Category Archives: Gardening

As I mentioned last week, this is the time of year when seed catalogs start to arrive in your mailbox, full of bright glossy pictures of various vegetables and flowers that you can grow in your garden. Perhaps you’ve never had a garden before or have only purchased plants from a garden center but his year you want to plant your own seeds. How do you decide what to order?

seeds, ordering seeds, vegetable gardening, prudent living

So many choices!

The first thing you have to decide is whether or not you want to start your seeds inside or just plant your seeds directly into your garden. There are certain seeds, which must be started early, there is just not enough growing season to directly sow these seeds into your garden. Such plants as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants must all be started inside.

tomato seeds, vegetables, gardening

Tomato seeds must be started inside.

There are other seeds such as lettuce, which can be either started early inside or directly planted into your garden. Beans and corn can be directly planted outside in your garden once the soil has warmed up and the danger of frost has passed.

bean seeds, vegetable seeds, gardening

Some seeds are sowed directly into the garden.

I have been starting seeds indoors for years. It’s an enjoyable winter project and a relatively inexpensive way to grow a wide variety of plants. The first thing I do is to check the seed packet for the number of days before harvest, I want to make sure my plants will have enough time to produce before our first frost! Several years ago I found a wonderful link online for a booklet that helps you determine when to start seeds. Little House in the Suburbs offers a free download for their Spring Garden Planner. You print it out and put together a little booklet where you can easily see the dates of what needs to be planted when. The only thing you have to figure out is your frost date, when the last frost can be expected in the spring. It’s a great tool for keeping your seed-starting adventure organized!

Another important factor to consider is the size of your garden. If this is your first garden start small! Pick a few vegetables you enjoy and you know your family will like. Plant a few tomato plants, some cucumber, lettuce and beans. You will have an enjoyable time picking the fruits of your labor and knowing that your family is eating fresh, organic vegetables.

Spend some time reading a seed catalog, read the descriptions and have fun planning your garden! Once your have your garden planned and have decided to start some seeds indoors, I will tell you how to make your own seed starting mixture!

flower seeds, vegetable seeds, gardening, prudent living

I have quite a collection of various seeds!

 

Late December is not a time to be working in the garden in Vermont but it is a time to be planning next years garden. One of my favorite occupations in the winter is to sit by the woodstove and read through the new garden catalogs! Some of them have the best copywriters and can convince me to try many new varieties of vegetables.

Johnny's Seeds, Fedco Seeds, gardening, vegetables

My two favorite seed catalogs.

I usually order the majority of my seeds through the Fedco catalog. Not only do they have excellent prices but also since I order through our local coop I get an additional discount. You really can’t beat it! Fedco is not a fancy catalog, it is printed on what feels like newsprint, and is back and white, so no beautiful glossy photos to look at. They do have very good descriptions of their seeds and clearly explain whether or not a seed packet is heirloom or organic.

Fedco, seeds, vegetable gardening

Fedco catalog has great descriptions and illustrations.

Usually I have another catalog that does have the beautiful pictures to look up products if I’m not sure I want to order them or not. My other favorite catalog is Johnny’s Seeds, which is based in Maine.

Johnny's seeds, vegetable gardening, home gardening

Johnny's Seeds is another wonderful catalog.

I start most of my vegetable plants from seed and by the end of February I usually have quite a little garden going in our kitchen. In addition to a couple of grow lights I have lots of windows in the kitchen so I can give my plants a good start.

For now I just have to decide what I want to plant this year in addition to the regular vegetables! Starting your own seeds is a worthwhile investment. You have a much better selection of plants to choose from and you can also grown some wonderful heirloom plants that are hard to find in the local nurseries!

Do you plan to have a vegetable garden this year? If so, will you be starting your own seeds or picking up plants at the local garden center?

overwintering geraniums, plants, gardening

You can enjoy your geranium all winter.

Did you know that you could keep your geranium alive over the winter and enjoy it again in the spring? Geraniums can be grown indoors easily as long as you give them proper care and keep them in the right conditions. Before the first frost cut your plant back to half of its original size. Check it over to make sure it is free of disease and insects. Then dig up your plant and repot into a container using potting soil. Place your geranium in a cool location with plenty of direct sunlight. Water plants well after transplanting and as needed so the plant does not dry out.geranium, houseplants, overwintering plants

geranium, house plants, gardening

Your geranium can say healthy all winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As winter progresses you may need to pinch the plant to promote branching and prevent weak growth. Plants kept in containers over the winter are typically larger than most geraniums you can buy in the spring. This allows you to have a head start on growth and blooms for next year’s garden!

pinching, new growth, geranium

Pinch your geranium to promote new growth.

You can also overwinter geraniums in a dormant stage. They actually have the ability to survive for most of the winter without soil! I have not tried overwintering geraniums this way but after reading about it I may have to try it next year. To overwinter without soil dig up the entire plant before the first frost. Shake the dirt from the roots and place the plants inside an open paper bag or hang them upside down from the rafters in a cool, dark place for the winter. Several times during the winter, take the plants out of the bags and soak the roots in water for 1-2 hours. Check the plants over for any damage. Although the leaves will fall off the stems should remain firm and solid. In the spring pot the geraniums in a suitable container. Place the plants in a sunny window to promote growth. It may take several weeks before you see the new growth.

forcing bulbs, indoor flowers

I love flowers!

Before Thanksgiving I wrote a post on forcing bulbs. I set up several containers of bulbs and placed them in a cool spot while we went away. Was I ever surprised when we got home and I saw all the green shoots coming up out of the bulbs! The bulbs were so healthy they had a huge root mass at the bottom of each bulb and were nearly forcing themselves out of the container!

Narcissus, paperwhites, indoor flowers

In full bloom and very tall!

I brought them upstairs and kept them watered. In what seemed a very short time I was rewarded by beautiful blooms.

paperwhites, indoor flowers, forcing bulbs

They needed support to keep from falling over.

Our kitchen has had a profusion of blooms for the last week. They were such a success I’m thinking of going back to the garden center and seeing if they have any bulbs left. I could start some more to enjoy in late January or early February!

Narcissus, paperwhites, indoor flowers

Incredible tall flowers!

 

flowers, forcing bulbs

I love flowers!

Narcissus, christmas lights

Narcissus and Christmas lights.

 

Transplanting Orchids

Transplanting orchids is not hard. If you have orchids eventually they will need to be transplanted. My daughter gave me three orchids that she rescued from her place of employment. The business where she worked would purchase orchids when they were blooming to decorate with. Later when they were finished blooming they were thrown away. My daughter asked if she could bring them home. When my daughter and her husband moved over seas I became caretaker of the orchids! They have done fine for the last two years however they have also grown and when there were as many roots cascading over the outside of the pot as were growing inside the pot I decided it was time to transplant!transplanting orchids

I found that repotting an orchid is not difficult, just different. Like other houseplants orchids need to be moved to larger containers as they grow. Your orchid may need repotting for one of two reasons. First, the orchid may have simply outgrown it’s pot. Repotting is necessary when the actual body of the plant, not just the roots, has grown over the pot’s edge. The other reason to transplant is if the growing medium has broken down so much that air can no longer circulate through to dry the roots between watering. Good drainage is vital to the health of your orchid, and a growing medium that is constantly soggy will lead to root rot.

 

The best time to repot an orchid is just after it has begun to produce new growth but before the new roots have begun to elongate. Do not repot when it is flowering or has just produced a spike. My orchid had finished blooming and was looking very tired looking, definitely a good time to repot.

I had a large plastic container that I put under the orchid and used to collect the old potting soil.  I turned the orchid upside down over the container and gently dislodged it. Sometimes the roots stick to the edge of the pot, in which case you can use a sterilized knife to loosen the plant. With some gently persuasion my orchid came out of the pot. I then gently separated the roots and removed as much of the old potting mixture as I could.roots, orchid, transplanting

 

Before repotting, the roots will need to be carefully trimmed. Use sterilized scissors to remove any dead or damaged roots. They are easy to spot, being either dried and crispy or wet and mushy. Healthy roots are firm and white and have light-green growing tips.trimming roots, orchids

Have your new pot ready; it should be clean and rinsed well. Because orchids require good drainage, be sure to put clean stones, broken crockery or plastic foam peanuts in the bottom of the pots. Rinse the growing medium in water to hydrate it before use. Place some of the dampened mixture loosely on top of the drainage materials. Positions the orchid, and then carefully pack more of the planting mixture around the roots, firming it with your thumbs as you go. Make sure that, when finished, the top of the rhizome is level with the top of the potting mixture.transplanting orchid, gardening

Now my orchid should be much happier, it has fresh growing material and all the roots are in the pot. transplanted orchidSoon it should be sending out a new spike and I will be rewarded with beautiful blooms.Orchid, gardening, houseplants

winter squash, produce, farming

Produce at a local farm.

Thanksgiving week was spent on the west coast visiting our daughter and son-in-law. I always enjoy seeing other parts of the country and while we were on the west coast we took a side trip to Eugene, Oregon to visit a friend of my husband’s. They’ve known each other since the age of four! He is an arborist and an avid gardener. It was fun to tour his garden and see how things grow in Oregon. I had no idea that this part of Oregon had such a mild climate. Eugene is the second largest city in Oregon and is home of the University of Oregon. It is located at the south end of the Willamette Valley, about 50 miles east of the Oregon coast. Temperatures are pretty moderate; the average low in the winter is just above freezing. Summer temperatures average in the 80s.

garden, tomatoes, vegetables

Amazing to have fresh tomatoes in November!

heirloom tomatoes, tomatoes, vegetables, garden

This was an heirloom Russian tomato that was delicious!

After leaving Vermont where my garden is put to bed I was surprised at the number of vegetables still growing in this west coast garden! There were still tomatoes on the vine!

vegetables, broccoli, gardening

Broccoli ready to be picked!

vegetables, west coast garden, cauliflower

Beautiful cauliflower

Lots of kale, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots not to mention raspberries still available for picking!

raspberries, west coast garden, gardening

Surprise to find raspberries in November!

lemons, west coast gardening

The color is a little off but these are Myer Lemons!

There was even a Myer Lemon with lots of fruit growing in their garden! I was quite impressed. The dirt in the garden was rich, dark soil with not very many rocks. Quite a bit different from my Vermont garden!

row cover, garden,

Quick demonstration on making a row cover.

row cover, winter protection,

A wonderful, inexpensive row cover!

While we were touring the gardens our friend showed us how to create a simple row cover using hog panels! Each panel was cut to form about a six foot section with the side cut to form prongs which stuck into the garden. The panel was then formed into an arch and would be tied to stakes which were placed in the ground. It could then be covered with plastic to protect your plants. Very simple and quick! I’m going to have to give it a try next year. It was such fun to have a tour of a west coast garden! We even had time to take a hike on a nearby butte. Very educational to hike in the woods with an arborist, I look forward to visiting our friends again!

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