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‘Minnesota Gardening’ Category

  1. Succession Planting Vegetables

    July 28, 2013 by Jocelyn Baker

    Summers like this make gardening difficult for those with already short growing seasons. The weather was so cold that many plantings were delayed by a few weeks. In order to get a bigger harvest from my vegetable garden, I will be succession planting as much as possible!

    Succession planting is when a gardener plants crops in varying cycles throughout the growing season in order to maximize their harvest. It really only works with specific crops, and is dependent on how long your growing season is. Since I’m in frosty Minnesota, I’m succession planting beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, beets, and radishes. Since these are all pretty quick to go from seed to harvest, I should be able to get quite a bit of extra food from my garden!

    I’ve put together this short guide to help other gardeners make the most of their growing time.

    Succession Planting

    Getting Started with Succession Planting

    Find out when you first average frost date is in the fall. You’ll need this to correctly time your plantings. Next, calculate what vegetables you still have time left to plant. For those in my general area, the University of MN Extension office has a great resource on succession planting, which includes a list of vegetables with their times to harvest. I would highly recommend using this if you’re in Minnesota.

    Once you know your average first frost date, you can start counting backwards from that date to see when you should plant your late season crops depending on how long they take to mature. I recommend giving yourself an extra week of buffer time though, just in case!

    Choose Your Plants

    If you’re just starting out with succession planting, I recommend trying it first with very fast growers like radishes, lettuce, spinach, or beans. Keep in mind that the cooler it is when they are planted, the longer they will take to reach maturity.

    Here’s a quick list to give you an idea of average growth times:

    • Kale – 45 to 70 days
    • Radishes – 25 to 40 days
    • Lettuce – 50 to 80 days
    • Spinach – 35 to 45 days
    • Bush Beans – 45 to 65 days
    • Basil – 30 to 60 days

    I’ve also included a list of helpful links for those in other locations around the US at the bottom of this post.

    Getting Dirty

    Once you know what you’re planting, you will need to make room for your new crops. I did this today, by pulling up my first batch of peas to make room for my quickly growing cantaloupe plants. I will probably plant more peas in a few weeks, once I’ve made room by harvesting several heads of cabbage.

    Once you have your space cleared, make sure that the area is cleaned up and free of weeds. Once the weather starts to cool down, you can use floating row cover or cloches to cover your plants and prolong their growing time. Certain plants will be fine in below freezing temps, such as kale and cabbage, which are hardy down to about 20 degrees. Others will be killed by frost, so you may have to cover them overnight in late fall.

    References For Other Areas

    Thanks for reading folks! Happy gardening, and see you next time.


  2. Organic Gardening #6 – Layout and Planting

    May 27, 2013 by Jocelyn

    Generally, Memorial Day weekend has been the time I’ve used to get my garden started. It’s normally warm enough for me to plant all of my veggies, but not this year! Our growing season is currently about 2-4 weeks behind schedule, and the only things I have in my garden so far are cabbage, beets, peas, spinach, and onions. I was hoping that by now I would at least have a few good garden planting progress photos for you, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be!

    The temperatures have been cooler than normal, averaging highs in the mid-forties over the past week or so, and it has been windy as heck! Yuck. I had my tomato plants outside yesterday for a couple hours, and they looked pretty sad after just a few hours.

    For now, most of my garden is covered in black plastic so the soil will warm up more quickly. I’ve designed a layout plan for my garden, taking crop rotation and companion planting into account, which you can see below.

    Garden Design

    Read my Companion Planting post if you’d like more details about plant placement!

    So, once it’s actually warm enough to plant, it’s going to be a frantic rush to get everything done.

    My Planting Process:

    • Remove the layer of plastic, and pull any remaining weeds.
    • Then add a layer of compost, and work it into the soil.
    • Before planting anything I set all of my pots on the dirt where I’m intending to plant them to see if everything fits the way I’d like.
    • At this point, I will likely lay down the soaker hose I purchased this year, then just plant around that.
    • And last but not least, plant all the things!!

    Hopefully I will be updating you all soon with news of warmer weather and some great photos of my plants in the garden!

    Thank you to all of our  service men and women; Happy Memorial Day.  Thanks for reading!


  3. Organic Gardening: #4 – How to Thin Seedlings

    May 1, 2013 by Jocelyn

    Despite doing my best to ignore the never ending winter we’ve been having, I still can’t help but feel that summer is really far away! I suppose that’s what happens when it’s May and there’s still snow in the forecast.  

    So while I continue ignoring our terrible weather, I bring to you Part 4 of my Organic Gardening Series: How to Thin Seedlings. Below you can see a photo of my little tomato seedlings, which are doing quite well. I have cabbage and onion seedlings that should technically be outside already, but I’m waiting another week or so for that.

    Thinning Seedlings

    Why You Should Thin Seedlings

    When you live in a cold climate where the growing season is short, it’s very likely that you’ll be starting seeds indoors up to 10 weeks before planting them outside. That’s a long time, and your little plants will need a lot of room to grow before being transplanted. If seedlings are not thinned down to 1 plant per potting cell, there won’t be enough room for all of the roots to grow and none of the plants will thrive.

    I Know It Hurts

    As much as it pains me to snip the little guys down, I’ve come to realize that it’s something that needs to be done. It’s so hard when seeing the first little sprouts come up give you such joy, and then you have to go through and take a bunch of them out. I’ve gotten better about thinning my seedlings over the years, and my plants have been stronger for it. My recommendation for those of you that have a hard time with this is to take your little seedlings and put them right into the compost bin. This way their sacrifice isn’t going to waste!

    When to Thin Them
    I generally start 3-4 seeds per pot, and thin down to the strongest one as soon as the leaves start touching each other. At this point, they’re usually between 2 and 3 inches tall.

    How to Thin Them

    The easiest and least invasive way to thin your seedlings is to use a pair of scissors and snip them off at the base. If you’re careful and your seedlings are still small, you may be able to gently pull them out of the soil without disturbing the roots of the other seedlings.

    Before:
    Thinning Seedlings

    After:
    Thin Seedlings

    Voila! Once thinned out, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the remaining seedlings seem to grow! Next time, I’ll be talking about transitioning your seedlings to the outdoors, and getting your garden planting started. Hopefully after our record-breaking snow amounts in April, May will quickly turn around and warm things up for us. Here’s hoping!

    Thanks for reading, folks!


  4. Organic Gardening: Part 1 – Ordering Seeds

    February 12, 2013 by Jocelyn

    This post is Part 1 in my new Organic Gardening Series.

    The days are getting longer, and hopefully warmer, which means it’s time to start ordering seeds for your garden. When looking for seeds, you will find that seed companies can vary greatly in quality. After starting seeds from many different companies, I can honestly say that I’ve had the very best luck with seeds from smaller companies. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is absolutely wonderful; they are a small family owned farm in Missouri.

    So, if you’re planning to have a garden this year, your first step should be to order seeds. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to order at least a couple good seed catalogs to look at during the gloomiest months of winter. Here are the two I got this year:

    Organic Gardening Seed Catalogs

    Request Your Own Seed Catalogs
    Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
    Seed Savers Exchange
    Territorial Seed Company
    Johnny’s Selected Seeds

    On Choosing Seeds

    So, you’ve got your catalogs, and you’re ready to decide what to order. It’s important to know what can easily be started from seed in your area, or if it would be best to purchase transplants. This is something that I always have to consider, being in zone 4 with a short growing season. It’s important to know how long your growing season is, and to consider how long each plant will take to produce.

    If you’d rather not start seeds indoors, then make sure you’re only ordering seeds that will do well to direct sow in your garden. In Minnesota, there are certain things that I cannot grow by direct sowing. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are a few examples. If I didn’t start these plants from seed myself, I would have to go to my farmer’s market and purchase transplants for them because our growing season is too short.

    Tip #1: Know your Terminology: Heirloom, Hybrid, Genetically Modified (GMO), Determinate, Indeterminate, etc. etc.
    Heirloom seeds have been around for generations, and are the most reliable if you intend on saving seeds from your garden. They are the most likely to give you viable seeds that will produce plants that are the most genetically similar to the parent plants.
    Hybrid seeds will give you child plants produced from the cross pollination of two different plants. Often times these hybrids are purposefully bred to gain the most beneficial characteristics from the two parent plants; disease resistance, better productivity, etc.
    Genetically Modified seeds are seeds that have been genetically engineered in a lab to have specific properties. This is very different from hybridization because they can combine genes from two completely different plants that could never naturally crossbreed. Doing this can actually damage the DNA of the plant, and create unwanted (and potentially harmful) genetic mutations. This means that the genes of the original plant may change the way they function, possibly activating genes that can trigger allergies, or even create specific biological toxins. Moral of the story: try to avoid GMO seeds.
    Determinate and Indeterminate are terms that you will most likely come across when looking for tomatoes. So, which type of tomato plants should you get? Determinate or indeterminate? Well, that depends on your garden, and the answer could easily be both! So what’s the difference? Determinate tomato plants are generally more compact. The plant will stay more bush-like, and will bear it’s crop all at once. Determinate varieties are better suited to containers, so they would be the best choice if you’re garden is on your patio. Another thing to note with determinate varieties is that you should NOT cut off the suckers of the plant, as doing so could stunt it’s growth. As for indeterminate varieties, they are pretty much the exact opposite. They will grow large and vine-like, while producing fruit throughout the entire season. Because they get so big, they will likely need more staking than determinate varieties, and also do well when the suckers are cut off.

    Tip #2: Have a (Basic) Garden Plan
    At this point, you should have a very general plan for what you want to plant in your garden. It’s important to know how much you can expect to fit in your garden, and how much of each plant you’ll have space for. If you’re an experienced gardener, this will be fairly easy, since you’ll already have an idea of what will go where, etc. If this is your first time gardening in a specific space, I would recommend staying tuned in for the next post in this series, which is going to be all about Garden Planning!

    Tip #3: Try Something New
    Last year I tried Quinoa, and this year I’m trying out several new things. Chinese Noodle Beans, for instance. I’m pretty excited about those, and I also plan to grow Bok Choy and Kale for the first time. I also found a variety of Canteloupe called the Minnesota Midget, that I’m going to try growing, as they are a small, shorter season variety. I found a fantastic pin on Pinterest about how to grow melons in cool climates.

    With these tips, you should be ready to order your seeds. I almost never use all of my seeds in a year, so don’t be afraid to ask a friend to go in on your seed order with you! Also, don’t forget to read reviews and do a bit of Googling if you’re unsure of a certain seed type. Or comment here, and I’ll do my best to help you out!

    Thanks for reading!


  5. My Summer Garden Experience in Retrospect

    November 23, 2011 by Jocelyn

    Vegetable Garden with Flowers

    No matter how many lovely, sun-shiny days we have in Minnesota, the summer always seems to fly by.  I’m always anxious to get my seeds and plants in the ground come May, and inevitably end up killing a few because I put them out too soon.  Before long, I’m willing my tomatoes to ripen faster, in the hopes that they’ll turn red before the first frost hits.

    This summer was no exception.  I managed to snag an awesome community garden plot on the rooftop of our county building, which is conveniently located across the street from my workplace.  There are about 20 raised beds on the rooftop, alongside their new “green roof” and solar panel.  Oh, I’m so proud of them for investing in green energy!  Anyway, this plot was exactly 7 feet by by 25 feet.  I filled it with veggies, and was strangely the only person who added flowers to their garden.  Gardening is always more fun with bright flowers!

    To start with, I ordered a TON of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds.  This included arugula, leeks, basil, squash, and nasturtiums, just to name a few.  As usual, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the garden!  My biggest victories this year were my successes with growing eggplants, cauliflower, and broccoli!  The biggest OOPS moment I had was with my cucumber plant that got powdery mildew and eventually died, as well as starting my squash seeds way too late!

    Now that this summer’s growing season has passed us, what have you learned this year?  Don’t forget to mention which zone you’re in!