Monday, January 31, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Spring is fast approaching (woo hoo!) and with it comes the season for seed starting. Growing your own plants from seed is easy, rewarding and economical. It is also a great way to take advantage of the diverse selection of seeds that are available through mail order catalogues (annapolis seeds, hope seeds, johnny's seeds, etc.) and in seed racks that are not often found as transplants at your local garden center.
Many gardeners seem to find seed starting intimidating.. fear not! Growing your own plants from seed is very simple. Here are 12 steps to successful seed starting:
1) Plant fresh seed at the right time – It is important to sow seed that is fresh to ensure a high germination rate. Before planting, organize your seed packets by the calendar, allowing adequate time for seedlings to reach a good size before transplanting outdoors. The majority of vegetables require between three to 12 weeks of growth indoors.
2) Start with a soil ideal for seeds – Most garden plants will be happiest if started in a soil-less mix composed of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and nutrients, such as Pro-Mix. These potting mixes are lightweight with excellent drainage and water retention. Be sure to thoroughly moisten the media before filling your pots or cell packs to avoid dry spots and uneven wetting.
3) Plant seeds in clean containers – I like to plant my seeds in plastic cell packs, which are then placed in seed trays, as it allows for an efficient use of space. Yet, almost any type of container may be used to start seeds – clean yogurt containers, egg cartons, milk cartons, etc. If re-using old plastic or clay containers, clean them first with warm soapy water. Rinse well!
4) Provide ample light – Lack of adequate light is perhaps the biggest challenge when growing plants indoors. If you don’t have a sunny window, use full spectrum fluorescent lights. These fixtures should be turned on for about 16 hours a day and may be hooked up to an inexpensive timer. Continually adjust the lights so that they are only 2 to 3-inches above the foliage.
5) Plant seeds at the right depth – As a general rule, seeds should be planted at a depth of one to two times their diameter. Refer to the seed pack for specifications, but if the seeds are extremely tiny, don't bury them. Simply sprinkle them over the surface of the soil and mist with water to encourage good soil-seed contact. Finally, label the flat to avoid confusion. (Trust me, you will NOT remember which packs are which veggie!)
6) Humidity – Once planted, a plastic dome or a sheet of plastic wrap should be placed over the seed tray to prevent moisture from evaporating and to maintain the humidity at an acceptable level for germination. When the seedlings emerge, remove the cover to allow air to circulate.
7) Water from below – It is important to keep the soil thoroughly moist, but not soaking wet. If using cell packs and trays, irrigate from the bottom with room temperature water to avoid crushing the delicate seedlings.
8) Maintain a warm temperature – Most annual, perennial and vegetable seeds will germinate best at standard room temperature. There are some types of plants that prefer cooler or warmer temperatures, but such specific instructions should be listed on the seed packet.
9) Provide good air circulation – Adequate air circulation can be a problem inside a house closed up for the winter, but an oscillating fan set on low will provide plenty of air circulation and help prevent fungal problems.
10) Feed your plants – An application of water-soluble fertilizer at ½ the recommended rate every week will ensure sufficient nutrition.
11) Harden off properly – Prepare your seedlings for the real world (sun, wind, rain) about a week before transplanting by gradually acclimating them to outdoor conditions. Begin by putting them outside for a few hours on a warm day in a shady spot. Bring them indoors again at night. Over the next few days gradually give them a bit more sunlight and leave them outside longer. By the end of the week, they should be ready to be planted in the garden.
12) Congratulate yourself – It is always great to be able to say, ‘I grew it myself’ to friends and neighbours admiring your gorgeous garden!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting two outstanding gardens in the Liverpool, Nova Scotia region (Donna and Faye - I bet you can guess whose gardens these are?!) I love visiting gardens - spring, summer, winter and autumn.. a well planted garden will offer interest throughout the year and these gardens were no exception! I thought I'd share a few of the photos with you for a bit of winter inspiration!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
1) I will explore new horizons and try some of the many new varieties and new gardening techniques presented in all those beautifully informative catalogs, books and advertisements I'm seeing. Maybe I'll try my hand at some more sustainable methods of gardening? Or try some organic products? Or buy some earthworm-produced fertilizer?
2) I will "pay it forward" and share some of the weath/excess of my garden. Possibly a local food pantry can accept fresh produce? Or my neighbors would appreciate some divisions when I divide my perennials? Or I could share my best gardening tips with neighbors?
3) I will show that gardening is more than a hobby to enjoy for just a few months in the summer. I will try some cool season veggies, like super-food spinach, in the spring. I will plant some (or some more!) cool season annuals in the fall. Many products are available to assist in those efforts so why not?
4) I will make time to enjoy my garden and share it with friends and family. All this beauty I've created should be shared with others. There's little more relaxing than sitting in a beautiful garden sharing a nice cold herbal lemonade, made with my homegrown herbs.
5) I will support the current fight against childhood obesity through the glory of gardening. Maybe I'll volunteer to teach school children the basics of vegetable gardening? Maybe I'll share some of my extra seeds with my relative's children? Or, use the intriguing uniquely colored vegetables to pique the interest and tastebuds of novice young edible gardeners?
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
- Think ahead - Good planning will enable you to think sensibly about how much ideal space you have and how much time you can devote to your garden. Ask questions - How many people will be eating from the garden? How much time can we devote to the garden? These questions will help you decide how big you should make the plot.
- What do you want to grow? - Thinking about what you like to eat (or what you've always wanted to try - tatsoi, claytonia, dinosaur kale?) will help you decide what you'd like to grow. Tip - When we had a smaller space, we concentrated on expensive or hard-to-find things like arugula, leeks and heirloom tomatoes. Salad greens are quick and very easy to grow.. but organic greens are expensive to buy from the supermarket. This would be the best bang for your buck in a very small space!
- The most important piece of advice that I can offer, especially to novice gardeners is to start small. A 4 by 8-foot or 10 by 18-foot garden is large enough for an initial planting. Once you’re spent a season tending and harvesting, you’ll know if you want a larger space.
- Sketch it out - I do recommend sketching out a garden design before you ever put shovel to dirt. It allows you to play with the size and shape of the garden and helps show what you can realistically grow in that area. Rectangles and squares are the easiest bed shapes to work with, but I’ve even seen kitchen gardens arranged in spirals, circles and triangular beds. It’s your garden, so have fun with it! (Don't forget to add a chair, bench or stump so you have a spot to sit and enjoy the view - our veggie gardens are as pretty as they are practical!)
- Rows versus Beds - Vegetables are usually grown in rows or beds. I prefer raised beds as it allows me to grow the plants closer together, which offers a larger harvest from a smaller space and helps shade out any weeds. Raised beds also warm up quicker in spring, are better drained and create a very attractive garden. Make your beds no larger than 4 to 5-feet across so that you can easily access the center from either side without actually walking on the garden soil. Tip - I edge my beds in a variety of plants to get the most out of my space. Spicy Globe Basil or baby lettuces make a pretty and flavourful edge, but dwarf flowers such as nasturtiums, marigolds, sweet alyssum or calendula can also be used. Plus, they increase diversity - an essential element in any garden!