking in the 1700’s.

I had always heard that celery was difficult to grow.  I decided a couple of years ago to give it a go.  I looked at my neighborhood big box stores, hardware stores and nurseries.  

I ended up finding them when I was in another state, checking out a local nursery.  I bought them and started them in my Aerogarden.  I planted out 3 seedlings in the back yard between two trees.  They did great.  They even came back again this year.

In the fall, I dug up one and put it in the garage.  The nursery had told me you could keep them all winter in the garage and take a cutting whenever you needed it for cooking.  Thought I would try it out, and it worked!  In the spring, I took it back out to the garden and re-planted.  It did great all summer.  

I have discovered that celery is a prolific self seeder.  In other words, you get many volunteers/new baby celery plants with no effort on your part.  Since they survive the winter, you are good to go again next spring with a new crop of celery.

I had several celery plants in pots (more volunteers) and they did great there too.  A word of caution, they love water!  They don’t share well with others when it comes to water so I would keep them in a pot by themselves.

These plants seem to grow well wherever they sprout, regardless of water, fertility, sun, shade.  So, if you like celery to snack on or cook with, give them a try.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Make poultry seasoning with your own garden herbs

Thursday, January 3, 2013

You can easily make poultry seasoning from herbs in your own garden.  Poultry seasoning adds great flavor to, of course, chicken or turkey, but also veggies, fish, casseroles, pasta.

The first commercial poultry seasoning was invented by William G. Bell, a Boston cook, in 1867.  His included sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, pepper and ginger.

I like to make my poultry seasoning with sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram.  Some add nutmeg, pepper, ginger , onion powder and/or cloves.

Here is my poultry seasoning recipe:
3 Tbl sage
1 Tbl parsley
1 Tbl thyme
1 Tbl marjoram or oregano
1 Tbl rosemary

Insure all spices are crumbled into tiny pieces so they will disperse evenly in your favorite prepared dish.  Combine in a pint jar, shake to mix well.  

You can transfer the amount needed to a kitchen spice jar.  Keep the rest in a cool, dark location.

For any spices, you want to keep them as fresh as possible.  They lose their flavor over time and quicker if exposed to heat/light.