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Archive for May 2012

How To Grow Chives

May 30th, 2012

growing chives in a containerI tried to grow garlic chives and onion chives last March. First I put garlic and onion that already had green shoots in water. After 2 weeks, I harvested the chives and because they had rooted, I moved them into small pots. Every 15 cm (6-inch) pot has 4 cloves and I have 2 pots of onion chives (one pot for one onion). There was no problem at all even though they didn’t get direct sunlight. I put all of my pots in my living room, close to a window. From March to May, we are supposed to get 12 hours of sunlight here in Finland, but sometimes it was cloudy or the sun was on the wrong side of my window. 1) Do they have to get direct sunlight or is being in shadow enough? I think they get direct sunlight about 1-4 hours per day. Otherwise without direct sunlight, but it is always bright in my house about 10 hours. 2) In April I harvested my chives almost every week. I tried not to remove more than a third of the growing blades (Is this the right way to harvest?) I notice that sometimes they don’t grow anymore, but from inside them grows a new blade. And the diameter is smaller). But from the beginning of this month it seems they stopped growing. I uploaded one picture. You can see how sad it looks. Once I cut down one blade of onion to about 2 cm from the soil because it looked dead, even though the other 2 blades looked healthy. Now that cut blade is growing a new chive while the other stopped growing. 3) I didn’t fertilize my chives in April. I started to give them liquid fertilizer once a week in the beginning of May, and after that they stopped growing. Do I need to fertilize them or not? 4) How long could I grow chives? Is it supposed to be like this or I could grow them longer? With the garlic chives, at first they have big chives but after a while they become smaller. 5) I tried to cut down some garlic chives to about 2 cm from soil. Can they grow new green shoots like onions? What is the right way to harvest chives? I’m sorry if I have too many questions. I tried to search information but I didn’t get any good answers. Thank you so much. Emy

Answer: It sounds like you’ve done everything right in getting them started. It’s hard to determine why one plant thrived and one did not. Here are the best practices for growing most herbs in containers.

Soil: should be a loose mix but able to maintain a constant moisture.  A good commercial potting mix is sufficient. They can tolerate a pH range of 4.5 to 8.3.

Light: At least 6 hours of sun a day. Be sure to turn the pots if indoors, so they grow straight. Cloudy or overcast days will not harm the growth as long as the condition is not a long-term situation.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy, and don’t let the roots remain constantly wet.

Fertilizer: Most herbs do not require frequent fertilization.  Once, at the beginning of the season, is sufficient. Use a mild, balanced fertilizer. Growing indoors, try to fertilize no more than once a month.

Harvesting chives: The first year wait until the plant reaches at least 6 inches (15 cm) in height and take only the first 2/3 of the plant growth. This will allow the plant to develop a healthy root system.  Once the plant is established, you can harvest it more aggressively, usually the second year.

Overwintering chives: For the U.S., it would be September, but before your winter, if you can, set them outside to let them get nipped by the first killing frost. Then cut the plant back to 2 in. (5 cm) and place the pot in a cool, frost-free place. Do not allow the pot to completely dry out but do not water heavily. You can add a couple of ice cubes once a month. After about 12 weeks of rest, you can bring the pot back into the sunny window and it should start to put up new shoots.

Keeping the plant trimmed back will keep it from flowering. Once it has flowered, the leaves will start to die back and the plant will put all its energies into producing seed.

I hope this helps you with your chives.

Good luck and happy indoor gardening.


Nature’s Fury and the Grace of Rebuilding

May 14th, 2012

david sumpter new greenhouseThings look different around the property belonging to David Sumpter, located just outside of Henryville, Indiana, than they did a few weeks ago. Sumpter will never forget the infamous March 2, 2012 tornado that leveled his house, greenhouse and chicken house, and stirred up his organic vegetable supplies.

Sumpter was driving on the road approaching his home and hadn’t realized there had been a major tornado in the area. It was only when he drove over the top of a crest and saw trees blocking the road to his property that he realized a devastating storm had just passed through his area. But he still wasn’t prepared for the traumatic shock of viewing his farm for the first time following the twister, which also leveled a large section of Henryville.

These days, a new house has been erected, the greenhouse is restored and things are well under way to take care of a house for his chickens. Blue cage-looking Wall-o-Waters surround his newly planted organic vegetables and his property is well on its way to budding fruit and flowers for the upcoming summer.

It was nearly 18 years ago that Sumpter started putting together his organic dream of helping elderly people in the Henryville area. Over the years, he developed huge crops of asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, okra, blueberries and a unique meaty fruit known as Asian pear apples.

wall o water plant protectors in david sumpter gardenSumpter developed a clientele of many homes where he has given away all of his produce. Distribution is largely to the “over 60” crowd who struggle financially.

He spoke of his gardening passion. “The key is making sure you have a really healthy climate where the roots of the plant are located,” said Sumpter. “I use worm castings, bone meal, and organic potash as key ingredients of fertilizing. Dig the soil up and bring it up to about 18 inches high. The more soil there is around something, the better the roots will be and the more the plants will produce.”

Sumpter surrounds his plants with Wall-o-Water protectors in order to shield them from chilly weather and create a moist climate for plant survival during hot and dry weather. The Henryville farmer noted that plants such as peppers and tomatoes grow to several feet high and produce hundreds of fruit specimens in such a climate.

“It was amazing the way the Christians started coming in to help restore my house and farm,” said Sumpter. “Ninety-nine percent of the people who came in were Christians from different states.”

Recently, he built a large cross to honor those who were dedicated to restoring his farm.

Sumpter shared that the first morning of helper influx, he was asked what he wanted to see completed first, and his immediate response was the greenhouse. “That’s what they did. They just came in and started building it,” Sumpter said. The project team, also known as the “Three Nails Project,” rebuilt the greenhouse in 48 hours.

David Sumpter standing in front of his cross“When I first saw the place, I wished that the storm had taken me, too,” said Sumpter. “At first I thought my dogs were gone; they were my friends. Then I heard them bark and I realized they were still alive.”

“I said to the Christian helpers, ‘You all have given me a reason to keep going; you have reshaped my faith in the future,'” noted Sumpter. “There will be more people than ever with need this summer because of the tornado. I want to do all I can to start getting produce to them.”

One special miracle took place in Sumpter’s heart while volunteers were rebuilding his house and restoring his property. He started sharing himself with people for the first time in 12 years…since his daughter was killed in an accident involving a drunk driver.

“I just closed up and didn’t talk to anybody about it,” said Sumpter. “My way of giving wasn’t through what I said but rather the produce that I gave away. Now I started talking again, too. I guess you might say that some good things also came out of this tornado.”

Why Are My Tomatoes Turning Black On The Bottom?

May 7th, 2012

Planted in March in a 5 gal. bucket (with drain holes) with Miracle Grow potting soil. Every tomato so far has been black on the bottom half and unfit for consumption. Few have matured to the orange state and most are less than 2″ in dia. They are watered daily and have had some shading from intense sun with screen material. Any idea what is causing the apparent rot? Thanks, Don K.

Answer: It sounds like your plants are suffering from Blossom End Rot. This is a condition and not a disease, usually caused by a calcium deficiency brought on by fluctuating soil moisture or an excess of nitrogen in the soil. Some of the branded potting soils have added fertilizer or are nitrogen rich which is good for nice lush plants but bad for fruit. It could also be that the plants are wetter than you think (if you are watering daily), or the opposite, that they are drier than you think. Both have the same symptoms.  You might want to try a moisture meter to check the conditions farther down in the pot than what you can feel. Or try the combined meters that will also tell you the pH of the soil: tomatoes want a nice 6.5 pH. You will also want to make sure you fertilize with a plant food designed for vegetables such as Hi-Yeild Garden Fertilizer  or Tomato-tone, both formulated low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous to help the plant produce healthy blooms and fruits.

If you can correct the soil moisture you will be able to harvest perfect tomatoes.

Happy Gardening,


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