Saturday, February 25, 2012

Column, March 7, 2012

Last week my husband and I cleaned out our garden beds.  We live in Stone County, so true to its name, there are lots of stones.  We carted off a wheel barrow load of small stones that have appeared since last spring.  We added more soil because it seems to disappear.  Now, the beds are ready for seedlings or seeds next month.

Stone Ideas
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Stone Walk and Garden Pool
For those of us that have abundance of stones, they can be put to good use.  Use them to make garden beds, flower beds, garden pools, walk ways, or simply add a large stone as a focal point.  To the right is my rock pool and walk that my sons help me to create years ago.

What To Do With Those Seedlings
     Last week we talked about sowing seeds, so now here’s a few tips for caring for your seedlings. 
     When too many seeds germinate in the container, snip off unwanted seedlings at soil level with small clean scissors.  Too many seedlings in single container will compete for space and nutrients.
     If the seedling becomes too large for its container, the seedling will have to be transplanted to a larger container.  Handle young seedlings only by their seed leaves and avoid touching the true leaves, stem and roots. 
     By the time seedlings show their first true leaves they are ready for a little fertilizer.  Water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizer or fish emulsion works fine when mixed at half the recommended strength and applied once a week.
     One or two weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors, harden them off by setting the containers outside in a lightly shaded area sheltered from strong wind.  Set plants out for a few hours at first, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outdoors and the amount of sun they receive.  Transplant seedlings to the garden on a cloudy, still day, if possible.  Water well and provide temporary shade if the weather becomes very warm and sunny until the plants are established. 
     The seedlings can be planted outdoors at the end of March.  Or you can sow your spring crop seeds at the same time.  For your area, check the old farmers’ almanac for planting times.

Plant Of The Week
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 One of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring is azaleas.  Azaleas are found growing around old homestead and historical homes throughout the south.  They are a hardy plant of the Rhododendron family, and prefer moist, acidic soil with light shade.  They are available in colors from pink, red, purple, to white, singles and ruffles.  Their size varies from 1-20 feet, so you’re sure to find a place in your landscape for a few.  Azaleas grow well under taller shade trees, especially pine because they drop their acidic needles and provide excellent mulch. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Herbs In The Kitchen

Cooks have been growing herbs in pots on their kitchen windowsills for hundreds of years. They're at arms length, ready for season food whenever needed. There are a variety of containers to choose from available at garden centers. Fill containers with a good well-balanced soil mix. The soil dries quickly in containers, so water daily. Also, plants need fertilizer regularly. Of course organic is best, but chemical fertilizer can be used. Watch the plants, if they look yellow or stressed, they need care. The pot also needs to be rotated in the window, because the plant will bend and grow toward the light. Try basil, rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, and chives to name a few.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Column, Feb. 22, 2012

Can You Believe This Winter?    
     Winter has been unusually mild this year, so I’ve been tempted to sow seeds early.  But, the old farmer’s almanac tells me that spring crops can be sown indoors February 15-29 with February 21-29 being moon favorable dates.
     Seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, and summer peppers and tomatoes may be sown on these dates.

Basic Requirements For Starting Seeds
     All seeds have similar basic requirements for growing:  Containers, Soil, Moisture, Warmth, Light, and Food.
     Any container can be used to start seeds.  Plastic flats, small clay pots, peat pots and flats, paper cups, and many others may be used. 
     Seeds need light, loose soil that does not host fungi that cause seedlings to rot.  Buy peat-based mixes that are designed specifically for starting seeds.  Never use garden soil.
     Moisten the germinating medium before sowing seeds.  Keep the moisture in the medium of a wrung-out sponge.  Cover the containers with plastic wrap or clear top while the seeds are germinating.  Remove the cover as soon as seeds sprout.  Cut back on watering then too. 
     Many seeds need extra warmth to germinate.  In general, seeds germinate best if the soil temperature is around 75 degrees.  However, some cool-natured plants (like lettuce) prefer 65 degrees.  Special heating mats can be used.
     Seedlings need lots of light to flourish.  Light-starved seedlings are leggy and pale, stretching toward the nearest light source.  The best way to provide adequate light is with fluorescent tubes.  Use a pair of 4 to 6 inch fluorescent shop tubes in a fixture that hangs from chains.  Hang the light fixture 2 to 4 inches above the plants.  This provides enough light for two full-size flats.
     When the seedlings show their first true leaves they are ready for a little fertilizer.  Water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizers or fish emulsion works fine when mixed at half the recommended strength and applied once a week. 

How To Sow Seed
     After filling the each pot with moistened soil, make a small hole in the center of the pot using a stick or pencil.  The depth depends on the size of the seed.  As a rule, the seed should be sown twice as deep as the size of the seed.  For example, a broccoli seed is small, so cover it ¼ inch.  A squash seed is large, so cover it 1 inch.
     Firm the soil around the seed and cover with plastic wrap or clear top, place in a warm light area.  Remove when germination occurs. 

What To Do With The Seedling
     Check in with The Garden Advisor next week for more ideas.

Plant Of The Week
Brussels Sprouts
Individual Brussels sprouts resemble tiny cabbages.  They are a late season treat, when frost has sweetened their flavor.  This plant prefers well drained and fertile soil, with adequate calcium levels; pH 6.0-6.8.  Brussels sprouts require a long growing season and are best when matured in cool weather.  Short season vegetables gardeners may set out transplants when they sow other spring crops; in the other areas, wait until late spring.  Space plants about 24 inches apart and keep weeded or mulched.  Pinch off top leaves to encourage side growth.  Rotate with non-cabbage family crops to avoid soil borne fungal and viral diseases.  Use row covers to deter flea beetle, cabbage worms, and root maggots, or use BT.  Keep well watered and grow in fertile soil to reduce vulnerability to aphids.  Matures 90-120 days, so harvest lower sprouts by breaking off the leaves below and snapping off the sprout.  Sprouts higher up will continue to grow.  Entire stalks can also be harvested, and sprouts can be frozen.  Sprouts keep for several weeks on the stalk if you pull up the whole plant and keep it in a cold place.

Welcome To My Blog

Grow Something Today For Tomorrow

Welcome to my new blog! I'm so excited that spring is almost here. In the next growing season, I will post on gardening, plants, garden furniture, and other creative things. Please post your questions or comments.