This is a great time of year for picking pears and apples! YUMMY recipes will be filling the house with the delicious scents of approaching fall. From canned pear slices, pear sauce (like applesauce), pear honey, pear desserts and just eating them we go through lots this time of year. Read on for the secret of how to know your pears are ready to pick!… Read More »
When the ground is still too cold to start planting (most things), take a little time and start some seeds! Gather some kids (preferably ones you know) and teach them about how a plant starts! It’s fun, easy, and cost effective over buying started plants.
Some seeds need to be started indoors instead of sowing directly into the garden. To determine if your seeds need to be started, you can read the back of your seed packet. Here is a graphic to help determine when to start sowing seeds indoors (zone 5). See www.veggieharvest.com for other zones.
Tomatoes, peppers, cabbage family, broccoli, cauliflower, squash (although I always direct sow squash and never have an issue), cucumbers (again, I direct sow with no issue), onion seed (not sets), some flowers/herbs, and melons all should be started.
Of course you can just purchase plants and not worry about starting them yourself but if you want to, it is quite simple and fun to watch them grow!
You will need a container to start your seed in. There are many options for this, here are a few examples:
- A commercial seed starting container. I re-use ones from flowers/vegetables that I had purchased before.
- Small yogurt or similar type container
- Egg cartons
- Empty, cleaned out egg shells (just the top removed)
- Milk cartons
You can choose to start with a small container to germinate the seeds and then move the seedling to a larger container once it is about 2 inches tall. Make sure that there are a couple holes in the bottom of whatever container you choose, so the water can drain properly.
I recommend using a commercial seed starting soil for starting your seeds. You wont have to worry about bugs, weeds, or possible disease that may be in your garden soil. Plus, commercial seed starter is very light and does not get dense, allowing the seeds to germinate easier. Many are also formulated to hold the correct amount of water (as long as drainage is available) so the seeds/plants do not drown or dry out too quickly. Commercial starter is fairly inexpensive and definitely worth the purchase. If you are in a pinch, you can use garden soil, just sanitize it by baking in the oven at 170°F-180°F for about 2 hours.
This is a very essential part of starting seeds. They need to have light/warmth to germinate. Place your planted seeds in a sunny window of your home, under fluorescent light, or in a greenhouse. Many commercial seed starting kits have a clear dome that go over the tray to trap in the moisture and help with the heat (works like a mini-greenhouse). They work great! You can also use clear plastic wrap as well, just gently place over the container (not directly on soil) and remove once plant is touching.
It is important to keep the soil moist but also not have too much water. If there is any standing water in your container, that is too much. If the soil is moist to the touch, it is perfect. Check them everyday to make sure they do not dry out. Keeping them in a greenhouse or under a dome/clear wrap cover helps keep them moist as well.
Steps to start your seeds
- Gather materials. Container(s), soil, seeds, water, tray, popsicle sticks or anything to label plants.
- Place containers on a tray (plate, pie pan, commercial seed tray, etc) this prevents water from going everywhere when it drains out the bottom of your container.
- Fill containers with soil, almost to top. Water the soil.
- Plant seeds. Sow according to directions on packet. Make sure to not plant them too deep.
- Lightly water. A spray bottle works nice for this, it helps to prevent seeds from moving around by heavy watering.
- Label (if planting more than one kind of seed). I recommend labeling each container. Especially when planting different varieties of the same kind of plant!
- Cover with plastic wrap or dome (if applicable) and place in warm sunny spot.
Not all seeds germinate in the same amount of time. Your seed packet will give you information on your specific seeds. Once seedlings have sprouted, you can start removing the dome cover or plastic wrap if you used it. When seedlings are about 2 inches high (or have developed a couple sets of true leaves), transplant to a larger container if you used a small one to start with.
Be sure to “harden off” seedlings before planting in the garden. This is essentially just getting the plants acclimated to the outdoors. A couple weeks before you will be planting, start setting them outside for a few hours each day, slowly increasing the length of time they are outside until they are out 24/7.
Be sure to check out my other Gardening Posts:
You have purchased or planned out what seeds (and/or plants) you are going to be putting in your garden, now its time to figure out how you want your garden to look and where things are going to go.… Read More »
After being cooped up all winter (I’m a wus when it comes to the cold), I am itching to get my hands dirty in the garden! I know that once July comes along and I’m up to my eyeballs in weeds, I’ll be cursing. However, no matter what I say in my time of frustration, I ultimately love my gardens.
Winter and early spring is the perfect time to start planning your garden! I would ideally like to have it all planned by March but with the addition of our third child, time is just not on my side. That’s okay though, still plenty of time to get it figured out! You have even more time if you don’t plan on starting any seeds indoors. My experience is in Wisconsin, so your growing season will differ depending on what zone you are in.
Here’s how I begin:
Evaluating Previous Year
(Skip this step if this is your first year gardening)
First off, I take out all my seed packets from last year. I sort the ones with remaining seeds from the empty ones. There is NO need to throw away those extra seeds! Use them year after year. In fact, once I used a packet of cherry tomato seeds for 6 years before I ran out and they still grew as good as they did the first year (trust me, no one wants 30 cherry tomato plants in one year)! As long as they don’t get wet or moldy, they should be just fine.
I go through all the empty ones to see what I ordered last year. That helps me remember what ones worked (and I can re-order) and what ones I didn’t like so I don’t order them again. Example: last year my zucchini plants died suddenly without any obvious reason (pretty sure zucchini could be grown in concrete so it was very odd that it just up and died) therefore, I will not order that kind again.
This year I am also going to create a binder with my seed packets. I will record how many I planted and what the yield was. That way, when I order next year, I will have an even better idea of what I need. This memory of mine needs as much help as it can get!
After this, I make a list of what I want to plant this year. One year I planted eggplant. I wanted to try it and it is just such a pretty plant to grow! However (despite trying many recipes), we decided we just don’t like the flavor. So I don’t plant it anymore.
Some things we don’t plant every year. Like pickling cucumbers. We end up canning so many that they last us a couple of years, so we only plant them every 2 years. I do like to add new things to the garden. Maybe one or two each year. This year I’m adding parsnips and turnips.
If it is your first time gardening, start out small and with vegetables that you know your family likes. Then once you get the hang of it, add more. Also, try easy to grow things first.
Easy to grow:
Zucchini/summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes, beets, lettuce, green beans, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, radishes, and peppers are all fairly easy to grow and I recommend trying these if it is your first time gardening.
Hard(er) to grow:
Watermelon, cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, head lettuce, eggplant, sweet potato, artichokes are all harder plants to grow. Water intake, temperature needed, cross pollination issues, and pests are among the reasons that these are more difficult plants to grow. Although they are not impossible, I’d just recommend plating some easy ones if it is your first time gardening.
You will also need to take into consideration the size/set up of your garden and the size of the plants. Example: squash and zucchini plants take up a lot of room. Not an ideal choice for a container or small garden.
Next, I get out my seed catalogs. I’m not sure why, but for some reason seed companies do not like sending catalogs to our address. I’ve tried so many times and they never come (except for one). Luckily for me I have family that give me their extras.
Last year I discovered a (relatively) local Amish greenhouse that sells organic seeds. We went there and were excited with their selection and prices! For less money than I was spending with other companies, I can plant all organic seeds. I bought quite a bit through them and was so impressed with the quality, I am ordering everything through them this year. *Side note* We are so excited that this year our gardens can actually be classified “organic” as there have not been any chemicals on them for the past three years! Added bonus- they actually sent me a catalog! Yes! However, there isn’t a lot of description (and no pictures) so I use my other catalogs to compare. Some of the seeds are exclusive to them so there isn’t any info on them in other catalogs but cross referencing helps me a lot.
Once you decide what plant, you need to decide what variety to get. There are so many options out there! You need to take into consideration what you want out of your garden. Do you want to just eat it all fresh or do you want to preserve some? If so, you need to find varieties that can or freeze well. If you want to make spaghetti sauce, for example, you will want to plant some Roma-type tomatoes as they are great for sauce making.
A good catalog with decent pictures (really it helps!) and descriptions can be extremely helpful. I recommend Gurney’s, Jung’s, and R.H. Shumway’s. The Amish company I am ordering from is Ross & Supplies out of Hillsboro, WI. If you don’t have any catalogs, they all have websites as well (except for Ross & Supplies), if you click on their names I’ve linked them all. I prefer having the catalog in hand but online research, shopping, and ordering is great as well!
Of course, you can always go through your local hardware store to buy your seeds. There are many options out there! I highly recommend doing a little research on different varieties before going though, otherwise you may be overwhelmed with the selection. Bush or pole beans? Heirloom, Roma, Cherry, Grape tomatoes….? Organic or not? Treated/untreated? Innoculant? There is a lot to consider and a little prep ahead of time can make it a lot less confusing!
I hope this helps you with your first step in setting up your garden this year! Taking the time to evaluate, list, and research what to plant is a very helpful and important step in successful gardening!
As always, please feel free to comment or email me with additional questions or helpful tips!