Category Archives: Family

Bonding with your garden – Seeds and Seedlings

This article appeared in the May 2002 web issue of Horticulture Update,
edited by Dr. William C. Welch, and produced by Extension Horticulture,
Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

How to Start Seeds Indoors

Gardening is a wonderful pastime and filling your garden with plants you started yourself from seeds simply doubles the pleasure. If you think growing from seed is difficult and takes too much time and equipment, the steps and tips here will dispel those apprehensions.
Basically all you need to know about specific seeds is whether or not they require light to germinate and the number of days germination takes. With a fluorescent light or a very sunny window, a few containers – purchased or found – and a good germinating mix, you will be on your way.

The magic: watching a seedling push up above the soil surface creates a bond between you and your garden.

Materials You Need

Containers: any shallow receptacle that holds soil, such as flats with or without individual cells, peat or paper pots, egg carton bottoms or halved milk cartons. For transplanting seedlings, 2-1/2 to 4-inch diameter plastic, clay or peat pots. To ensure even moisture for seeds – and save yourself time – look for self-watering seed-starting kits.

Germinating mix: commercial or homemade.
DIY: Mix your own seed starter soil, with a 50-50 combination of fine sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite.

Transplanting mix: A good potting soil will do, but a mix specifically formulated for young seedlings is better. The latter usually contains a coarser grade of sphagnum peat moss than a germinating mix and often contains fertilizer.

Fertilizer: balanced all-purpose fertilizer. If you prefer to grow with organic rather than chemical fertilizers, use fish emulsion is very odoriferous but nutritious for plants.

Getting Started

Wet the germinating mix thoroughly and let it drain. It should be moist but not soggy.
Fill flats or individual pots with the mix to within about an inch of the top.

Make shallow row indentations with a ruler or your finger in the flats. It’s easier to separate seedlings when transplanting time comes if you sow in rows. Sow thinly so you do not waste seed. If using pots make shallow holes and set 3 to 4 seeds in each.

Check your seed packet to see if the seeds need light to germinate. If they do, press them lightly into the surface. If they require darkness, cover with l/4 to l/2 inch of mix or vermiculite and tamp it down.

Mist the surface with water to settle the seeds.

Cover the flats with a sheet of plastic wrap or set them in plastic bags. Set pots in plastic bags and close with twist ties. This keeps the mix from drying out while the seeds germinate, but check the mix occasionally and moisten if necessary by spritzing with water.

Place the flat in a warm, bright location or under a fluorescent light. Check the seed packet for specific soil temperatures for germination. Generally, seeds germinate with soil temperatures of 70-75 degrees F.
Hot peppers sometimes will not germinate until soil temperatures reach 80 to 85 degrees F.

When the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic covering. Seed packets give you an idea of germination time, usually 7 to 10 days, sometimes as long as 2 to 3 weeks.

Keep the mix evenly moist, not soggy. Water from the bottom by setting flats and pots in a sink filled with a couple of inches of water; remove them when you see moisture on the surface of the mix.

The first leaves on a seedling are cotyledons, not true leaves. Their shapes usually do not look like the plants familiar leaves. When seedlings in flats grow at least two sets of true leaves, transplant them into larger pots.

Moisten the transplanting mix and let it drain. If you use an all-purpose potting soil, add a handful of vermiculite for each quart of mix to lighten the texture.

Fill 2-1/4 inch pots about three-quarters full.

Use your fingers or a pencil to pick each seedling out of the flat, carefully holding each by the leaves not the stem (plants readily grow new leaves but not broken stems).

Set the transplant in the pot, filling in around the roots with more mix and firming the mix down.

Place pots on a sunny windowsill or under a fluorescent light.

Water transplants regularly from the bottom until they grow 3 to 4 inches tall. Then you can begin to water from the top.

Feed as you water by diluting a water-soluble fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, to half the strength recommended on the label. Or, feed at regular strength every week to 10 days.

You do not need to move most flowering plants into larger pots before setting them outdoors in the garden. Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, produce extensive root systems and grow quickly into lush plants; transplant them at least one more time into larger pots before the weather warms up enough to put them in the garden.

To encourage compact, bushy plants, occasionally pinch off the growing tips of herbs and most flowering plants.

Many seeds germinate best – more quickly and more abundantly – if you do not cover them with a mix when you sow.

Ageratum Lettuce Begonia
Nicotiana Coleus Petunia
Columbine Parsley Dill
Feverfew Savory Salvia
Gaillardia Impatiens Yarrow

A Few Do’s

Know the date of the average last spring frost in your area; you need to start most plants indoors a certain number of weeks before that date. Seed packets include that information.

Give pots on windowsills a quarter turn every week so plants grow straight instead of bending towards the light.

Opt for the easiest plants to start indoors if this is your first attempt.
These include basil, coreopsis, dianthus, gaillardia, gloriosa daily, marigold, oregano, yarrow and zinnia.

Label your seed containers as you sow.

A Few Don’t s

Combine different varieties of seeds in one flat unless they germinate in the same number of days.

Let seedlings in flats grow large before you transplant them. Their roots become too entwined, making them difficult to separate without damage.

Start root vegetables indoors.

Over water seedlings. Soggy soil promotes fungus and root rot.

Outdoor Preferences

Some plants resent being transplanted, but if your growing season is short, you can start them indoors in individual peat or paper pots, which biodegrade; set plant in its pot in the garden.

Annual Phlox Fennel Chervil
Lupine Cucumber Nasturtium
Dill Poppy

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2018 Tomato Season

Disclaimer. I do not work for nor do I receive any benefit from this seed seller, however I have had good success using seed I purchased from them.
The big thing is they have more than 600 different types of Tomato seed that are Hybrid or Heirlooms to choose from.

Tomatofest Seed sale Annual Heirloom Tomato Seed Sale through Friday, January 19, 2018.

Our Annual Heirloom Tomato Seed Sale is designed to reach our newsletter subscribers and past customers as our “thank you” for choosing TomatoFest® for your organic heirloom tomato seeds.

From our online heirloom tomato seed catalog of more than 650 tomato seed varieties, we are currently offering you 350 of our most favored heirloom tomato varieties.

We selected many of our most popular and rare heirloom tomato varieties for this sale pricing. Up to a 50% savings off our regular price.

Take advantage of this Tomato Seed Sale to acquire tomato seeds for varieties that you want to grow, even if you do not have the space to grow them this year, as some varieties may not be offered in the future.

Tomato seeds will last 3-5 years if stored properly.
We guarantee the quality of TomatoFest® Heirloom Tomato Seeds

(Note: The balance of our 650 varieties will be at our regular price and we still require a $15 minimum order. Your order may mix sale items with regularly priced items).

Tomatofest Seed sale

“Top Ten” Heirloom Tomato Collection
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Tropical/Hot/Humid Tomato Collection
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Indoor Container Collection 1
Indoor Container Collection 2

Happy 2018 Gardening Season

Russia Invades Southeast United States

Russian winter weather colludes with President Trump’s administration weather service to invade Americas Southeast states as well as Americas Northeastern weather system to dump snow and ice from Florida to New York. Congress democrat Nancy Pelosi demands President Trump be impeached.

Alvarado shortage is attributed to President Trumps border wall preventing Mexican alvarado cartels an off shout of Mexico’s drug cartels inability to smuggle fresh alvarado’s to American supermarkets. Nancy Pelosi demands President Trump be impeached.

North Korea’s president Kim Jong Un said he will attack the United States because of President Trump’s efforts to cut off North Korea’s supply of cheap Chinese imported whiskey. Nancy Pelosi demands President Trump be impeached.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has declared his support to left wing democrats in the US congress after it was discovered Prophet Muhammad had concluded with President Trump’s administration to import BLT(bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwiches. Nancy Pelosi demands President Trump be impeached.

As for me, in my little part of Southwest Oklahoma my tiny garden has received about 2.5 inches of rain sense the 15 day of August 2017 setting us on the path for another drought year.

Happy 2018 Gardening Season

Pruning Will Enhance Production #3 – Grapes & Blackberries

Before you start pruning grape and blackberry vines you must know and understand it’s fruiting habits.

Blackberry vine pruning. You may want to stake or trellis-train your berry plants to keep them more compact and upright.
Pruning will vary depending on the blackberry variety you plant. Most berry bushes bear only once on 2-year-old canes. After the canes have produced fruit, you should prune them back to the ground to leave room for the stronger, 1-year-old canes.

Some pruning should be done every spring to keep the plants from becoming tangled and to improve their ability to bear. Prune trailing blackberries in the spring for good growth habits. Prune each main cane back to 3-4’. Then cut back side branches to about 12”, leaving five or six buds on each. Erect and semi-erect varieties should be tipped or cut back to 3-4’ in midsummer. This forces lateral branches to emerge from buds below this point.

Later in the fall, after they are dormant, cut back the laterals to 16-18”. Fruit will be borne on these laterals the following summer (after which, the canes should then be removed to make room for next season’s growth).

Everbearers fruit twice on the same cane. These canes will fruit at the tip during the fall and then bear again the following spring farther down the canes. If one large crop is desired, cut the canes back to the ground after the fall crop. This will result in a single, large crop the following fall.

Grapevines pruning. Grapevines need weeding, fertilizing, insect and disease control, and proper pruning to assure a bountiful harvest. Proper training of grapevines is essential to maintain plant size, shape and productivity. If left unattended, grapevines can become unruly, and fruiting will be poor due to overproduction of vegetation.

You must be ruthless when pruning grapevines to remove 80 or 90 percent of last years vines to ready what remains to produce this years crop.

I think this video can help you understand grapevine pruning much better than I can describe here.

State Oregon State University (youtube video) pruning grapevines

Pruning Correctly Will Enhance Fruit Production #2 – Fruit Trees

Before you start pruning fruit producing trees and bushes you must know and understand it’s fruiting habits.

Prune trees when they are dormant. Wait until a tree is dormant before pulling out the sheers! This is best for the tree and easiest for you. It’s easier to see where to make your cuts when the leaves have fallen. Pruning should be done in late fall, winter, or early spring. Exact timing will vary by zone, as winter months differ by zone.

Prune fruit trees to attain certain shapes. Remove weak, diseased, injured or narrow angle branches (the weaker of any crossing or interfering branches), and one branch of forked limbs. Also remove upright branches and any that grow toward the center of tree. You want to keep your tree from becoming too thick and crowded and to keep its height reasonable. All these objectives promote improved bearing, which is your overall aim.

Pruning Apple, Pear, European Blue Plums & Cherry Trees.
These trees do best when pruned and trained to a central leader tree. This type of tree has a pyramidal shape with a single upright leader limb as its highest point. This leader is the newest extension of a long, upright growing trunk from which all lateral branches arise. As with all strong growing branches, the leader should be headed back each year. The uppermost bud on the leader produces a vigorous new leader, and no other shoot should be allowed to grow taller. Lateral limbs should be selected from shoots growing out from the central leader. These should be spaced vertically 4-6” apart, have growth that is more horizontal than vertical and point in different compass directions from the trunk.

Pruning Peach, Nectarine, Japanese Plums & Apricot Trees.
These trees do best when pruned and trained to a vase-shape. This type of tree should have no central leader. The shape of the tree is controlled by selecting and maintaining three to five main scaffold limbs arising from the trunk. These limbs should point in different directions and originate no less than 18″ and no more than 36” from the ground balancing growth evenly between the scaffold limbs.

Miniature Peach, Nectarine & Apricot Trees.
These do not require shaping cuts. However, because they grow so densely, they require regular dormant thinning cuts to remove competing and crossing limbs.

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Pruning Correctly Will Enhance Fruit Production #1

Before you start pruning fruit producing vines, trees and bushes you must know and understand it’s fruiting habits.

Blueberries: Optimum time to prune blueberries is in late winter to early spring after the chance of severe cold is over and before new growth has begun. At this time, it is easy to assess how much, if any, winter injury has occurred as well as how many fruit buds are present.
Fruit bud formation for blueberries occurs on new shoots the year before the fruit appears.

Raspberry: Pruning is an important part of proper raspberry plant care and maintenance, it is also a way to ensure and improve the development of the fruit crop.
It is preferable to do some pruning rather than no pruning.
If a raspberry plant is left unpruned, it may become tangled and overgrown and may be unfruitful as a result.

Pruning will vary depending on the raspberry varieties you plant. The best approach is to understand the bearing nature of the varieties you’re growing so you know how to prune when the time comes. Regardless of growth habit, some pruning should be done every spring to keep raspberry plants from becoming tangled and to improve their ability to bear.
Consider staking or trellis training your raspberry plants to keep them more upright.

Red, gold, and purple varieties of raspberries.
Once your raspberry plants have put on enough growth (which may not be until after their first year), prune in the early spring, just as new growth emerges.

Prune young canes back until they are around 4 to 5 feet tall. This will discourage overgrowth and shading and will improve fruit production and quality.
Completely prune back and remove all skinny, dead, damaged, diseased or otherwise weak canes. As your raspberry plants mature, it is recommended that you cut back the small, thin canes to leave only about 8 to 10 of the strongest ones.

Black raspberry plants have a slightly different growth habit, so pruning is slightly different.
When new shoots are 3 feet tall, prune off the tips. Tipping the canes stops the vertical growth and results in more vigorous side branching, where the fruit develops. These lateral branches should be pruned so that they are kept at about 10 inches long.

Pruning Floricane-Bearing Raspberry Plants also known as “summer-bearing” raspberries. These plants have the more typical fruiting habit, bearing one fruit crop on the lower part of their two-year-old canes . After fruitset and harvest in the summer, these canes will die back. You should prune them back to ground level in order for the one-year-old canes to thrive and become strong and fruitful second-year canes the next growing season.

Pruning Primocane-Bearing Raspberry Plants also called “everbearing” or “fall-bearing” raspberries. Primocane-bearing raspberry plants are unique in that they tend to bear fruit on the tips of their one-year-old canes, which ripens in fall in milder climates. In addition, as these primocanes become floricanes in their second year, they will fruit again, this time on the lower part of their canes the following summer. Other than that, these can be pruned and maintained in a similar fashion to typical raspberry plants.

If one large crop is desired, cut all canes back to ground level after the fall crop. This will result in a single, large primocane crop the following fall. Not recommended for northern gardens with short growing seasons and early fall frosts.

In areas with short growing seasons, a primocane-bearing variety’s fall crop may not ripen, so northern gardeners may prefer to treat primocane-bearing varieties as summer-bearing varieties and forego the fall crop.

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2017 – Rushing into the history book

Christmas eve fades into Christmas morning and we have had our first really cold temperature forecast to be near 19 degrees. Not that cold by many northerners standards but by my standards, frozen chicken trough water is ‘Cold’.

Looking back I see that my tiny garden has received 1.90 inches of rain during the past 90 days. Getting pretty dry in my neighborhood. The sad part of this story is the long range 30 day forecast looks no better for a good soaking rain.

Colder weather, short daylight hours and chickens in molt my daily egg count has fallen from 6-8 eggs a day to 1-2 eggs. Grin, of course with the colder weather they are eating more and producing less. At present my eggs are only costing me about $1.00 an egg in feed and water cost. It would save me a lot of money if were to have a lot of chicken soup and buy eggs at the supermarket.

It has been a tough year for trees and vines in my tiny part of southwest Oklahoma.
Last June(2017) we had a thunderstorm that packed 104 mph winds along with golf ball size hail. It has taken all summer for my trees and grapevines to recover.
Still trees and grapevines will need pruned soon after new years day to be healthy and productive during the 2018 growing season.

This marks the end of year 2 of the bamboo screening project. So far it has been less successful than I had hoped. Still people that have used bamboo as screens say year 3 is the magic year that bamboo will begin to become an effective screen. Only time will tell.

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Image

Merry Christmas

Avoid Poisoning Your Children Or Pets

Dumb cane will make you speechless. If you get any of its sap inside your mouth, it can cause your tongue to swell, possibly blocking the way for breathing.
If you do ingest some of the sap, you might experience: intense burning, mouth pain, irritation of the surrounding mouth or lips, tongue swelling, excessive drooling in pets, gasping and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Oleander Every part of an oleander plant is toxic to humans and pets. It’s so toxic, in fact, that even honey made from it can pose dangers.
Symptoms if ingested include skin rash, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, fainting or general weakness, headache, dizziness, or drowsiness. If you or a loved one happens to consume this poisonous plant, you will need emergency medical attention.

Calla lily You might be surprised to know that plants with the name lily attached usually have some level of toxicity. Calla lilies make no exception, although this pretty Easter plant isn’t a true lily.
These flowers have dangerous calcium oxalates that make nearly every part toxic to humans and animals. Oxalates may also cause mouth burning, swelling, irritation, and difficulty swallowing.

Easter lily Easter lilies are highly toxic, especially to cats. Cat owners, you simply do not want these around the house. Just one or two leaves can prove fatal to your feline friends. Specifically, the toxins in the plant can cause severe kidney damage and kidney failure in cats.
Symptoms for cats include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of urination, lethargy or depression.
In humans, worrisome symptoms include stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision or weakness. In either case, you should get medical help for the victim immediately.

Daffodils Many people have mistakenly used daffodil bulbs in place of onions, and the bulbs have the most concentrated amount of lycorine, a toxic chemical.
According to the National Poison Center, the chemical doesn’t usually cause fatality unless it’s consumed in large amounts. Symptoms include the usual nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. More concerning symptoms might include low blood pressure and drowsiness in animals or throat pain and difficulty swallowing in humans.

Philodendrons This plant group is widely used as a houseplant. Philodendrons do contain the nasty calcium oxalate, causing burning, mouth irritation, tongue swelling, vomiting and diarrhea. Philodendrons will cause the most irritation in large quantities so curious toddlers and pets are the most at risk.

English ivy English ivy can cause stomach upset in small children and pets who don’t know better than to taste it. Symptoms include skin rash, burning, mouth or throat irritation and fever.

Merry Christmas and to all a good night.

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Winter Solstice, December 21, 2017

FYI New Picture of the day has been posted.

To be more precise Winter Solstice (shortest day of this year) will arrive at:
11:28 am EST – 10:28 am CST – 9:28 am MST – 8:28 am PST, December 21, 2017

After Winter Solstice, day by day we will have a minute or so longer daylight hours as we move slowly thru Winter and seek the longer warming days of Spring planting time.

Meantime evaluate what plants did well in your garden during the 2017 growing season. What you did right and not so right. Carefully consider what vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries are well suited to your USDA hardness zone and length of your growing season.

Get out your Big Chief note pad and purple crayola sketch out you 2018 garden plan. Try not to plant the same crops in the same location year after year. Consider adding a few rows of nitrogen fixing plants to your garden.

* Useful nitrogen fixing plants for your consideration.
Alfalfa, Clover, Cowpea(Black eye pea), Peanut, Snap pea, Snow pea, Soybean.
Clover will tolerate light foot traffic and maybe well suited to sow between rows of vegetables. Used as a ground cover clover will help shade and crowd out undesirable weeds as well.

Merry Christmas and to all a good night.

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