Tag Archives: herbs

Planning Your 2019 Garden Now is the time to make spring garden plans

A gazillion words and post have been published about the benefits of raised bed gardening and square foot gardens.

In truth raised beds may not be your best choice. Raised beds are generally best suited to cooler and wetter climates than weather conditions found in Americas West and Southwest.

Pros of Raised Bed Gardening:
More control over the location of the garden
Ability to choose the best soil for your particular plants
More efficient draining
Can be easier on backs and knees due to less bending and stooping
May be helpful keeping weeds out of your garden space
The soil warms up earlier in a raised bed, so you can plant earlier and extend your growing season
May work better keeping ground dwelling pests out of your garden plot

Cons of Raised-Bed Gardening:
Will be more expensive to get started
Requires careful planning to make sure there is enough room for plants that need to spread out, and to ensure that you can reach the middle to tend the plants
*** Because raised beds drain so efficiently, they will also need to be watered more often and may require an irrigation system
In the west and southwest water is a valuable, often scarce resource. Areas with little natural rain fall, daily temperatures at or above 90 degrees and humidity levels often dropping to 10% or 20%, tap water is an expensive way to water your garden.

Raised bed planting has the disadvantages of more frequent watering during dry periods and the cost of filling your beds with large quantities of compost, soil-less growing medium and may require more frequent use of commercially made or organic fertilizers.
Root vegetables, think potatoes and carrots that penetrate more than 3 or 4 inches deep into the soil where they are planted may suffer in raised bed plantings.

Amending garden soil by digging in or tilling in large amounts of compost and planting directly in the amended soil very well may be a better choice over raised beds. You will over time develop a quality garden soil that holds moisture. Couple this with extensive use of mulch water needs will be greatly reduced and over heated soil temperatures can be moderated.
* This years mulch will be tilled into the soil as an amendment for next years garden.

Practically Free Raised Beds by Will Atkinson

I saw a great post about salvaging and recycling wood fence to construct raised beds. Many wood fences are made from cedar and are naturally insect and rot resistant. Practically Free Raised Beds After building your first recycled wood fence raised bed is a good time to consider a square foot garden. If used to it’s maximum advantage, you can grow a lot of food using only a few square feet of garden space.

4-hole-dibbleboard

Build A Dibble Board
If your one of those that want and insist that every plant be perfectly spaced. This little gadget may be just what you have been looking for.

Build A Dibble Board Check out ‘gardeninggrrl’ blog for a lot of pictures and building instructions.

Keep in mind you may need two or even three of every dibble board. Most garden seeds need to be planted 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch or 1 inch deep. Seed planted 1 inch deep that ‘should have been planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep may never break through to see the light of day. In this event you have wasted your time, water and seed.

My dibble board consist of placing my seed on the ground at my desired spacing, using my finger to press the seed into the soil to the proper planting depth, cover my finger dibble hole with soil, then wait for them to germinate.

furrow planting

Farmers over the last 8,000 years have devised main 3 planting methods to maximize water usage and fertilizer to produce the most vegetables at the lowest cost on the least amount of land.

Furrow planting is common in areas with enough rain to produce a crop but with the need to conserve as much soil moisture as possible.

bed planting

bed planting

Bed planting provides additional root zone drainage as well as providing a reservoir to hold moisture near the plants root zone for a longer period of time after irrigation or rains.
Bed planting act much like raised bed planting without the cost of constructing bed boxes and filling raised beds with soil/soil mixes.

Minimum till planting is a method that has been used for thousands of years and in the past 25 years has been rediscovered by farmers in the USA and the UK as well as many other more developed countries. In minimum till planting, last years crop stubble is left in the field to prevent or minimize soil erosion from winds and heavy rain water run off and reduces soil drying by providing ground cover {mulch}.
At planting time, seeds are planted on flat ground without removing old crop stubble.

What gardening method is best for you? That is a decision that only you can decide. Using raised beds, furrow planting, bed planting or minimum till planting is mostly {for home gardeners} a personal choice dictated by ‘your’ garden plots size, location and amount of time and effort you are willing and able to put into your home garden.

No matter what method you choose, keep an open mind and consider other gardening methods if the way you are doing it now fails to produce as much as you feel that it can and should be producing.
The old worn out, I have always done it this way is not an acceptable answer to resolving a gardening problem.

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Heirloom and Natural Hybrid Tomato’s

Tomato Growers would like for you to purchase seed from them.
With that said I present this site to you for reference and research purposes only. Purchase seed from your trusted supplier.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Tomato Growers in anyway. I have never received money or gifts from Tomato Growers.
I have been satisfied with seed I have purchased in the past.
You must do your homework before sending any company money for their advertised products.

Tomato Growers website contains a ton of useful Tomato information including a picture and a detail description about tomato uses, size, days to harvest, disease resistance as well as other useful information.

650 varieties of hybrid and heirloom seed are sold by Tomato Growers supply company. Home page. Listings for tomato, eggplant, pepper, squash and more heirloom garden seed.

Tomato Growers promise to buyers is:
No GMO’s
All of our seeds come from natural hybrid or open-pollinated heirloom varieties.
Tomato Growers do not sell any GMO’s or genetically engineered varieties.

Go directly to Best site I have found to shop or simply learn more about Natural Hybrid and Heirloom tomato varieties.Tomato’s, natural hybrids and heirlooms page.

Never buy heirloom garden seed again. Become a seed saver and save your hard earned cash for other garden projects.

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Home Grown Salad – Seed To Fork

Lettuce is fast growing cool weather crop that quickly reaches maturity. It is a cool season plant best grown in the spring and fall of the year in most of the U.S. With so many loose leaf and head varieties your most difficult decision is which varieties to plant.

First plant the cold tolerant lettuce varieties in the cool early spring months, then sow the heat tolerant varieties in late spring to spread out your lettuce harvest as long as possible. Stage plant lettuce, planting pots and beds every 7 to 10 days.
Lettuce benefits from a rich well drained soil.
Fertilize lettuce using a nigh nitrogen based fertilizer, something like 10-5-5.

Hint Lettuce seed require exposure to sun light to germinate.
Sprinkle seeds on top of the soil, and lightly cover or scratch them into the bed just below the surface of the soil. It is helpful to cover pots and beds with clear plastic to prevent your soil from drying out before your lettuce seed germinate. For best performance, Lettuce must be kept moist, Not Wet, throughout its growing season.

Harvest Lettuce at any stage of growth, small, young plants are tender with a delicate flavor.

Some proven and reliable Lettuce varieties are listed for your consideration.

Cold-Weather Lettuce
Arctic King (green, semiheading)
Brune d’Hiver (green, semiheading)
Rouge d’Hiver (red, romaine type)
Winter Marvel (green, semiheading)

Cool-Weather Lettuce
Buttercrunch (green, semiheading)
Four Seasons (red and green, semiheading)
Lolla Rossa (red, leaf lettuce)
Royal Oakleaf (green, leaf lettuce)
Tom Thumb (green, semiheading)

Heat-Tolerant Lettuce
Black Seeded Simpson (green, leaf lettuce)
Craquerelle du Midi (green, romaine type)
Red Riding Hood (red, semiheading)
Two Star (green, leaf lettuce)

Kale is a hardy, cool season green that is part of the ‘cole’ cabbage family. It grows best in the spring and fall and can tolerate frosts. Kale is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C.

You can plant kale anytime from early spring to early summer. If you plant kale late in the summer you can harvest it from Fall until the ground freezes in Winter.

Spinach has similar growing conditions and requirements as lettuce, it is nutritious and can be eaten raw or cooked. Spinach is high in iron, calcium, vitamins and is a excellent source of vitamin A, B, and C.

Plant seeds when your soil temperature is 40%F to 75%F. Seeds may fail to germinate in warm soils. Plant seed 1/2 to 1 inch deep and 2 inch apart cover lightly with soil. After germination, thin plants 4 to 6 inches apart. Keep your seed bed damp ‘Not Wet’ to speed germination.

Swiss Chard Plant in full sun or particular shade. Chard prefers full sun early in the season, part shade in summer when it’s warm. Chars will Tolerate moderate frosts, but don’t plant in very early spring. Seed Germinates when your soil reaches 40%F to 95%F, but is best around 70%F.

Chard likes well drained moist (Not Wet) soil. It prefers deep, loose, fertile soil, high in organic matter, with pH 6.0 to 7.0. Needs consistent moisture, especially as plants grow large.
Chard will benefit from a mid season fertilization using a N-P-K of something like 10-5-5.

Beets like full sun and will handle light shade. Beets are not heavy feeders and tolerates low fertility soils. Plant beets in well drained loam to silt loam soil, high in organic matter. Beets tolerate low fertility and light frost but require consistent moisture.

Beet seed Germinates from about 40%F to 85%F but around 50%F is a good soil planting temperature. Seed will begin to emerge in 5 to 8 days. Don’t panic it may take two to three weeks in cooler soils.

Temperature, it’s all about the soil temperature.
Soil temperature is almost never to warm, however, soils that are to cool and damp at worst can cause your seed to rot in the ground and at best take many days to germinate. Seedling in cool soil grow slowly and often do not develop into healthy productive plants.

vegetable seed germination chart

herb seed germination chart

Words of wisdom: Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. Harry S Truman

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Gardening By USDA Hardiness Zone’s

Gardening in USDA Zone’s 10 and 9. Your last frost date will arrive in the next 30 to 45 days allowing you to start planting your 2019 garden.

Zone 8 gardeners will need to plant seed indoors soon giving your seedlings time to reach outdoor planting size by the first or second week of March.

USDA Hardness Zones 5, 6 and 7 gardeners should be getting your 2019 garden seed on order and making plans to plant seeds in starter pots and trays to be planted in your garden starting about the first or second week of April.

First and Last Frost Dates by USDA Hardiness Zone

Find Your – First – Last Frost Date

USDA Hardiness Zone First Frost Date Last Frost Date
1 July 15th June 15th
2 August 15th May 15th
3 September 15th May 15th
4 September 15th May 15th
5 October 15th April 15th
6 October 15th April 15th
7 October 15th April 15th
8 November 15th March 15th
9 December 15th February 15th
10 December 15th January 31st (sometimes earlier)
11 No frost. No frost.

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Cranberry Sauce – For your special holiday season table

harvesting cranberry's
New crop cranberry’s will soon be arriving in your local supermarket. Purchase cranberry’s early in the season to insure you are getting the best and freshest berries.

Cranberry sauce goes well with any type poultry or water fowl as well as many pork dishes.

Galaxy Class Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry’s – Tangerine – Cinnamon – Cloves – Nutmeg with or without added sugar, it’s still the best Cranberry sauce this side of Venus and Mars.

You can add either white cane sugar or dark brown sugar. Make this sauce as sweet or tart as you like.
If you like the tart bite of cranberry’s then omit most of the sugar.

If you do add sugar, start with 1/2 the amount given in this recipe and continue tasting and add sugar until you get the amount of sweetness that is to your liking.

Wash cranberries and tangerine’s well. Dump cranberries into a bowl of cold water, pick out any damaged berries.

In a large sauce pan add 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed tangerine juice with pulp, be sure to remove any seeds that may get into your tangerine juice. [Save tangerine rinds].
Note: Oranges are Not the same thing as tangerines! If your use oranges it will produce a totally different tasting sauce.

Add 1/2 cup cold water
Bring to a slow simmer
Add cranberries
Wrap in cheese cloth: 4 whole cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 anise star add to pot
1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
3/4 cup dark brown sugar – Start with 1/3 cup sugar – add more as needed to your taste
Simmer 5 minutes Note: stir pot often
Decide at this point by tasting if more sugar is needed.
Adding sugar until it is as sweet as you like.

At some point cranberries will start to pop open, this is a good thing, stir to prevent sticking to bottom of your sauce pan.

Cranberry sauce is ready when all or at least most of the cranberries have popped open and the juice has become very thick.

Grate 1 table spoon of tangerine rind into mix.

Remove from heat, remove whole cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick. ‘Carefully’ spoon cranberry sauce into hot sterile canning jar(s), seal and allow to cool.
Under Refrigeration this sauce will keep for several weeks.

Better yet process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Remove from water bath, allow to cool, check jar for proper seal. Will store well for 2 years or more in a cool dark pantry.

This sauce can be placed in zip-lock freezer bags and stored frozen for a year or more.

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Something for ‘almost’ every gardener

April was an unusually cool April for my tiny zone 7b garden.

60 degrees F is kind of, sort of the magic soil temperature needed for many garden vegetable seeds to germinate. It was the last week of April before we approached the 60 degree soil tempeture.

May arrived and my soil has warmed to 71 degrees F and it is still a month until the start of the summer gardening season. Leaving plenty of time for most gardeners to plant summer and fall producing vegetable gardens.

I’m happy with our bamboo project. We planted bamboo in a well contained garden plot about 25 feet long by 12 feet wide near Christmas time 2015 and I have been concerned that I wasted my money on two 6 inch pots of bamboo. However after 2 summers of putting down a good root system this spring bamboo canes have jumped up and some canes are more than 11 feet tall and still growing taller everyday.

I invite new visitors to my tiny blog to search my previous posting. At sometime in the past I have information about almost every vegetable from A – Z as wells as info on raising chickens, rabbits, composting and water saving irrigation ideas.

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Better Late Than Never, Spring Is In The Air

It’s a week past my normal last frost date and maybe, just maybe I have had my last spring frost. A few nights ago it went down to 26 degrees F. and did a lot of damage to tender new plant buds and plants that had leafed out. It, the frost, has set my grapes back at least 1 if not 2 weeks.

Hummingbirds have started arriving. Everyday it seems that I have one or two more than the day before visiting my feeders.
Just my opinion but I think it is a good investment to buy feeders with what sellers call bee and wasp guards. After replacing my old style feeders with new feeders with bee guards having bees and wasp feeding at my hummingbird feeders is no longer a problem me and the hummingbirds must contend with.

The Purple Martin house is open and raise to a height of about 12 feet. My first pair of Martins arrived Saturday and have given their nod of approval.

Chicken have finished molting and have started laying about 1 egg per bird everyday. Just for the record I have 4 hens that are now 4 years old and 3 that are 2 years old.
Grin … now me and extended family have more eggs than we can eat every week and that’s a good thing.
Smiling… as my hens get to old to be useful egg producers, I keep putting out feed and they become yard ornaments for my viewing pleasure.

Cataract surgery on my left eye went well. I’m seeing things that I have not seen well for at least 4 or 5 years. I have a followup doctors visit set for the 18th and he will operate on my right eye on the morning of the 25th.

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Vinegar as a herbicide – Not what you may think

Available alternative products, non-glyphosate based products rarely generate 100% weed control. They perform better on broadleaf weeds than grassy weeds. They are best used in conjunction with optimizing cultural practices such as improving soil health, turf/plant nutrition, irrigation, cultivar election, proper moving, and seeding/plant establishment and overseeding. Avoiding conditions that favor weeds (compacted soils, overwatering, excessive or ill-timed nitrogen applications) and adjusting soil pH to favor desirable plants over weeds increased effectiveness. Most alternative herbicide products are not chemicals, so they are exempt from EPA pesticide registration.

Alternative herbicides fall into 7 product categories: Natural acids (vinegar + citric acids), Herbicidal soaps, Iron-based herbicides, Salt-based herbicides, phytotoxic oils (clove, peppermint, pine, citronella), corn gluten, and combination products (including ingredients from multiple categories).

Alternative herbicides may not be regarded as long term single application herbicides like glyphosate, but as short term “burn-down” products. An initial germination treatment followed by spot treatments later in the season is necessary to minimize persisting perennial weeds. A single application once (or twice) a year is not sufficient to keep “trim” areas (pavement, sidewalk cracks, skin surfaces on playing fields, etc) weed free. Moreover, the cost of alternative products may be higher compared to glyphosate:
higher per application and more applications per year , resulting in higher labor expenses. Alternative herbicides also require higher volumes of water, higher volume pumps and larger nozzles on sprayers.

Ways to improve effectiveness when using alternative herbicides include:
•Thorough spray coverage (to runoff); A large, flat nozzle (ie. 8006) is preferable in turfgrass production
•Add the high label amount of surfactant/adjuvant to improve control
•Treat when weeds are small (2-5 leaves)
•Repeat applications for larger weeds are necessary in most instances.
•Lower concentrations at high spray volumes (i.e. 10% concentration in 70 gallons per acre) appear to be more effective than high concentrations at low spray volumes (i.e.20% concentration in 35 gallons per acre).
From an economical perspective, alternative herbicides cost more than chemical herbicides due to the concentrations and number of applications required. For example, a lawn study in NY found that acetic acid herbicides were more than three times more costly on a square foot basis than glyphosate.

Another study by the U. Mass Transportation Center, showed that glyphosate cost ~$20/mile to control weeds along roadways. They also found that alternative materials (Citric Acid, Acetic Acid, Clove Oil, Scythe® , etc) varied in cost from $360 to $2400 per mile.

Vinegar – Acetic acid, commonly known as vinegar, but also known as ethanoic acid, affects the cell membranes of a plant, causing rapid breakdown/desiccation of foliage tissue on contact.
Herbicidal vinegar is stronger than household vinegar, the acetic acid concentration for herbicidal use is 10 -20%, compared to 5% (household) acetic acid. Acetic acids of 8% or less inert ingredient are exempt from registration by the EPA as a pesticide under EPA Minimum Risk Pesticide, FIFRA. Most states require registration for use of acetic acid as a pesticide.

PROs:
•Excellent control when contacting very small annual broadleaf weeds
•Rapid kill rate (Over 90% of treated plants should die within 24 hours).
•Acetic acid products break down quickly in the environment.
•Most useful for managing weeds in gravel and on patios/sidewalks.
•These contact herbicides fit into an integrated pest management program; although weeds require monitoring for best control timing.
•Non selective, but mainly kill broadleaf weeds. Burns back grasses temporarily.

CONS:
•No residual activity. Will kill or damage any plants they touch.
•Weeds must be small (timing is important – within 2 weeks of germination)
•Roots are not killed; repeat applications are needed for larger weeds and perennial weeds
•Good spray coverage is essential (70 GPA+)
•Sharp vinegar odor may be unpleasant
•Spray equipment must be cleaned after application, particularly metal equipment. Avoid using spray equipment with metal working parts such as metal spray lines or metal nozzles.
•Spray drift may damage desirable plants.
•Do not apply to reactive metals such as aluminum, tin, iron, and items such as fencing or lawn furniture. Avoid spraying the material onto masonry sidewalks and structures. If the product contacts these surfaces, staining, mottling, etching, or other harm to the finishes or surfaces may occur.
•Do not apply more frequently than every two weeks
•Treatments must be delayed 24-48 hours or more after rain
•Severe eye irritation, burns, and possible irreversible damage potential. Vinegars with acetic acid concentrations of 11% or greater can burn the skin and cause severe eye injury, including blindness.
•Severe skin irritation and possible allergic sensitization.
•Prolonged or repeated exposure may cause dermatitis, chronic bronchitis, and erosion of teeth.

SUMMARY
Research has found that 5-10% acetic acid herbicide products can give viable control of very small, young weeds that have only 1-2 leaves (or within 2 weeks of germination). Larger weeds (with 3-4 leaves) are likely to survive treatment, but using higher (20%) concentrations of acetic acid and increasing the application volume (from 20 to 100 gpa) can improve weed control. Total crabgrass and grass weed control in a 2006 USDA study occurred with 20% acetic acid applied at 100 gpa, resulting in weed control that ranged from 28 to 45%. Multiple applications improve long term control. Broadleaf and annual weeds tend to be more susceptible than grassy weeds and perennial weeds, which show initial signs of damage but generally recover. Nonetheless, using acetic acid on weeds with tap roots (dandelions, Canada thistle), may only result in top kill unless the weed is very young.

COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE ACETIC ACID PRODUCTS
Check with your state to determine if a product is registered to be used as a pesticide.
Bradfield Natural Horticultural Vinegar – 20% vinegar (acetic acid) + yucca extract. (Bradfield
Organics) NOT OMRI Listed Burn-out – 25% acetic acid (St. Gabriel Laboratories).

Grotek Elimaweed Weed And Grass Killer – 7.15% acetic acid (GREENSTAR PLANT PRODUCTS)

Maestro Gro’s Organic Vinegar. 20% acetic acid (Ag Organics/Nature’s Wisdom) 1 gal %15.79

Natural Weed Control – 0.2% citric acid, 8% acetic acid + water. (Nature’s Wisdom/Ag Organics).

Soil Mender 10% Vinegar – 10% acetic acid (made from grain alcohol and not from glacial acetic acid), orange oil, molasses, and a natural surfactant.

Vinagreen Natural Non Selective Herbicide- 20% acetic acid (CMC Chemical)

Weed Pharm Fast Acting Weed And Grass Killer – 20% vinegar (acetic acid) (PharmSolutions.

Things you may or may not know about Glyphosate

Glyphosate was patented by Monsanto under the trade name ‘RoundUp’ in 1974. Glyphosate is now widely available from many manufacturers under numerous trade names after patent protection ended in 2000: RoundUp, KleenUp, Accord, Imitator, Eraser, Pronto, Rodeo, etc.. There are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the U.S according to the National Pesticide Information Center.

As a non-selective herbicide, glyphosate will kill most plants it contacts. Accordingly, it can be used for vegetation cleanup prior to all types of planting, e.g. field/bed/turfgrass preparation or renovation. It can be spot sprayed for general weed control or sprayed directly over top of specific crops at certain times of year (e.g. over Christmas trees/conifers in the fall). No other herbicide works as well on perennial grasses as glyphosate particularly late in the season.

Glyphosate does not leach through soil like some herbicides and has low mammalian toxicity, it has been considered to be very safe toxicologically and environmentally, with hundreds of studies showing the active ingredient to be less acutely toxic than common table salt or aspirin.
The EPA does not consider glyphosate to be a human carcinogen.

If you have a problem with the Glyphosate information above, take your concerns to the USDA, FDA, EPA or Monsanto

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Garlic – Spring planting for Fall harvest

For my gardening friends. You can still plant garlic for late summer and fall harvest. If your soil is not frozen solid. Dig and loosen your soil, till in compost if you have access to compost. Else stir in a little 5-10-5 or similar N-P-K rated fertilized. Plant your garlic cloves, [Don’t laugh, pointed end up] 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. Measure from the top of your garlic clove. Space cloves about 4 inches apart.
Cover with mulch if you can. Other wise, wash your hands and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Growing Hint: Garlic needs from about 180 to 210 growing days from planting to harvest mature garlic bulbs.

Garlic types are either Hard Neck or Soft Neck.
Generally speaking, Hard neck varieties are better suited to be grown in the northern 1/2 of the U.S. Unless you want to harvest ‘garlic ‘scapes’, Soft neck varieties seem to be better suited to the southern 1/2 of the U.S. and seem to store for a longer period of time than hard neck garlic.

Going against what many gardeners say. I have never had any problems planting garlic that I picked up at my supermarket.

Garlic Nutrition :
Raw Garlic – 6 cloves – About Calories: 27
* manganese 15% —– * vitamin B6 13% —– * vitamin C 7%
* copper 6% —– * selenium 5% —– * phosphorus 4%
* calcium 3% —– * vitamin B 13%

There has been many millions of pages written about the good health benefits of garlic. Who am I to go against the opinions of so many expert gardeners and health specialist. A touch of garlic makes everything, except scotch wiskey, taste better.

Hint garlic can be harvested at any size. Try fresh young garlic in your recipes for a different and refreshing flavor. * Use tender young garlic tops finely chopped as a garnish to add flavor and color to pasta dishes.

I didn’t know this: Elephant garlic is not a true garlic, but actually a variant of the garden leek.

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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