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Posts Tagged ‘Vegetables’

  1. Organic Gardening: Part 3 – Starting Seeds

    April 11, 2013 by Jocelyn

    This is Part 3 of my Organic Gardening Series: Starting Seeds. The series of images below is a really fast and basic guide to seed starting if you’re already familiar with some of the details. For those that are very new to gardening, I’ve elaborated on each step in the process below. If you still have any questions, please comment here and I’ll get back to you!

    Seed Starting Steps

    Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

    You will need the following:

      Seed trays with plastic containers and clear lids
      A spray bottle full of water
      Seed starting soil (quality is important)
      Paper and pencil
      Grow lights

    Step 2: The Dirt

    Fill your containers with your soil, and spray it really well so the top layer is nice and damp. A good seed starting soil will be loose and fine, not dense. After they’ve sprouted, your seedlings will require a lot of nutrients to grow as quickly as they do. This is why I use Fox Farm soil; it’s fine enough for seeds to easily germinate in, but it also has the nutrients they need to grow big and strong! I also don’t have to worry about manually fertilizing the seedlings this way, which is much easier in my opinion! If you want more information about choosing a seed starting medium, check out my previous post: The Importance of Dirt.

    Since I only sprayed the top of my soil, I add some water to the bottom of the tray so the soil can wick moisture up to the seeds as well.

    Step 3: Planting the Seeds

    I’m a lazy seed planter, I’ll admit. I don’t read the seed packets for every variety to see what their planting depth should be. I just sprinkle some seeds on the dirt, very lightly tamp it down, and then sprinkle a little more dirt over the top of the seeds. A good rule of thumb is to have your seeds at a depth that is approximately 3 times that of the seed’s diameter.

    For really small seeds like Petunias or Snapdragons, I just sprinkle them on top of the soil, tamp it down lightly and call it good.

    Step 4: The Lighting

    Without at least 12-16 hours of bright light every day, your seedlings will get tall, stringy, and likely fall over after a few weeks. We want strong, sturdy little seedlings that will be healthy enough to withstand their eventual transition outdoors! For this reason, I recommend getting some good grow lights, and connecting them to a timer. If you’re on a budget, these are great bulbs. It’s best to keep the lights between 2-4 inches away from the tops of your seedlings.

    Lastly: Ongoing Care

    Once planted, water, light, and air are the three things your seedlings will need to thrive.


    If you watered your seed trays from the bottom as well as spraying the top, you probably won’t have to water much for the first week or two, since the seedlings won’t have any developed root systems yet. If the top of the soil looks dry, just give them a good misting.

    Once sprouted, your seedlings will need a fairly steady supply of water. It’s just as important to make sure that they aren’t too wet, either. If you’re unsure of how much water to give your seedlings, I would recommend watering less. If you water too much, you risk mold, which means you could lose all of your seedlings. If you don’t give them enough water, you’ll likely notice their leaves getting a little wilted, and they should respond well to a good drink of water.


    As we discussed above, your seedlings will want at least 12-16 hours of light each day. They will also want a period of darkness to rest. This is why having your lights on a timer works so well. If you don’t have an automatic timer, just make sure to turn the lights off at night.


    Air circulation is important for two reasons. First, it is a preventive measure against mold and mildews. Second, it will help strengthen your seedlings so they will better be able to withstand outdoor winds when being transitioned outside. I like to put a fan near my seedlings once they’ve sprouted; it should be on the lowest power. If it still seems as though it’s creating too much of a breeze for your seedlings, then I just move it a little further away.

    Finally, it’s important to note that a little attentiveness can go a long way when starting plants from seed. I check my seedlings every day, sometimes every two if I’m busy. It’s definitely more important to watch them closely when they’re just sprouting. Once they’ve grown a bit, then you don’t have to worry about them as much.

    Well, that’s it folks. Thanks for reading! I hope all of you are enjoying nice spring weather! In the meantime, I’m wishing I could stay snuggled up at home right now.
    Spring Weather?
    PS – Stay tuned for Part 4, when I’ll talk about pruning and hardening off your seedlings!

  2. Organic Gardening: Part 2 – Garden Planning

    March 18, 2013 by Jocelyn

    This is Part 2 of my Organic Gardening Series, Garden Planning.

    I’ve included a link to my garden plan, as well as a nifty seed starting timeline for folks in my hardiness zone!

    Today I’ll go over my earliest phases of garden planning, which I do before I even start my seeds. The level of planning that you do can vary, but after a few years of winging it, I’ve decided to try planning things out a bit more.

    I’ve got my seeds, and I’ll be ready to start some of them this week. As you can see, I have a good mix of flowers, fruits and veggies. Now that I’m going to be getting a CSA share, I’m planting fewer fruits and veggies, but more flowers.

    Heirloom Seeds

    It’s always difficult to get an exact estimate of how many seeds to start. Last year I went a little crazy with seed starting, and my seedlings did really well; there were a LOT of extra plants. I crammed more transplants into my garden than I had planned for, and even then, I still had leftovers. But after the flood, many of my community garden friends needed to replace some of their tomatoes and other vegetables, so I was able to give all of my extras away.

    Garden Planning 101: Things to consider:

    • How much food do you have space for? Not just in your garden, but in your home as well.
    • How many people are you trying to feed?
    • What will you eat or use the most (try to be realistic).

    First, you should calculate the square footage of your garden. I have 175 square feet of garden space. Then I like to get an idea of how much will fit into my garden. If you’re like me, and tend to plant things fairly close together, you could refer to a Square Foot Gardening resource. You can also choose to focus on a few important plants, and give them lots of room to grow.

    Next, take a quick survey of your pantry and/or freezer at home. If you have a lot of space, and aren’t afraid to jump into a canning, dehydrating, or freezing project, then by all means- plant as much as you can! If you’re like me, and have a limited amount of space and experience with canning, then you need to put a bit more thought into your plan.

    Second, think about how many people you will be feeding with your garden. Also, what do they like to eat?  If only one person really likes beets, it’s probably not a good idea to plant a lot of them.

    Reality Check
    Lastly, be realistic. Think about the vegetables you want to plant, and how much of each you’re likely to use. I like to try out new and interesting vegetables, but if it’s your first time growing something it’s probably best to only plant a few. Remember that harvest time is usually pretty busy, and you will likely have a huge amount of veggies to put up all around the same time (this is especially true in Minnesota where we have such a short growing season). I grew Quinoa last year, and I was really excited about it at first. Then I didn’t have time for threshing and winnowing the grain.  Oops.

    My Plan
    I used the Mother Earth News Garden Planner to get an idea of how much I can fit into my garden. It’s a great piece of software, and anyone can sign up for a free 30 day trial. Here’s my plan, complete with a list of my vegetables and a handy timeline for when to start, transplant, and harvest each thing! Awesome, right?

    Keep in mind, this is NOT my final garden plan. I still have to take companion planting and crop rotation into account. I will probably do this in a few weeks, once it’s closer to the time I will be starting to plant cool weather crops in my garden.

    Most cold climate gardeners are gearing up to start their seeds, so I’ve attached a handy Seed Starting Timeline that I created for anyone living in between zones 3b to 4b. The dates were calculated using an average last frost date around May 31st.

    Free Printable Seed Starting Guide

    Free Printable Guide for Seed Starting

    We’ll get down to the nitty gritty of seed starting next time! I recommend reading some of my previous posts to get ready! You can order your seeds if you haven’t done so already, and find some quality seed starting soil. Both are very important to having healthy seedlings to put in your garden!

    Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

  3. The Importance of Dirt: Seed Starting Soil

    May 25, 2012 by Jocelyn

    I originally put my veggie seeds in cheap seed starting soil, and while it was advertised as organic, it just wasn’t high quality. My seedlings sprouted and after a couple weeks they started to die. I knew I had to do something fast if I didn’t want to lose all of my baby tomato plants, so I did a bit of research about seed starting soil.

    The photo below was taken right before re-potting. The sad looking little plants you see below were that size for at least 2 weeks. They had sprouted, grown a few inches, and then started to die. I was really bumming out, because I’ve been plagued with poor seed starting results for years. This year is the first year that I’ve used a Grow Light System for my seedlings, and I thought that it would miraculously make my plants invincible. I was wrong.

    Another shot of the dying seedlings
    Sad little plants :(

    If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice a difference in the soils. The one nearest the camera is darker, and is the new and improved dirt. The rest are all still in the older, crappy seed starting soil.

    Believe it or not, the healthy looking plants below are the same plants! And this second photo was taken only 10 days after I repotted them. (They’ve since doubled in size again, and are nearly ready to go outside).

    Healthy tomatoes in new seed starting soil
    Happy, healthy seedlings

    So, you may be asking what this magical seed starting soil is. Fox Farm (click HERE to see a retailer near you) is the creator, and the soil is Ocean Forest. It’s all organic (yippee!) and has plenty of nutrients for your little seedlings. The nice thing about this soil is that it holds moisture! My first seed starting soil was really bad at holding moisture and always seemed dry; water would either sit on top of the dirt or go right through. Boo.

    If you don’t have a Fox Farm retailer near you, you can get a 12 quart bag of Ocean Forest Organic Soil here. (The two Amazon links in this post are through my affiliate account. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. If you use either of them, I’d like to thank you for your support!) Any seed starting soil will be a bit more expensive to buy online, but well worth it if you’ve had troubles with starting seeds. With a quality soil, you should have strong and healthy plants!

    I’m still waiting to put a lot of mine out in my garden, but they’re quickly getting too big to keep in the house! Our weather forecast for this weekend is not great for tiny plants; we’re supposed to have temps in the low 50’s, rain, and winds gusting up to 30 mph. Yikes. I think I’m going to have to wait and plant them next week on one of my lunch breaks. It’s tough to wait when I’m feeling so impatient to get my garden started, but I know it’ll be more beneficial to wait at this point.

    So how are everyone else’s gardens doing? I realize I’m usually planting my garden much later than most of you, seeing as I’m in chilly zone 3b. But if you’ve already started your garden, I’d love to see photos! Feel free to comment with links to your blogs, especially if you have jealousy-inducing garden photos!

    Have a great weekend everyone!

  4. DIY Friday – Re-Growing Green Onions

    March 9, 2012 by Jocelyn

    Most people don’t realize that green onions can be easily re-grown; all you have to pay for is the first bunch! It’s a great way to be frugal while still using your green thumb (at least a little).
    Green Onions in a Jar
    Just stick them in a jar with water covering the white part of the ends. Place them in the fridge, or on a bright area in your kitchen- both will work.
    Re-Growing Green Onions
    Within a week or so, they’ll be ready again!
    Green Onions
    You can see in the last image where the onions were last cut. The new growth comes from the center of the onion; what you see here was grown in about a week. I’m a huge fan of doing this, especially in the winters when I don’t have an easy way of growing fresh onions.

  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!