how to grow
18 May 2013, by gj
A lot of confusion surrounds GMO seeds, as the term is now used in reference to Monsanto; and there are many gardeners concerned that they might buy some by accident.
That is simply not possible.
You won’t find GMO seeds this way.
Here’s what you would have to do to get it:
1. Buy a farm. Call up Monsanto and tell them you want to sign that long intense contract that even controls you and your crop after you stop growing GMO. Buy seeds from them, buy Round-up from them. Grow the crop, but don’t save any seeds, or they will sue you.
2. Buy land down wind from a farm that is growing GMO crops that are wind pollinated, like corn. Let them cross pollinate your non-GMO crop. Save the seeds. Just don’t let Monsanto find out, or they will sue you.
3. Buy GMO veggies at the store, like corn or zucchini. Save the seeds and replant. Chances are they won’t grow, because the seed is too immature to germinate. So what if Monsanto finds out? They might sue you anyway.
Here’s the thing to remember, Monsanto doesn’t want you to have their seeds without the contract. They are not in seed packets at your local Farm and Garden. They’re just not.
So usually when someone says they only grow non-GMO, what they probably mean is they are growing heirlooms and open pollinated, not hybrids.
But a hybrid is only a cross between a plant and a similar plant, like a tomato and another, slightly different, tomato. Bees do it naturally, and growers do it on purpose.
A GMO is not plant to plant. It’s a tomato and a fish, or corn and E. Coli.
Really big difference.
The danger of foods containing GMO.
Categories: all about seeds, GMO's, you are what you eat
14 May 2013, by gj
Also known as ‘peat pots’ these seed starting units are simply mesh holding in dried peat. Peat itself is just vegetation that has partially decomposed. Pretty basic.
So why would some of my gardening friends claim they will never use them again? In fact, calling them ‘horrid’ and expressing that they cause the plants to become root bound, stunting growth.
Starting seeds in peat pellets using a re-purposed plastic container.
One of my friends suggested the mesh has been made stronger over time, and that is why the peat pellets no longer work.
Squash seedling one week old.
We found this interesting because we would swear by the pellets after starting a lot of seeds in them this year. The roots were coming out the bottom and sides, though many were still in the mesh. It was easy enough to tear open when the time came to transplant. Our tomatoes were well over 18″ tall when they went in the ground, and you can see the root growth of a pepper plant below.
Pepper plant ready to go in the garden.
Did we just get lucky and maybe get an old batch, or did we do something different that made them work? Sure wish we knew.
Of course there are so many other ways to start seeds: in pots, in bathroom tissue rolls, in handmade starts formed from newspaper, even hydroponically. Everyone has their favorite way.
For now, we’ll stick with what worked for us.
What’s your experience with peat pots, and what has worked best for you? Please share.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
7 May 2013, by gj
You can purchase some dry bean seeds from your favorite seed supplier, or save some money by getting some ‘soup’ beans from the grocery store.
We did this back in 2010, and have not had the need to buy seed since.
Dry beans like those pictured below from the local grocery were a little over $2 per pound, about what you would pay for a packet (1/8 pound) of seeds at your local nursery (or more through the mail with shipping charges added).
“What?” you may be thinking. Yes it’s true…and it gets even better:
Since the beans are seeds, we had enough seed left from the harvest to plant the following year, and so on.
For approximately $5 we have enough dry beans for the rest of our lives.
“What???” You may be shocked and amazed but it’s true.
These beans will never become soup, but their kids will.
(no soup for you!)
Dry beans are easy enough to plant.
When the weather is good and warm, just drag your trowel through the soil to make a small trench.
Throw in beans. You can take the time to carefully set them in but we don’t. They seem to handle overplanting very well.
Cover the trench and water.
Even easier, plant before a rain.
Only a week after planting.
Beans are a very healthy source of protein and are high in fiber, good for a lot of what ails you.
We really love them too, most especially as hummus. You can use a variety of beans to make it.
Some beans you can pick young for fresh eating, then let the rest dry on the plant.
Beans produce more the more you pick, so have at ‘em. Dry or fresh you just open the pod to get the beans.
This worked so well that we did purchase a few seeds to add additional color to what we grow. Now we harvest a wonderful assortment each year, without having to buy any more seeds.
We have also learned that you can get an even bigger harvest by warming up a bed simply by clamping plastic on it, and keeping the seeds/seedlings warm until the weather is better for them.
Here they come, a full month early.
Note that most dry beans are bush types or semi-vining, meaning they cling on to each other. If you buy beans in the store, chances are you won’t have to trellis them. Check a seed catalog first for more specifics on their needs.
More on growing Dry Beans
Other seeds from the market
Categories: beans, how to grow
5 May 2013, by gj
Purchase seedlings that have flowers on them. You may think you are getting a head start, but really what the plants need to do first is establish their roots, not produce babies. Let them get settled in.
If you started your own plants and they are budding, pinch those flowers off. Really, you’ll get more fruit in the long run.
The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?
Over fertilize. It’s fine to give your plants some good healthy compost, but take it easy on the fertilizer. Too much will grow wonderful bushy and green, albeit unproductive, plants. Same goes for your peppers by the way.
Give them a bit of Epsom salts. They love that stuff. If they don’t need it, it won’t hurt. It is good to have it as a preventative measure to help grow healthier plants.
Plant your transplants very deep. ‘Up to their necks’ is what the farmers say. This way they will grow a great root system, as mentioned above. The better the roots, the more productive the plants will then be.
Ready to rumble.
Water from above, if you can help it. This can cause soil to splash up on the stems, making them more prone to disease. Try to use a soaker hose whenever possible with tomatoes.
Mulch, especially if you are watering from above. This helps prevent that soil splash just mentioned, as well as holds the moisture your tomatoes may need.
Put in the stakes you are going to use for support at the same time you plant. You don’t want to go back later and start damaging those roots you both worked so hard for.
Know what type of tomato you are growing. If it’s a ‘determinate’ type, it may suddenly stop producing. Learn more by following the link at the end of this post.
Stress it. Are you feeling over run with tomatoes? Are you concerned about fruit flies in your kitchen? Simply wash some of those tomatoes off and toss them in the freezer. When you have time, thaw to use. A bonus: the skins will slip right off after defrosting.
Happy in their cloched bed.
Enjoy a variety if you have the room. Roma and plum tomatoes are best for preserving, slicing types for fresh eating, and of course cherry tomatoes for snacking. Plant tomatoes based on how you intend to use them.
plant them outside before the soil temperature is 50F. How warm the soil has become is a function of how close the sun is, the depth, and how much sunshine the area gets. Surface soil can feel warm but 6 inches down it can still be quite cold. Some gardeners plant their tomatoes out when the overnight lows are consistently above 50F. Not the same thing, but close.
Tomatoes under glass.
speed up the process by covering the area with black plastic, and turning the soil over every so often. If you plant early, keep those heat loving tomatoes warm through the use of cloches.
In a pinch, canning jars will do the trick, just don’t let the plants get fried. That’s for the green fruit.
Learn more about growing tomatoes here. Scroll down for all previous posts.
Categories: extending the season, how to grow, tomatoes
4 May 2013, by gj
Not long ago we looked at the espalier method of growing fruit trees. The photo on that post was of a huge garden at Kylemore Abbey in Ireland. The trees were grown against a wall as a way of increasing how much heat they received.
But the espalier method, a simple pruning and staking technique, also serves well to save space.
Here is a picture taken by my friend Jack Goldfil of allotment plots in Paris:
You can see how the trees have been pruned, allowing only the side branches to grow. These are further controlled by tying them to wires running across the whole area. Even in a garden plot this size there can be fresh fruit.
Now of course our garden areas are much larger. Still, we like to get the most from the areas we have growing. An additional concern is the squirrel population that took ever single piece of fruit from our trees last year.
Every. Single. Piece.
So we moved a few of the trees that were only put in last year and purchased a few more.
What we now have are 8 semi-dwarf fruit trees, one dwarf almond tree, and 3 bush variety cherries in a bed about 22′ by 4′. Since everything was just planted this spring, we won’t prune until after the harvest.
We are also going to build a structure above to drape netting over, in an effort to keep the squirrels out.
Remember to never prune more than 1/3 of the tree branches at one time. We will prune some in the fall, and a little more in the spring, containing the area they take up.
You can also plant crops below, as pruned trees don’t cast much shade. This year we planted potatoes and covered them with straw, additionally cutting down on the need to weed.
One other thing to keep in mind is that some trees, pears for example, need more than one variety to produce fruit. You can purchase “2 in one” of “all in one” trees that have been grafted with another variety. Just be careful when you prune to keep some of each variety growing on your tree.
Here’s Jack’s gardening page:Jardiniers du 4ème, where she shares more of her beautiful photos.
You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage and help others learn to grow.
You can find additional posts by clicking on the pic above. You can also follow us on Pinterest.
Categories: fruit trees, techniques, you can grow that
3 May 2013, by gj
Carrots poking through much earlier.
Pretty much any vegetable gardener will tell you that it takes forever for carrot seeds to sprout. Parsnips take even longer.
Is it coincidence that these, two of the tiniest seeds of edible plants, are the slowest to poke through the soil?
Check out this chart prepared by Heirloom Seeds:
Click here to view the chart.
If you take a look at the best temperatures for germination, you will notice part of the problem.
Carrot seeds are planted early in the spring, long before the soil temperatures reach 75F. Parsnips can germinate at a little cooler soil temperature, but 70F is still much warmer than what the normal planting conditions are.
This year we started basil seeds, which are about the same size as carrots, indoors. They pushed through the soil much faster than they did when they were direct sown. Of course, they were in warmer soil and with even amounts of moisture.
That is the key with all seeds, but especially those that are in cooler soil than what is optimum for growing. And here I always thought it was the small size of the seed that was the connecting factor.
So what can you do? Carrots really don’t like to be transplanted, so starting them indoors is not the answer.
Part of the solution we looked at before, cloching. This simple method of covering the seeded area with plastic will help warm the soil and speed up germination. It also helps hold in moisture, with is the second factor and probably the more important one.
Give your direct sown seeds this kind of attention.
There’s an even easier way to cloche to improve seed germination times. Since you are only covering the seed until you begin to see green leaves, you can just lay the plastic on the ground and simply use some rocks or anything heavy to keep it from blowing away. Clamps will hold it on a raised bed.
And you don’t need to buy fancy plastic. The drop cloth kind you can get wherever house paint is sold works fine.
If for some reason you can’t cloche, at the very least keep those seeds moist until they poke through.
Cloched peas sprouted faster than uncloched.
Our carrots and other early veggies are about a week ahead this year, it would have been more if we thought to cover them earlier.
Now you’ve just learned what it took us 30 years to figure out.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season
28 April 2013, by gj
There are a number of veggies that don’t care to be transplanted and are best sown directly into the garden. These would include the root crops like parsnips and carrots, as well as all the beans and peas. Squash plants, cucumbers and melons are not fond of it, but it can be done.
Basil started indoors.
When you start seeds indoors, you have control over the conditions. How much heat and water they receive is up to you.
With direct sown seeds, it’s all in Mother Nature’s hands.
Or is it?
Here they come.
The two things you can control, at least to some extent, are moisture and heat.
Keeping your seeds moist until they poke through the soil is very important. Sure, sometimes spring rains and snows do it for you. When they don’t, it’s up to you to give them a light watering every day until you see the green. Mulching between rows can help hold that moisture longer.
A bit crooked, but it works.
Even though some seeds can take the cold, carrots, peas and parsnips for example, you will still get a faster germination if you can keep them a little warmer. For rows of seeds, a simple cover can be made by bending pvc pipes and covering with clear plastic. This is known as a ‘low tunnel’ and works great. Empty canning jars or clear soda bottles make mini cloches for smaller plantings.
Likewise, plastic can easily be clamped onto a raised bed for a temporary cloche.
Jump-started watermelon from 2012.
Not only will these techniques help you speed up your germination times, they can also give you a jump start on your season, or help towards the end of the year to keep frost off your plants.
If your growing season is at all limited, extending the time you have is worth its weight in produce.
Here’s more info on extending the growing season.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening, how to grow
27 April 2013, by gj
If you look on the back of most seed packets they will tell you and sometimes even provide you with a visual of how deep to plant that seed.
But what if you are relatively new to gardening and you save your own, or are given, saved seeds?
It’s easy, actually, just take a minute to think about it.
Small seeds: Those itty bitty ones like carrots, cabbage, basil and mint. Plant these about 1/4 inch deep. Some gardeners just scatter them about, then brush with their hands to lightly cover with soil. Watering then gets them down about as much as you need.
Medium seeds: Cantaloupe and cucumber seeds, and others about the same size, should be planted about 1/2 inch into the soil. for these just make a little row with your fingertip, plant and cover.
Larger seeds: Peas and beans have seeds even a toddler can easily handle. Plant these 1 inch or so deep. We use a trowel or dowel to make a row, or stick a finger into the soil about the first knuckle deep if we are only planting a few seeds.
Now then, do you see a pattern? The larger the seed, the deeper it goes in.
My Dad told me once “Plant your seeds twice as deep as the size of the seed.”
My brain, off on a tangent as it is so often prone to do, interpreted that as ‘Half the distance to the goal.’
Okay, I admit it’s odd my brain would choose a sports analogy.
But if the goal is how deep to plant the seed, then the size of the seed is half the distance.
Easy to remember, and you never need to read a seed packet again.
Well, I guess you do if you want to know whether that bean is a pole or bush type; or if your cabbage seed is early or late season variety.
At least you can skip over the seed planting stuff and get right to what you need to know.
There you go, now you have more time to play in the garden.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
16 April 2013, by gj
We did look at how to go about planting asparagus last month, but wanted to add a little more detail.
Digging the furrows.
If you buy crowns, they will be ‘dormant’ when they arrive. This means they are basically asleep. The first time we got some we thought they were dead. As a doornail.
We also learned some interesting additional details from our favorite seed catalog printed by Johnny’s Select Seeds. They gave me permission to reprint their info, as long as I give them credit. They are so nice!
Placing the crowns.
Anyway, here’s some of what they have to say that wasn’t mentioned before:
- Plant 8-14″ apart, closer spacing will cause more slender spears.
- Use caution when cultivating any weeds. If you damage the crowns they become more susceptible to disease.
- Irrigate regularly during the growing season.
- Apply hay, straw or leaf mulch when the weather gets hot, to help control weeds and retain moisture.
- Asparagus is a heavy feeder. Apply compost or aged manure both in the spring and again in the fall.
- You can store your spears upright at 36 degrees F and 95-100% humidity for up two weeks.
- With the proper care, an asparagus bed can thrive for 15 years or more.
So now there you go, you have all the info you need to grow some awesome asparagus.
Categories: asparagus, how to grow
9 April 2013, by gj
There are three main places to purchase potatoes to grow in your garden. Many think the cheapest place is the local grocery, and perhaps it is. I looked at some store prices and the least expensive was $3.99 for a 5 pound bag. Some were easily $1.99 per pound. These are just basic potatoes, the white or ‘Irish’ as they are often referred to.
Cut and drying before planting.
If you have ever bought potatoes at the grocery only to have them sprout, then you know these can be grown at home. The problem is these are not ‘seed’ potatoes, meaning spuds that were specifically grown to be disease and pest resistant. These potatoes are selected for uniformity in size, appearance, and hopefully flavor; though I doubt the last one. If you’ve never had a problem with blight or potato beetles, these may work fine for you.
Choose potatoes with many eyes.
You can also buy certified seed potatoes from many seed companies. Here you will get a much larger variety of cultivars to choose from. Here’s more info on which tater is good for what.
There are 2 negatives to purchasing this way, the first is price. These potatoes can easily run you over $3 per pound, plus shipping. The second is that you don’t get to pick out which specific potatoes you want, you get what you get.
Potato eye beginning to sprout.
The third way is to buy from a local Farm & Garden, or other veggie selling business. I just bought these certified seed beauties for 59 cents/pound, and was able to choose potatoes that had the most eyes on them. More eyes, more taters.
So check around your area, perhaps even ask at the local farm market. You never know, they might sell you some as well. As growing your own becomes ever more popular, you’ll get better deals close to home.
How to Grow Potatoes
Categories: how to grow, potatoes