Mar 202015
 

Rose in the Rain

by Avis Licht

I have many favorite times of the year in the garden. What’s looking beautiful, (Roses in late Spring) what smells great, (Lilacs and Jasmine in early Spring), what’s ripe (everything in every season!), how the ground smells after a rain. Almost every day brings something new to enjoy in the garden. BUT, I have to say the Spring Equinox holds the most promise and excitement for me.

After the dark and cold of winter, (which was not very dark or cold this year), the excitement of Spring, with its promise of buds, new leaves, green hills, even the weeds jumping for joy out of the earth, holds a special place in my heart.  If ever there was a time for Hope, this is it. The sun rises a little earlier each day and sets a little later. There is more light, more growth, more Potential – for the garden and for us. Change happens in spite of us, and sometimes hopefully, because of us.

Here are a few photos from my Equinoxial Garden. HAPPY SPRING.  Let’s get growing!

Douglas Iris

This Douglas Iris is native to the California Coast. I love it.

Lettuce

Marvel of Four Seasons Lettuce – under protection from the birds.

Chard Stalks

Rays of red light are rainbow chard stalks

Broccoli

Broccoli in a pot. Even the smallest patio can have beautiful vegetables.

 

row cover and drip irrigation

My broccoli babies. In warm weather you can cover your beds with row covers, and irrigate with drip irrigation

Lettuce seedlings under grow lights

Seedlings get started early under grow lights.

 

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

 

 

Jan 312015
 
Seed sowing medium

by Avis Licht

1. Prepare your table for sowing: Potting mix, containers for sowing, seeds and labels.

I use organic potting mix from my local nursery. I try to use either bioegradable pots, like these coconut fiber pots, or reuse the plastic ones over and over. I save my cans and plastic containers from the grocery store to use for either sowing or transplanting.


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2. Choose your favorite seeds that will grow in your climate, and make sure you are sowing at the right time:

It’s late January, and I live in Northern California, where we can grow many vegetables year round.  It’s a good time to start Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Onion, Spinach and Peas. In my hand you can see Chard seed. As seed goes, they’re pretty big and easy to handle. To get an early start, I sow them indoors in pots for transplanting in late February. You can also sow Chard directly in the ground when your soil warms up a bit.

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3. Fill your pots to the top, then place a few seeds on the surface. My finger is pointing to the seed. For chard, which is fairly large, I will push the seed into the soil so that it gets a firm seating into the soil. Then cover lightly.


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4. Label your pots with the name and date of sowing. Believe me, this is an important step, as you will probably not remember what you sowed or when you sowed it.

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Push large seeds firmly into the soil. Peas can go half an inch deep.

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Leeks are small seed and hard to handle.  I use this seed sower which gently lets out seeds a few at a time.  Because leeks are small seedlings, you can sow many in a small pot. When they are ready to be transplanted you can easily pull them apart. More on transplanting later.

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Here’s Broccoli. It’s a favorite in our household and I like to grow a lot of it. It’s a small seed. I put 5 seeds in a 4 inch pot.  When they’re about 3 inches tall I take them out of the pot carefully and transplant them.

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Basil seed looks a lot like broccoli only smaller. If you are using small pots for sowing, then sow 2 seeds per pot. That way you can figure that every pot will have at least one plant.

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Here’s kale. It’s become very popular lately. There are many kinds of kale. Personally, I like it cooked.  It’s a little tough raw.  I really had a good laugh the first time someone told me I had to massage my kale for salad making! But it’s true.  If you rub your kale with a little salt and olive oil it gets more tender.

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5. Gently water in your seeds. You want the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Keep the surface moist so that the seeds don’t dry out.  As soon as they germinate you can cut back on the water a little.

6. Make sure your plants get plenty of light. I use flourescent lights in a shed to make sure they’re strong and sturdy.

Be sure to read more about lights and seedlings in this article to find out which lights and how long to leave them on.

Seeds

As soon as your seed germinates it needs plenty of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that just about takes care of the steps to successful seed sowing.  Don’t be afraid. Growing your own plants from seed is one of the most satisfying and magical parts of gardening. If you’re having troubles or need advice, just go to the Ask Avis page and let me know what’s up. Or leave a comment or suggestion at the bottom of the page.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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Jan 152015
 

by Avis Licht

Help your seeds with grow lights

If you don’t have enough light in your house you can use these simple grow lights

 

When starting seeds early in the season, it is usually too cold to start them outside.  That means, they are either in the house, cold frame or greenhouse.  It’s a rare house that has enough sunlight to start seedlings indoors and not have them get leggy.  It’s an even rarer house that has a greenhouse or cold frame.

Light for starting seeds:

Most seedlings require 14 to 16 hours of direct light to manufacture enough food to produce healthy stems and leaves.  The characteristic legginess that often occurs when seedlings are grown on a windowsill indicates that the plants are not receiving enough light intensity, or enough hours of light.

1. Set up a stand with fluorescent lights over your seed trays. 2 – 4 inches is the optimum amount of room. As they grow you will need to lift them up. 

When growing seedlings under lights, you can use a combination of cool and warm fluorescents, or full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs produce too much heat in relation to the light given off. They also lack the blue-spectrum light that keeps seedlings stocky and dark green. The most efficient light is a T – 5 or T – 8 bulb that comes in 2 and 4 ft lengths.

2. Get a timer for your lights and set it for 12 – 14 hours. That sounds like a lot, but that’s what it takes to keep your plants strong and sturdy.


To get excellent pots, potting soil, greenhouses and more, go to my store and you can find what you need easily.

3.Temperature for starting seeds:

The temperatures for optimum germination listed on seed packets refer to soil temperature, not air temperature. Although seeds can vary drastically, most vegetable seeds need a warm soil temperature around 78 deg. F.

If the soil is too cold, seeds may take much longer to germinate, or they may not germinate at all. To provide additional warmth, you can use a heat mat or keep them in a warm room until the seeds germinate. Just be sure to get your seedlings to a sunny window or under lights within 24 hours of seeing little sprouts emerging through the soil surface

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After germination, most seedlings grow best if the air temperature is below 70 degrees F. If temperatures are too warm (over 75), the seedlings will grow too fast and get weak and leggy. Most seedlings grow fine in air temperatures as low as 50 degrees, as long as soil temperature is maintained at about 65 to 70.

 Give them light and warmth and keep them moist, and your seeds will work hard on your behalf. At the risk of repeating myself, the best thing you can do in the garden is to observe your plants.  Keep an eye on them and they’ll let you know if they’re happy.

sowing seeds

Direct sow into the ground for best results

Plants with taproots like beet and carrot need to be sown directly into the ground

Mar 052012
 
Healthy, hardy beets germinating outdoors

by Avis Licht

Help your seeds with grow lights

If you don’t have enough light in your house you can use these simple grow lights

Yesterday I talked about seed starting medium and today I want to talk about light and heat.

When starting seeds early in the season, it is usually too cold to start them outside.  That means, they are either in the house, cold frame or greenhouse.  It’s a rare house that has enough sunlight to start seedlings indoors and not have them get leggy.  It’s an even rarer house that has a greenhouse or cold frame.

Light for starting seeds:

Most seedlings require 14 to 16 hours of direct light to manufacture enough food to produce healthy stems and leaves. The characteristic legginess that often occurs when seedlings are grown on a windowsill indicates that the plants are not receiving enough light intensity, or enough hours of light. If your seedlings are in a south-facing window, you can enhance the incoming light by covering a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and placing it in back of the seedlings. The light will bounce off the foil and back onto the seedlings.

If you do not have a south-facing window, you will need to use grow lights. When growing seedlings under lights, you can use a combination of cool and warm fluorescents, or full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs produce too much heat in relation to the light given off. They also lack the blue-spectrum light that keeps seedlings stocky and dark green.

To get excellent pots, potting soil, greenhouses and more, go to my store and you can find what you need easily.

Simple outdoor growing house

Along a protected south facing wall, this little house can provide protection for your seeds

Seedlings need a high intensity of light. The fluorescent bulbs should be placed very close to the plants—no more than three inches away from the foliage—and should be left on 12 to 14 hours per day. If you are growing your seedlings on a windowsill, you may need to supplement with a few hours of artificial light, especially during the winter months.

Temperature for starting seeds:

The temperatures for optimum germination listed on seed packets refer to soil temperature, not air temperature. Although seeds can vary drastically, most vegetable seeds need a warm soil temperature around 78 deg. F.

If the soil is too cold, seeds may take much longer to germinate, or they may not germinate at all. To provide additional warmth, you can use a heat mat or place the containers on top of a warm refrigerator, television, or keep them in a warm room until the seeds germinate. Just be sure to get your seedlings to a sunny window or under lights within 24 hours of seeing little sprouts emerging through the soil surface.

After germination, most seedlings grow best if the air temperature is below 70 degrees F. If temperatures are too warm (over 75), the seedlings will grow too fast and get weak and leggy. Most seedlings grow fine in air temperatures as low as 50 degrees, as long as soil temperature is maintained at about 65 to 70.

Healthy, hardy beets germinating outdoors

Some seeds can be sown directly in the ground like these beets

 Give them light and warmth and keep them moist, and your seeds will work hard on your behalf. At the risk of repeating myself, the best thing you can do in the garden is to observe your plants.  Keep an eye on them and they’ll let you know if they’re happy.

 

 

Jan 252012
 
Different seed containers


by Avis Licht

Size matters in sowing seeds

Very large and very small seeds often should be sown directly into the soil

There are times when sowing seed is the best way to start your plants, and times when you would do better to buy seedlings. Here are a few of the most commonly made mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake: Sowing seed into pots that should go directly into the ground.

Correct : Sow directly into the ground

Direct sow into the ground for best results

Plants with taproots like beet and carrot need to be sown directly into the ground

Some seeds are best sown directly into the soil where they will grow. Root crops like carrots, beets, radish and turnips have taproots that don’t like to be transplanted.

Very small seeds, like poppies and carrots can be mixed with sand in order to spread them more evenly.

Large seeded plants like beans and peas do better when sown directly into the ground.  You should plant them 2 to 3 inches deep. They send a large root deep into the soil and don’t like to have their roots disturbed.

direct sow your fava beans

Large seeded plants like beans and peas can go directly into the soil.

Mistake: Sowing indoors without sufficient light

Correct: Use additional lights

In  the hopes to get a jump on the growing season, people like to start their seeds indoors.  It is almost impossible for plants to get enough light from a window to grow strong and healthy.  Leggy seedlings rarely recover and won’t make for strong plants when transplanted.

Leggy seedlings need more light

These broccoli seedlings are leaning toward the window for more light. They are leggy and not what we’re looking for

If you do want to start indoors, get fluorescent lights and put them over your containers.  You can find these through catalogs or make a simple set up yourself. Full spectrum lights are best, but regular lights will also work.

Mistake: Sowing too soon in the season

Correct: Be patient and wait. Learn the last frost dates for your garden and what your particular plant needs.

In the excitement to get plants ready for planting outdoors, we often start plants too soon.  This is especially true for warm weather crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Even if you have a warm spell early in the spring, it doesn’t mean that you’re plants will be happy outside.  Both the night temperatures need to warm up and the soil needs to warm up.

You can plant early if you use special precautions like cold frames, “Wall o Water”, cloches and row covers. These will protect your plants from those extra cold nights.  But don’t sow your seed early  if you’re not prepared to go the extra step for plant protection.

Mistake: Sowing too many seeds and too many difficult to grow and germinate seeds

Correct: If you’re new at sowing, pick a few of your favorite plants that are easy to germinate. Don’t be fooled by those beautiful pictures in the catalogs. Beware impulse buying!

If you have a small garden and would like a variety of vegetables, it’s often better to buy your seedlings from the local nursery or farmer’s market.  You can get just amount that you need and more varieties.  Instead of 20 plants of one variety, why not get several heirloom varieties and see what does best in your garden.

 

 

 

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