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 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

Apr 222014
 

Day lily

by Avis Licht-

Although I often feel a little cynical by what I call manufactured holidays, like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and St Patrick’s Day, they do have their uses.  Any reminder to love someone, remember, care for, forgive, or celebrate with someone is a good thing.

The same goes for Earth Day.  I believe and practice in my life, that EVERY day is Earth Day.  Each day I try to start the day with intention to do no harm, or at least less harm, and to leave my place on earth a little better than before.  Each day I spend some time in my garden. Sometimes just to walk about and enjoy it, to listen to the birds, to smell the jasmine.  Sometimes it’s to work hard, dig the beds, remove weeds, sow delicate seeds, prune the trees. I am a caretaker.  We are all caretakers.

Today is a good day to take a few moments and listen to our co inhabitants- the birds, the humming  bees, the leaves moving in the wind.  Grateful for each day we can breath fresh air, drink clean water, walk on the earth. Grateful for being able to make a difference.

Thank you for reading my ramblings on the life of a gardener.

Here are some photographs of inhabitants of our Mother earth.

A place to meditate and contemplate

A place to meditate and contemplate

 

 

Our precious earth

Whether seen from the perspective from space or our own little garden, we still need to take good care of our Mother Earth.

Rose

Beauty in many forms

worlds within worlds

Worlds within worlds

Children are captivated by sowing seed.

Children are captivated by sowing seed.

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

 

 

 

Mar 222014
 
Douglas Iris

by Avis Licht

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

By the date on the calendar it’s Spring – but by weather it might be any of the seasons where you live. In warm weather areas it’s definitely time to start the garden work – from sowing seeds, getting beds ready, fertilizing your flowers and generally getting involved in the excitement of coming out of hibernation.

This is the time to make sure you have good tools that help you in your work. Visit my Store to see what tools I recommend and use myself.

 

In my garden the wisteria is blooming, the pear, cherry and apple trees are bursting with bloom. The strawberries and blueberries are putting out blossoms like crazy.

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

I have a lot of flowers in my garden that the bees love to pollinate.  It is important to create  diversity in the garden to encourage beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies to create health and delight in the garden.

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Native plants are starting to bloom and are a great addition to all gardens. In California where we are experiencing severe drought conditions, California natives are the perfect solution – they are happy in this climate and can flourish in the most difficult of conditions.

Douglas Iris

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

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can come and learn from me directly Hands ON! in the garden! I love to share my experience. Go to the Events page for all the dates.

You can sign up NOW right here.

Feb 102014
 

by Avis Licht

Size of your seed may determine how you sow it

Large seeds often go directly in the ground, and very small seeds do as well.

If you’re thinking about your Spring garden and what to sow, you’re probably wondering if last year’s leftover seeds are good to sow this year. Everyone wants to know. Don’t waste money buying new seed if you’ve got what’s good but you don’t want to lose precious time by sowing bad seed.

Here is a simple method to see if your seed is still viable.

1. Moisten a paper towel and place 10 to 20 seeds of one variety on it. Roll up the towel and place it in a plastic bag labeled with the seed variety. You can keep it on the kitchen counter at room temperature while you are testing. Check the seeds after 2 or 3 days, then every day for a week or two if needed; different varieties have different timing for germination. Be sure to make sure the towel stays moist. Count the number of germinated seeds and divide them by the number of seeds tested. This will give you the germination percentage. If 8 seeds out of 10 have germinated – you have 80% germination. Less than 80% germination means your seeds still have some viability but that you will need to sow them more thickly in order to get a good crop. Seeds with less than 50% germination may not be worth the trouble and you can go seed shopping!

If you do need to buy seeds try Seeds of Change. They are a great organization and provide organic, non – GMO seed. I definitely recommend buying their seed. You can do that by clicking here: Seeds of Change

2. Store unused seeds in a cool, dry place to ensure their maximum germination rates. I use empty herb and seasoning bottles to store my seed.  I try to collect as much of my own seeds as possible. The glass bottles are labeled and I can also see the seed inside to remind me what I have.

Seed storage containers

Empty seasoning and herb bottles are used for storing seed.

20% Off e-Gift Cards with code AFFBVALD until 2/14 only at Burpee.com!

 Seed Savers is also a good company. Rainbow Chard is delicious, beautiful and super healthy.
Seed storage bottle was old salt container

With these bottles you can even sprinkle out   the seed evenly. Perfect use for an old salt bottle.

Here are some good Seed Catalogs – Resources.

Here’s a great chart that Roger Doiron from Kitchen Gardeners International posted, which came from Colorado State University. It covers many common vegetables for your home garden. Of course, viability also depends on the conditions that the seed has been stored in. Too wet, too cold, too hot, too dry – all these can affect your seed germination, BUT, generally you can follow the chart.


20% Off e-Gift Cards with code AFFBVALD until 2/14 only at Burpee.com!

Mar 262012
 
Lettuce and parsley in a pot
Lettuce and parsley in a pot

Herbs and lettuce grow well in pots on the deck.

by Avis Licht

In other posts I’ve written about seeds; where to get them, and how to sow them. Now that they’ve turned into sturdy little seedlings, I’ll show you how to plant them.

1. First thing is to make sure your bed is ready for the seedlings.  This means that the soil should be worked up into a fine tilth so that it is soft and crumbles easily off your trowel. Add whatever amendments you have at hand, like compost, bone meal or manure into the soil before you transplant your seedlings.

2. Depending on how your seeds were started, you will either take them out of their little six packs, or as in the case of these photos, from a bunch of seeds sown in a container.

Pulling apart lettuce seedlings

Gently open the root ball to separate the seedlings (click to enlarge)

Lettuce seedlings

Hold your seedlings gently (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep separating the seedlings until you have them one at a time. Lay them so that the roots are straight down, not crunched up. Gently hold the leaf, open up a hole deep enough to let the roots dangle straight down and not get crunched up. (if you get my drift).  Slowly let the soil back into the hole to cover the roots. Gently firm in the soil around the crown of the seedlings.  You want the roots too make contact with the soil, but not rip the roots by pressing too hard.

Firm in the soil

Gently press the soil around the seedling. (Click to enlarge)

Hold by the leaf and let the roots dangle

Gently hold the leaf and dangle the roots (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep the soil below the crown of the leaf so that it doesn’t rot. Be sure to water in your seedlings.  Put the water at the base of the plant slowly so that the water seeps into the soil.  This will allow the roots to make contact with the soil and get moisture. If roots are not in contact with the soil, but are in air holes, they will dry out.

It’s best to plant into moist soil that crumbles in your hand, not too wet and not too dry.

A bed of lettuce

Closely planted lettuce in Spring

lettuce newly planted

This seedling will start growing immediately

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After they are planted you need to make sure they don’t dry out. Check the soil for moisture if it doesn’t rain. Just looking at the surface of the soil doesn’t tell you if it’s moist underneath.  Check with a trowel down a few inches.  If it’s dry at 2 inches or if the plants are wilting, be sure to water them.

Don’t forget to take your walkabout in the garden to keep an eye on your seedlings.  If anyone is causing trouble, like birds or snails, you’ll want to catch them right away. Now all you have to do is be a little patient, then the eating begins.

I took this photo this morning after a gentle rain.

rain on strawberry blossoms

It's late March and the strawberries are starting to blossom

Jan 252012
 


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.

 

 

 

Nov 072011
 

 

Retaining walls

The hill came down, the walls went up

 

Before the rains come crashing down, take a good look around your property.  It’s especially important if you are on a hill or have slopes around you.  When water picks up speed it can really create havoc.  Take a look at this hillside. After a number of rainy days, the whole hillside came down into the driveway.  Fortunately, no person and no cars were there when the soil came down.

In an effort to get more light in the property the owners cut down many trees.  The result, light came down and so did the hillside.  They should have made sure the ground was planted and drainage was put in place.  To do it after the soil erodes is much more expensive. In addition to cutting back the hill and putting in retaining walls, we also put drain pipe behind the walls, at the top of the hill and at the bottom.  Water has to go somewhere!  Take a look.

Erosion control for steep hills may mean building retaining walls

Cement block wall at the bottom and wood retaining walls will hold back this hill

Construction of the retaining wall

Retaining wall in process

There's still too much soil, and erosion can be a problem

Cement block wall is not high enough, and soil needs to be removed

After the walls are built, it is important to plant for soil coverage.  I use seeds for immediate coverage and plants for long term coverage.  At the top of the hill we put in a swale to redirect the water away from the main walls. We covered it with erosion control blankets.  They are both 100% biodegradable, but they are slightly different. One is thicker and made of coconut fiber and the other has straw put between cotton netting. The thick mat is better for stronger erosion control and the straw allows better germination of seeds.

Two types of erosion control blankets - coconut and straw

The blanket on the left has straw and the blanket on the right is coconut fiber.

Swale

A long swale covered with netting and also planted with seed

For quick germination I used rye grass, Dutch white clover, vetch and California wildflower mix, with extra California poppies. We were lucky with early October rains that helped with excellent germination.  If you don’t expect rain, you should water the seeds to take advantage of warmer weather in the early Fall.  Once the winter rains come it gets too cold for most seeds to germinate.

Erosion control seed mix

Rye grass, Dutch white clover, Vetch and Wildflowers

Seeds germinating through straw mulch

Straw mulch holds the soil in place and protects the seed

 

Tomorrow I’ll talk about other simple erosion control  methods.

Curving path on steep hill

Using plants and curving path for hillside erosion control

 

 

 

 

 

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