Archive for September, 2009

Seed starting problem

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

spinach_samishI have planted carrots, radishes and spinach all from organic seeds from Lowe’s. They don’t seem to be growing after planting indoors or out. I purchased organic dirt with food already in the soil. What am I doing wrong or what do I need in my soil to help them grow? Rebecca

Answer: I am sorry your seeds didn’t take off but unfortunately you’ve provided way too little information to determine why they did not perform. Every seed has its own particular needs to establish germination. Just using a product labeled “organic” is not a guarantee of a healthy plant if the correct growing conditions are not met. I would suggest you research the needs for each item. 

For instance, spinach is a cool season crop that likes nice cool nights and warmish days with good even moisture, making it perfect to plant in most areas of the country right now. Why don’t you try some of our Bloomsdale or Samish Organic Spinach Seed. Follow the directions listed on the seed packet and you will have a nice crop of spinach in approximately 45 days.

Keep trying and best of luck!


Make Seed Germination Easy with Jiffy-7

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

jiffy7Anyone who has ever attempted to germinate their own seedlings, indoors, for a head start on their garden has probably had a great number of failures, sometimes equal to or greater than their successes. Unfortunately, starting seeds outside in the garden can be just as unfulfilling. Weather conditions, especially in early spring, can greatly affect the number, if any, of seeds that will grow to healthy plants.

Seeds require specific conditions for optimal growth, and those conditions can be hard to meet when germinating seeds in egg cartons on your windowsill. Temperatures fluctuate, cloudy days occur, humidity is not constant, especially when the weather is still cold outside, and it is so easy to over water or under water. Basically, if you just miss one day of careful attention to those babieswell, you've been there.

Jiffy-7® products have taken much of the guess work out of seed germination. The Jiffy-7 products optimize growing conditions, resulting in a much higher, sometimes as high as 100%, germination rate. The heat mats or heated germination units provide a constant, thermostatically controlled temperature, so important to starting seeds on their growth cycle. The domed greenhouse-like lids insure that the humidity remains high and stable, something which is almost impossible to achieve without a greenhouse. Jiffy has thought of everything. Even the Jiffy-7 peat pellets, specifically designed to fit their trays, have been enhanced with the necessary minerals and vitamins necessary for seed germination. Jiffy-7 trays are re-usable and recyclable. They come with complete instructions so even the novice can succeed at this delicate task.

Make your life easier! We all get great pleasure from watching those seeds sprout and grow into healthy plants to be transplanted to our springtime gardens. Quit wasting money on seeds that never sprout and on growing medium that goes to waste. Jiffy-7 makes it easy to maintain the proper growing conditions!  Insure your success by investing in these Jiffy-7 products; you will find them invaluable in terms of your success and the productivity and beauty of your gardens.

What can be planted in 4-6 hours of sun?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

tomato_sunI live in Zone 8/9 and want garden vegetables that will tolerate 4 to 6 hours of direct sun. The garden is in between two houses facing north. Any ideas? Sam

Answer: Zone 8 and 9 can vary since you could be in Florida, Georgia or Texas; therefore you will need to include soil make-up as well, when considering what vegetables to plant. With your longer growing season you can grow most any vegetable plant but you may need to investigate soil additives after you determine the pH of your site with a soil test kit. Four to six hours of sun would be considered full sun, so any pepper, cauliflower, bean, tomato or melon will be perfectly happy and will produce an abundance of blooms. Cool season plants like lettuce, radish and spinach would be fine in the early season, Jan. – March or late season, Sept. – Oct. but will wilt away during the heat of the summer. Squash can also be planted as early as April. There are several online guides to the exact timing. 

Hope that helps. Karen

Can I Overwinter Fuchsia?

Monday, September 28th, 2009

darkeyesI have 3 Dark Eyes Fuchsia plants. One is fairly large, the other 2 quite small. I would like to keep them over the winter but it gets much too cold here. How can I keep them over the winter?

Answer: Fuchsias are pretty easy to overwinter but they do desire a period of rest, so they are not an attractive winter houseplant. Discontinue any feeding by September to allow them to begin their descent into dormancy.  I bring mine inside before the first frost.  When you bring them inside they will prefer a bright, cool location free from drafts. You will want to slowly reduce watering in October and November as the blooms and leaves fade. Once the leaves have dropped, trim the stems back to about six inches above the soil. You can store your resting plant anywhere, as long as the temperature does not drop below 40 degrees F.  Basements or garages will work. Check on it throughout the winter, making sure the soil does not become too dry, and during this dormancy period you do not want to fertilize it. Your plant should start to show some signs of new growth once the spring returns. When you see these signs you can place it in a cool location or return it to an outside shaded area, if all danger of frost has passed. Trim back the new growth to encourage more fullness. Once the growth has begun you can return to usual watering and fertilizing routines.

Guarding Against Deer, The Easy Way

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

XtremDeerInUseEveryone is captivated by the beauty of deer, with their lean and elegant physiques and peaceful demeanors.  However, when they forage in your yard, garden, landscape beds, or crops, their loveliness is no longer so admired.

Deer Barrier by Easy Gardener offers the most efficient, economical, and effective means of protecting your garden produce, shrubbery and treasured landscape plants from being dinner for four-legged wildlife.  This black mesh barrier is quick and easy to install, and it gets the job done without obscuring the beauty of your natural environment.

Made of UV-protected poly mesh material, Deer Barrier is designed to last.  It won't rust, rot or corrode, and it doesn't conduct electricity.  It also withstands climate changes and won't fade due to sun exposure. It also has openings too small for feet to get caught in, so no humans or invading wildlife can be trapped by it.

Deer Barrier is lightweight and has no rough edges, making it a cinch to install.  It attaches easily to fences, posts and trees to provide a physical barrier that is sheer enough to barely be visible.  It is available in three package sizes:  7' x 100', 7' x 350'.

By securing Deer Barrier to the ground, and around the perimeter of your garden, you can also keep vermin, dogs, rabbits and raccoons away from your maturing produce.  This mesh is strong and resilient and animals steer clear of areas protected by its physical limiting abilities.

If you're looking for a one-man, fast and low-tech installation, this mesh fence is your answer.  Deer Barrier is the most transportable and maneuverable material available.  Depending on the durability you seek, you can even use a basic wood stapler and have a complete barrier constructed in minutes.  For a more stable, permanent fence, consider strapping cords to secure each few yards to upright posts.

A great way to contain pets, Deer Barrier can also be used for temporary housing to keep animals in.  It sets up quickly when a pen is needed.  Since it is easy to roll and unroll, it can be used over and over.  And because it contains no metal or sharp edges, it's safe to use around the animals you want to protect, as well as the ones you wish to repel.  You can feel like a good environmental steward by using poly mesh instead of metal or treated wood materials that break down and harm the soil.

One of the biggest benefits of Deer Barrier is its low cost.  It can be attached to existing upright posts or trees, or a few inserted new posts, in minutes.  Very little investment is required for the average property owner, and certainly the cost of your plants and yard are well worth the protection!

When Should Kale, Collards & Brussels Be Planted?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

brusselsI live in North VA and buy mostly all of my vegetable plants from Garden Harvest Supply. I’d like to know when would be the best time of the year for me to plant Kale, Collards, and Brussel Sprouts? Thank you.

Answer:  The best time for planting these items is in the early spring. Kale, collards, cabbages, Brussels sprouts and lettuces are considered “cool-season crops,” meaning they need the cool soil and air temperatures to germinate and develop. Generally they are shallow-rooted and thus require constant, even moisture. Once the temperatures start to rise their development will start to decline, so you want to get them into the ground once the threat of hard frost has passed. Some varieties can tolerate light frosts so you would need to check each variety to be sure. If you are purchasing plant starts from Garden Harvest Supply, they will be shipped to you at the proper planting time. If you are starting from seed indoors, check the germination time on the package and count backwards from the last frost date of your area to know when to start the seed. The nice thing about the cool-season crops is you can have a second season in the fall. Determine what the first hard frost date is for your area and based on the “days to maturation” listing for each crop, count backwards and set out a second round of crops in the fall.

Have a great harvest!

Which plants for a sloped area?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

heuchera_gingeraleWe recently put up a retaining wall. On the back side of the wall is a steep slope. I would like to plant thia area with items that look nice and will control erosion with little care after established. The area is also quite large. What do you suggest?  Thanks, Shelly

Answer: You do not say the conditions of the area or your location. My suggestions will be pretty general for that reason.

First you want to make sure you are planting only perennial plants, those that come back every year. They still require some maintenance but generally just some occasional cutting back or deadheading.

If this is a sunny location, consider first a low-growing ground cover like Euphorbia or Sedum; also, Ajuga, but it would prefer a little shade. You could mix in some tall grasses – there are so many varieties and sizes to choose from. These, once established, are very drought tolerant, as are Agastaches, Achillea and Salvias. Don’t forget some fall color with Asters, Rudbeckia or Mums. Artemisia can also make a beautiful planting but if really happy can get to be a bit of a thug, so be watchful. It’s worth the work for some because of its unusual silver foliage and fragrance that repels bugs.

If this is a shaded location then you can never go wrong with Hostas, Heucheras and Heucherellas, Ferns and Brunneras.  In time they will form a complete ground cover. All will tolerate some morning or late afternoon sun but really want some protections from the hot midday sun. Actaea makes a striking mass planting but they can get quite tall, so don’t block out your view with them.

I hope that helps point you in a helpful direction.

Best of luck with the slope.

What should be done once broccoli starts flowering?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

broccoliI was just wondering what I should do when broccoli starts flowering. It’s quite a small head and I’ve been reading up a bit on the Net and it says to let it go to seed. Is it still possible to eat the broccoli with a few flowers on it? If not, how should I go about letting it seed because these things are really new to me and I would love to have more seeds to plant. Should I cut off the head of broccoli and what do I do with the head to make it seed? And what would be the process to get the seeds out? I look forward to your reply. Regards, Abby

Answer: What we generally think of as broccoli is really a bunch of developing flower buds, so when growing broccoli you should cut the main center stalk as soon as it looks like a bunch you would eat. There will be lots of shoots developing off the side branches. Each of these “heads” will produce a number of flowers and if pollinated will produce a number of seeds. Once the seed pods have developed and ripened, and turned brown, you can harvest the seeds and save in a cool location for early spring planting next year. If the plants you are harvesting are from a hybrid variety and if you are growing other plants of the brassic family, such as cauliflower or cabbage, you might get some unexpected results next season because they are prone to cross-pollination. For this reason you might consider just purchasing seed or starter plants and harvesting your broccoli for eating. As for eating the flowers, apparently they are editable and there are even recipes for broccoli flower soup.

Good luck with your broccoli harvesting.

Growing Papaya from Seeds

Monday, September 14th, 2009

papaya_seedI work on a property in Brisbane and was wondering if you could give me any tips on how to grow papaya from seeds. I’ve got a heap of seeds drying out at the moment and have been looking for info on how to go about germinating them. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Regards Abby

Answer: If you have harvested the seeds, then I will assume you have washed and cleaned the outer coating from the ripe seeds, the darker ones. The drying process should take place in a cool place. Dusting the seeds with a fungicide is recommended, as is planting the seeds as soon as they have dried. Papaya seedlings do not transplant well; it is best to start with a large container so that you will only need to transplant once. Of course, you could just start them outside in the bed to completely avoid the stress of transplanting. Papaya seeds, unfortunately, are also prone to ‘damping off'; using a light, sterile planting mix is highly recommended. The seeds will take about fourteen days to germinate, so be patient.

As the seedlings develop, remove the weaker ones. Once they begin to flower, you will want to remove the majority of the male plants, just leaving a few to pollinate the flowers on the female plants. How do you tell the difference between male and female?  The male plants will flower earlier than the females and you can thin them as they bloom, always keeping the strongest. Their flowers will have long, thin stalks with several smallish blooms, while the female blooms are singular, larger, and closer to the trunk of the tree. One male plant can pollinate approximately fifteen plants.

I hope this helps and that you have a bountiful crop of tasty papayas.

Organic Method for Black Scurge on Peaches

Friday, September 11th, 2009

I have 2 peach trees in my back yard, and I have used 2 fungicides (Captan and wettable sulfur) to prevent “scurge,” a black scurge which invovlved  the skin of the peaches. Is there anything “organic” that you have to prevent the “scurge”? Thank you very much, Bob

Answer: Bob, thank you for your inquiry about the problem with your peach trees. Since I am not personally familiar with the diseases of peach trees, I did a little research without finding anything labeled as “black scurge.”  I’m going to assume you’re dealing with the common problems of peach trees, Leaf Curl or Brown Rot, both of which affect the fruit as well as the leaf.

Leaf Curl is a common fungal infection that occurs in the spring on peach and nectarine trees. Symptoms are leaves becoming distorted in the early spring, turning to a purplish color and then becoming gray and powder-covered, then they drop off. The fruit will have reddish color with brown soft spots turning to rot.

The spore overwinters on the bark and bud and will be worse with cool, wet springs after a mild winter. To control the spread of it you need to spray with a fungicide, making sure to completely cover the tree, early in the spring before the leaves appear. Be sure to remove and destroy any affected leaves or fruit at the end of the season to help control the spread of the disease.

Brown Rot is also a fungal condition that affects the stone or seed of the fruit, causing the fruit to be covered with brown soft circles, before it shrivels and develops a fuzzy coating of the fungus. The fungus overwinters on old mummified fruit that is left on the tree over the winter.  Make sure to remove and destroy any fruit left. 

The organic method of control would be to remove by hand any fruit that begins to show signs during the growing season, not allowing any rotting fruit to remain on or near the tree. Harvest fruits as soon as they turn to all yellow and avoid bruising. Allow them to ripen off the tree. In the late winter or early spring, thin the tree to provide more air circulation, which is essential to reduce wetness that encourages brown rot.

If this does not sound like your problems, please send more details or contact your county Extension office with samples so they can assist in the proper diagnosis.