How to Grow
21 March 2015, by gj
Tomatoes are a vine crop and can be left to grow that way. However, you are more likely to get rot in your fruit and to have them attacked by numerous creepy crawlers. Pretty much everybody stakes their tomatoes nowadays.
You do have a number of choices on the How-To end. You can buy Tomato Cages that are easy to use. Unfortunately in our area they don’t work very well because our soil is so rocky. It really is hard to find a spot to get even those thin wire legs into the ground deep enough to offer support.
tomato cages abandoned in my garden
Staking tomatoes is another easy way to grow. Put the stake into the ground a few inches from your tomatoes when you first plant them. Don’t wait, after the plants are established putting a stake in can damage their roots. Use lightweight string, or better yet, strips of pantyhose, to tie your tomato as it grows. You may also want to consider pruning your staked tomatoes, more on that later.
staked potted tomato plant
staked but not yet pruned
staked and neatly pruned
Our favorite way to support tomatoes is to tie them to a main overhead support. Here is an example using PVC pipe.
You tie the string to the bottom stem, then to the overhead support. As the tomato grows, simply twirl the string around it for support.
tie the string to the tomato at the bottom, the PVC pipe above
just twirl that string as they grow
And what if you don’t stake?
unruly tomato plant
Staking Tomatoes and a Little on Pruning
Categories: How to Grow, Tomatoes, Tomatillos & Ground Cherries
14 March 2015, by gj
Over the years we have tried a number of methods to keep straight which seed was planted in which tray.
Probably the worst one was when we put a label on top of the tray lid, indicating specifically what was what for each spot. Of course, when we removed the lid to water the seeds, we weren’t sure which way it was supposed to go back on. Doh!
In other years we used plant markers, which we found cumbersome; and with starting a large number of plants, somewhat tedious. We also tried writing the plant name on the cup, but that takes up a lot of room and makes reusing the cups more difficult.
We then went to a layout on the computer, making a diagram of each cell, and labeling the front of the tray. That worked really well, except of course for the tray that got dropped.
So we finally settled on a system that works for us. Each small plastic cup is numbered with permanent marker, likewise that number is on the seed packet. As the seedlings get transplanted into a larger cup, that one is also numbered. The cups are then washed and set aside for next year.
A simple list would be enough to keep track, but we use a spreadsheet because we are also tracking the days to germination, to harvest, etc.
Hopefully we have eliminated all room for human error, or gardener error as the case may be.
Categories: All About Seeds, Keeping up with the Joneses, saving money & time
7 March 2015, by gj
The following is a guest post by a lovely woman named Amber from England. Their weather is similar to ours here in the northeast, but much less extreme and with milder winters. We always find it interesting to learn how others garden. Enjoy!
Growing your garden can be so rewarding whether your passion is for pansies or potatoes. However, it’s not just about planting seeds, watering them and waiting for them to grow. Knowing the best time to plant your chosen seeds can have a big impact on how well they grow. Doing the right researching can leave you with a luscious garden that has flowers in bloom all year round.
January offers an array of flowers, salad and herbs to sow. For more colour in your garden why not look at growing Sweet Pea. Sweet Peas not only produce beautiful blooms but also have a gorgeous scent. To add different levels to your garden arrangement why not give them plant supports and create columns of summer colours.
Tip – Annual Sweet Peas give off an incredible fragrance but only last one season while everlasting Sweet Peas return year after year, but with less fragrance than their annual cousins.
For something more edible why not start the year by planting broad beans. They’re a great vegetable to grow and fun to grow with children. Remember when planting them to sow one bean directly 5cm deep and 23cm apart for the best results.
The month of Valentine’s Day where love is in the air is a great month to plant a number of flowers including the Snapdragon, a beautiful plant with an unusual marble effect in an array of colours. Snapdragons are a very hardy plant which makes them great for beginners especially as when the outcome is a plant of sheer beauty. Another great plant for February is Chinese Forget Me Nots, a stunning little blue and white flower. Spinach, radish, aubergine, chilli, cucumber and tomatoes are all great foods to start growing in this month. Don’t forget to support your tomatoes with a sturdy stakes or strings to ensure they grow properly.
As we move into March the question is what flowers can’t you grow? After all the options are almost endless. You can pick from pretty poppies to an array of bloomers from the sunflower family. March is the month to get excited about the colours your garden can display for the rest of the year. If you are looking to involve children a sunflower competition is a great way to get the kids excited about gardening.
While you’re planting all the colours of the rainbow you can also get started on your parsnips, lettuce, beetroot, brussel sprouts, carrots and why not get ready for Halloween by planting your very own pumpkins.
April, the month of fools; but even fools can plant themselves a stunning garden. Dropmore is a striking blue flower which can be frozen into ice cubes to make your summer drinks stand out. Why not grow Borage ‘Blue’ as well, these can be added to drinks to give a cucumber like taste but with a beautiful vibrancy. This is also the time to get your onions, leeks and butternut squash started.
Why not add a little magic to your garden in May by planting ‘Snow Pixie’, a beautiful white flower or ‘Pink Fairy’, Lupin, or why not use May as the month for ‘Falling in Love’ with Papaver rhoeas. Sweetcorn and runner beans are also perfect for planting in May.
Cosmos, ‘Dwarf Sensation White’, are a stunning little flower ideal for planting in June, along with Echinops also known as the ‘Globe Thistle’. Wild Rocket and Artichoke or Artichoke are also all great choices for planting in June and July.
Papaver somniferum or ‘Black Beauty’ is a glamourous deep red poppy while Orlaya grandiflora is a beautiful and delicate white flower. Both are great choices for growing in August.
When it comes to vegetables, August is a great month for planting cucumber, chive, a number of lettuces and spring onion.
As the leaves turn orange in September the Calendula officinalis, ‘Indian Prince’, is the perfect flower to plant as you can enjoy the orange flower in the months to come. Staying on the orange theme the Eschscholzia californica ‘Orange King’, is also a stunning flower ideal for planting during this month.
During the spooky month of Halloween why not plant a Ladybird also known as Papaver commutatum, a beautiful red and black flower. The poached egg plant is also a brilliant and easy plant to enjoy with bright yellow and white flowers which resemble a poached egg.
November and December sees us returning to the same flowers and vegetables of January including Sweet Peas and Broad Beans. It’s especially handy if you’ve kept the seeds from your last successful crop.
Each flower and vegetable is different and needs to be planted and grown in different ways. Some like moist soil while others prefer drier soils, but before worrying about any of that the most important thing to know is when you should break out the garden tools. For more information about plants and seeds have a look around online.
Author Bio: Perrywood is an Essex based garden centre that sells a variety of seeds, plants, tools and furniture. They regularly release guides on how to care for your garden from what to plant to dealing with pests.
This post was printed with permission from the author, no compensation was received, just sharing gardening love. <3
Categories: All About Seeds, Gardening People, Places & Things
4 March 2015, by gj
Every gardener, whether they admit it or not, has at some point grown something in spite of themselves.
Perhaps they didn’t know any better; ask me sometime about my first experience playing golf (ps. don’t ask himself). Or maybe they gave up on a plant, only to have it thrive.
Such was the case with our (er, my) Aloe.
We (er, I) planted as best we (no, I) could following the directions given. Except, well, there was only cactus medium to use.
But we (that is, I) did pick out a nice clay pot, one that would hold moisture but had good drainage, and proceeded to sow the seeds. We (yeah, I) then covered the pot with 2 clear plastic baggies, to aid in germination.
Unfortunately, all that sprouted were fungi. We (I wanted to blame it on him) later read online that it is way hard to grow Aloe from seed. Drat.
So, giving up, we (not really) set the planter on the floor near our (ahem) seed growing system. Still some heat but not much, some light, but filtered.
It was almost 2 months later, after totally ignoring the planter, that we (::cough::) decided to clean it out and move on to something else.
After removing the plastic I (yeah, me) found all the baby aloe plants you see in the pic above.
So since this has been a successful growing experiment after all, we (I don’t mind sharing) are passing our error-turned-success on.
Botanical name: Aloe ferox
Yield: 1 plant per seed
Days to germination: 10 to 30 days
Days to maturity: 5-10 years to flower
Height: To 10 ft.
Hardiness: Mature plants can take a bit of frost, but generally keep away from the cold.
Culture: Keep baby plants in the same pot 3 months-1 year before transplanting.
Requirements: Succulent, requiring very little water. Prefers filtered light.
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for some wonderful posts.
Categories: Herbs, Odds & Ends, You Can Grow That!
24 February 2015, by gj
It kind of just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?
What it refers to is a veggie, like the cucumber shown above, that does not need pollination to produce fruit. This particular one is called Corinto, an F1 hybrid that we purchased seeds from Johnny’s Select. We chose this one because it will bear a little sooner than some varieties.
Other vegetables available as parthenocarpic hybrids include summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant and watermelon.
This is part of our indoor garden that we have been sharing lately, an attempt to grow more all year. It will be interesting to see if we can keep it inside, or if will just become too much for the spot we have. It will grow well outdoors too, and can even be put in the greenhouse, so it isn’t a real chancy experiment.
The seed germinated for us in just 5 days. Cucumbers aren’t real fond of being transplanted, so we started only one seedling in a small plastic cup so as to not have to thin. Then we watered the plant before carefully transplanting it to a larger cup. We did the same before transplanting into its permanent home. Watering it first, and letting the excess drain off, helps hold the soil around the root system. This makes transplanting less stressful for the plant.
This plant germinated on January 17th, and was in this large pot a month later. It is about 4″ tall now, and still pretty upright. In retrospect, maybe it should have been planted near the outside of the pot, which would have made trellising it easier. So instead, we’ll add a few disposable chopsticks for it to grab onto, and train it towards the tomato cage it will finally be growing up.
Live and learn, right?
The days to maturity on it is 48 days, so we should be seeing something very soon. Upon closer inspection, it looks like something is beginning to form. How exciting!
We’ll keep you updated on the little one’s progress.
Learn more about parthenocarpy here.
Categories: Cucumbers & Gherkins, How to Grow, The Experiments
21 February 2015, by gj
This first generation cherry type hybrid tomato from the University of Florida is considered to the the world’s smallest tomato plant, growing only 6-8″.
It produces itty bitty 1 ounce fruit in about 3 months, and is perfect for a container or hanging basket. It grows well indoors if given enough sunlight, and can provide tomatoes year round. They may be small, but it is the flavor we miss the most in the winter, so decided to give this variety a whirl.
It germinated in 7 days, and even now 4 weeks later it stands at only 1 1/2″ high. We expect to start getting fruit sometime in late April. If the tiny tomatoes are as good as they say, we may start another plant in June for the fall.
Botanical name: Solanum lycopersicon esculentum
Suitable for containers: yes
(Non-sponsored links for your convenience.)
Categories: Tomatoes, Tomatillos & Ground Cherries
17 February 2015, by gj
For those of us who remember life before personal computers, when your phone was attached to the wall and there were only a handful of TV stations and they actually signed off at night, social media is a very strange thing.
The fact that you are reading this, likely many miles away, would have been thought impossible not all that long ago. Yet we see it as a part of our everyday life now, and it has had a great impact. For us, it is pretty positive.
We have been able to make equaintances, fellow gardening enthusiasts, from all over the world.
And so it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek that the Facebook group Gardenaholics Anonymous came about. Recently, it topped 10,000 members and is growing strong.
It’s a well monitored group that does not allow drama, negativity, or anything but helpfulness, pats on shoulders, and support. It’s a support group made up of enablers to be honest.
It is also a lot of gardeners with very big hearts, that do group projects. For many of us, who do not have someone that shares our addiction to gardening, it allows us to work together.
Our first project was a cookbook that raises funds for a wonderful young lady with SMA, the child’s version of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Read more here.
Our second group effort is both fun and helpful to the environment. Many of the members, and their friends outside the group, are growing either milkweed to help the Monarch butterflies, and/or cucamelons aka Mexican Gherkins, just to try something new. We will be sharing pictures from all over the map, and expect it to be a lot of fun.
If you are interested in participating, here is the link:
Gardenaholics Anonymous Group Growing Event 2015
We hope to see you there!
Categories: Addiction, All About Seeds, Gardening
31 January 2015, by gj
There are a mere 12 seed catalogs in our house at the moment, after sharing and recycling the ones we no longer need. Admittedly, some never even get opened. The reason is because we know the way these catalogs are set up.
Looking through a seed catalog should be fun, not work. And although I understand the psychology of wanting the buyer to look at every page, if we can’t easily find what we want, we simply go to a catalog where we will.
So see if you, as a gardener, agree that all catalogs would be better if they contained:
1. An easy to find index.
Yes, we know the first few and last few pages of any catalog are the hot spots for selling. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother putting in an index, or just as bad bury it somewhere in the middle. It is just one page, please add it.
There’s no need to make a photo album, but give your customers something to look at. If it is a conglomeration of this year’s new items, put page numbers on the pictures so we can go look. And for heaven’s sake, label what the picture is of, specifically.
3. Growing information.
This should go without saying. Not every gardener knows that peas can be planted when the weather is cool, but that most beans can’t. One of our favorite catalogs is almost a gardener’s how-to book, it gives such good info and tips.
4. Some order.
While most catalogs are set up by category and in alphabetical order, some look like a child assembled them. Don’t stick flowers in between squash and tomatoes. Maybe it’s a little obsessive, but it is unnerving to read these catalogs, so we don’t. Colored tabs at the top of the page are lovely, and make it easy to know where the veggies end and the herbs and flowers start.
5. Botanical names.
Not everyone uses them, it is true. But there are some of us that would like to know, for example, if one squash may cross pollinate another. It also helps clear any confusion if a plant is known by many common names.
6. A ‘seed only’ shipping option.
When a company charges higher shipping rates for the more you spend, it is a disincentive to purchase. How many gardeners have deleted an item from an order, just to save on shipping? On the other hand, when a company charges one set price no matter how many seed packets you buy, the psychology then is to buy as many as you can. For companies that sell more than just seeds, consider a set fee for orders of seeds only. Take it from a long time gardener, we’ll buy more.
7. Customer bonuses.
Some companies are smart in including a free pack of seeds in every order, that’s nice and usually we give those away. When you think about it, if we wanted it we would have ordered it, right?
It’s not like “Oh shoot! Thank heavens they sent us these lettuce seeds or we would be in big trouble trying to make a salad!”
How about letting us choose from, say, 4 or 5 packs of seeds? Or give a bonus to customers who have been buying from you for a long time. It’s always good to keep your customers happy.
8. The truth.
Please include a straight forward explanation about the differences between genetically engineered, hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. You have the attention of one of the most important groups of people when it comes to this subject, please use it responsibly to help clear up the confusion.
So what say you, my fellow gardeners? What else would you like to see in a seed catalog?
Categories: All About Seeds
24 January 2015, by gj
We have posted before about starting seeds indoors, but wanted to add some additional information.
1. Consider pre-germinating.
Some seeds, like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers can take a while to sprout unless they really have sufficient heat. Other seeds, such as beets and sunflowers, have tough seed coats. By pre-starting them before planting, you can save yourself some time and effort.
Simply place the seeds on some paper toweling or paper napkins. Fold the edges over and moisten. Place the paper in a clear plastic container with a lid, or in a Ziploc type bag. Keep in a warm place, checking daily to be sure the paper stays moist.
When you see the seeds have sprouted, just carefully plant them as you normally would have.
2. Or soak them in compost tea.
Just as you give your plants fertilizer when they are growing, giving them some at planting time can really make a difference in how well they do. We recommend Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea because we know it works, and especially because it comes from pasture raised cows that are not eating genetically modified and heavily pesticided corn.
For most seeds you can soak them anywhere from a few hours to overnight. This works best for larger seeds than tiny ones like carrots, which don’t like to be transplanted anyway.
3. Give them some air.
Many gardeners start seeds in lidded containers, whether recycled or purchased domed seed starting kits. These help create a moist environment that will help your seeds sprout. Unfortunately, mold likes the same conditions. Take the lids off or open your containers every so often. If you can, run a fan in the room to circulate the air. Be careful, as this can cause the pots to dry faster. Just water again if needed, and replace the lids, etc. This will help keep mold away and your seeds will be safer.
Read these posts to learn more about starting seeds:
When to Plant Seeds Indoors and Out
4 Problems with Starting Seeds
13 Items to Upcycle for Starting Seeds
Categories: All About Seeds, How to Grow
13 January 2015, by gj
Botanical Interests, Baker Creek, and the Seeds of the Month Club share the fact they don’t sell GMO seeds.
The original plan was to post this in a cute Dr. Seuss related lyric, but this is just too important. So let us just say this:
You can’t buy GMO seeds. Not nowhere, not nohow.
Unless you are a farmer, but farmer’s probably aren’t reading this. Or, if you happen to know an unlucky farmer who plants corn down wind of a Monsanto farm, and is selling seeds… but the chances of that are rare. And just in case, many seed companies check their supply, to be doubly safe.
So, why do seed companies say they sell non-GMO seeds if everyone sells only non-GMO?
For precisely the same reason we post this information, because there is still confusion out there. They want to be sure their customers know what they are selling. The problem is though, that this makes some people think that if some companies say they ‘don’t sell GMO’ then other companies must sell GMO.
But that simply isn’t the case.
Even companies owned by Monsanto do not sell GMO seeds. They just don’t.
The other problem is that there is some confusion between GMO seeds, aka Genetically Engineered by someone with at least a PhD., and a hybrid seed, which both man, breeze and bees can create. I doubt I have ever met a bee, let alone a breeze, with a PhD. Hybrids are not GMO’s as the term is currently used. They are simply a natural cross between 2 plants.
Recently I read someone suggest that a graphed plant was a GMO. FYI, that is when the top of one plant is attached to and grows with the bottom of another. Dwarf fruit tress, a dozen of which we have, are a common example. Not GMO’s, and even if they were, which they aren’t, then you wouldn’t be able to buy them.
So again, please pass this on to your fearful seed buying friends. They can relax for now at least, and buy seeds to their heart’s content without a worry of accidentally buying GMO’s.
And to all the seed companies signing the Safe Seed Pledge and sharing the truth about GMO’s, our sunhats are off to you!
Update 1/16/15 Don’t just take my word for it, read this.
How to really hurt Monsanto.
Categories: All About Seeds