Monday, March 27, 2017

How And When Do We Thin Seedlings?

This can be an emotionally painful experience for some gardeners - pulling out some of the seedlings in order to allow enough space for others to grow.  After planting seeds and dutifully watering, watching, waiting and hoping over them and they finally sprout from the surface of the earth, it seems just so horrible to have to destroy any of them!  But it must be done in order to have a successful crop.
The best time to thin seedlings is right after germination so the new root systems won't have so much competition.  Some crops will need thinning several times.
The best way is to find out the spacing/thinning recommendations on the seed packets and pull out the seedlings in-between the recommended intervals.
You can use a measuring tape as a guide or you can eyeball it.  See the before and after photos below of radish seedlings.
Get it over with - the sooner, the better.
thinning radish seedlings - before 

thinning radish seedlings - after

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Succession Planting For The Home Vegetable Garden

Succession Planting can mean several different things.  I want to talk about succession planting for the home garden - for small crops in small spaces.  Some vegetable plants produce harvest all summer and into the fall, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants and swiss chard.  Other vegetable plants are harvestable only once and then they are all done for the season - like lettuce, beets, peas, and radishes, for example.  You harvest these vegetables when they are ready and then the plant is either gone (because you dug it up and ate it) or it is not going to flower again (like peas).
With this in mind, think about spreading that harvest time out over a month or two instead of having ALL of the harvest of ONE thing happen within a few days.
We can do this by succession planting - plant some of the seeds for a particular crop one week, then more the next week, more the week after that, etc.  By not planting the whole row of peas in one day and instead, spreading the plantings out, you will have small amounts of peas each week from late June through the end of July.
If, however, you are planning on preserving the harvest in some way (like canning or freezing) and you want the harvest to happen all at once, then plant the seeds all at once.
harvesting the salad garden

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Can I Plant Peas?

The rule of thumb for planting peas - St. Patrick's Day is the day to start plating peas in Utah.  They will flower and produce peas in June.  Then, in July, you can remove the plants and plant something else in that space - maybe a fall crop of lettuce or spinach.  Or maybe more peas!
plant peas on St. Patrick's Day

peas will grow in Utah!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Any Day Now!!

One of my favorite harbingers of spring is the crocus.  These sweet flowers are among the first to bloom in March.  Crocus are planted in the fall (tiny bulbs) and they are available mostly in white, purple and yellow.  They don't last long but they cheerfully announce the arrival of warmer days and the beginning of the gardening season.
Crocus Flowers

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Does "Germination" Mean?

Germination is "the development of a plant from a seed or spore after a period of dormancy".  In other words, it is when a seed "sprouts" and starts to send up stems and leaves.  This process is activated in response to moisture and warmth.  That's why we have to wait until spring to plant most seeds in the garden - the soil needs to warm up and reach a certain temperature, or the seeds won't sprout.
Most seed packets mention germination in the planting instructions.  You might see something there about "soil temperature needed for germination".  Garden centers sell soil thermometers so you can take the temperature of your soil.  There might also be something about "days to germination".  Days to germination is good to know because if it takes two weeks, you won't be worrying and wondering why you don't see the seedlings coming up.
In a nutshell, the warmer the soil is, the faster the germination will happen!  And if your soil is dry, you will need to keep it moist.
thermometer for soil temperature

germination - when seeds sprout!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Starting Seeds Indoors

These are my Aunt and Uncle.  They are enthusiastic vegetable gardeners and they like to start seeds indoors in the spring.  It saves some money on plants, gives them a jump on the season and gives them a sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that "we grew it" - from a tiny seed to the dinner table!
I asked them recently about their experience with starting seeds indoors (successes and failures, etc. ) and here is what they wrote (see pictures below):

We like the little green house we got from Home Depot. About $40. We’ve seen them at Smith’s and Lowe’s and other garden centers. There are bigger ones and smaller ones. In the picture, you’ll see we’ve rigged up lights and fans on power strips and with a timer.

We started with seed plantings in March, following the instructions on the packages about germination times, maturity times, temperature sensitivities, etc. If started too early plants can get very leggy

The pictures show the progress through establishment, hardening off, and delivery to the garden.

We generally had good luck with winter and summer squash, Tomatillos, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, melons, cantaloupe, Flowers (4 o’clocks, marigolds, nasturtiums, etc).

We haven’t had good luck with peppers nor tomatoes. A friend of ours started Tomatoes early and tended them until after Mother’s day and they did ok…We’re going to let the stores do the work on tomatoes and peppers. Our Aunt Nelly’s Ground Cherry failed to sprout at home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Which Vegetable Seeds Should I Plant In The Ground And Which Should I Start Indoors?

This can be a little confusing and there are no rules set in stone.  What works for one gardener might not work for another.  And the gardening police aren't going to show up and tell you you've done it all wrong.  Don't be afraid to experiment.   Just be aware that (as with all gardening) there can be some failure.  Don't let it get you down.  Be joyous about the successes!

I have made some general lists of seeds to start indoors and seeds to plant in the garden and plants to purchase at your local independent nursery.  You will see that some vegetables appear on both (or all three) lists.  Be sure to read the seed packet instructions and know your average last frost date.

Vegetable seeds to plant directly in the garden:
*all root vegetables (carrots, beets, radishes)
potatoes (from seed potatoes, not seeds)
swiss chard
all greens
cucurbits (gourds, melons, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers)
onions (sets or starts)
leeks (starts)
garlic (in the fall)

Vegetable seeds to start indoors:
cucurbits (gourds, melons, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers)
swiss chard
*no root vegetables

Vegetable plants to buy at the plant nursery:
In March and April:
brussels sprouts
In May and June: