This will be our second year using “soil blocks” to germinate seeds and grow transplants (see Soil Blocks for Starting Transplants); but, before I make the soil blocks to start the seeds, I make seed starting mix using a recipe from The New Organic Grower by Elliot Coleman.
3 buckets (10 quart bucket) brown peat
1/2 cup lime
2 buckets coarse sand
1 cup blood meal
1 cup colloidal phosphate (22%)
1 cup greensand
1 bucket soil
2 buckets compost
To make the seed starting mix, measure the peat into a large mixing container, add the lime and mix. Then add the sand, blood meal, phosphate, and greensand – mix again. Add the soil [...]
Continue reading Making Soil Mix for Seed Starting
I want to make sure we do a better job this year with the garden and starting seedlings (got side-tracked with goat kids last year); so I’ve created our annual seed starting and planting schedule a little early (see below) to keep us on track. It helps me keep focused on buying seeds, starting transplants, getting supplies, and making sure the garden beds are prepared on time.
I start with my schedule from the previous year (see Making 2012′s Seed Starting & Planting Schedule), copy it to a new spreadsheet tab, consult my notes from last year’s garden, and then work up the new plan. I’ve [...]
Continue reading Making 2013′s Seed Starting & Planting Schedule (w/downloadable template)
The snow’s been falling here today, and to me that means it’s time for garden seed catalogs again. I don’t want most of the catalogs we get in the mail, but the yearly garden seed catalogs are different. I love looking through them; and spend hours studying and plotting next years perfect garden (well, it is in my imagination).
Unfortunately, many companies are choosing to put their catalogs on the Internet instead of making print catalogs. I understand that it costs less and is greener; but I still like having a catalog in my hand for studying the different varieties, descriptions, and pictures. The Internet just doesn’t offer the same experience.
Continue reading Free Garden Seed Catalogs
In our early years, we moved around the country quite a bit, and ended up putting in many new lawns. We found that establishing a new lawn is best done in the fall; so we finally put in a front lawn at Bramblestone Farm this fall. Prior to this year, we had to drive the tractor through the front yard to get to part of the farm, so we never bothered putting one in.
We’ve settled on a pretty simple process for establishing a new lawn – it’s probably old-fashioned, but it seems to work quickly and effectively: bring in some good topsoil (you don’t want poor top soil with [...]
Continue reading Establishing New Lawns
Fall is the best time to divide spring and summer blooming perennials – they’re finished putting energy into blooming, and new divisions will re-establish quickly during the cooler, wetter fall weather. Dividing helps control the size of plants, rejuvenates them, and increases the number of plants for your garden.
For fall blooming perennials, it’s generally better to wait until spring to divide. By dividing plants when they’re not blooming, they can put all their energy into root and leaf growth.
What Plants to Divide
Most perennials should be divided every three to five years. It’s best to divide plants when they still look good, [...]
Continue reading Fall Division of Spring & Summer Blooming Perennials
I can remember when you went to your local feed & seed supply store to buy garden seeds; and your choices were limited to a few – how things have changed! Today there are numerous seed catalogs available with hundreds of offerings, and you can also order from thousands of varieties online – but the choices can be confusing. What’s the difference between GE, GMO, OP, Heirloom, Hybrid, Organic, Pelleted, and Treated seed? Here’s the explanation:
OP (Open Pollinated) – open pollinated seeds are those that are produced by pollination from wind, insects, or self-pollination. You can save seed from open-pollinated varieties and [...]
Continue reading Garden Seeds – GMO, GE, OP, Heirloom, Hybrid – What’s It All Mean?
I recently learned about a powerful tool for improving our gardening and beekeeping abilities. It’s called Phenology, and it’s a method of predicting 1) when to plant crop seeds, 2) when the bees will bring in nectar, 3) what kind of nectar they’ll be bringing in (i.e. what kind of honey it will be), 4) when to start controlling detrimental insects, 5) when weeds will emerge, and 6) many more things!
It utilizes temperature as a predictor because plant growth and insect emergence depend on temperature. “Growing degree-days” (GDD) are used as the predictive measure, and by knowing the GDD for your area on a [...]
Continue reading Awesome Predictive Tool – Phenology
We’re running a little late this year on selecting vegetable seeds and getting them ordered; but now that I’ve created our annual seed starting and planting schedule (see below), I can keep us on track. It helps me keep focused on buying seeds, starting transplants, getting supplies, and making sure the garden beds are prepared on time.
I start with my schedule from the previous year (see Making 2011′s Seed Starting & Planting Schedule), copy it to a new spreadsheet tab, consult my notes from last year’s garden, and then work up the new plan. I’ve included a downloadable template (2012 Seed Starting & [...]
Continue reading Making 2012′s Seed Starting & Planting Schedule (w/downloadable template)
Tinker Bell Eating Pea Vines
Each time I work in the garden and consider bringing back some garden trimmings for the goats and chickens; I have to stop and look through my reference books – to determine whether that particular plant is safe for them to eat. So, I decided to make a list of garden plants that are safe for goats or chickens, and that they’ll benefit from eating. That way, I can just refer back to this list, rather than dragging out a bunch of books.
This is what I know about today that they can eat (chickens may [...]
Continue reading Garden Greens for Goats & Chickens
Starting transplants in soil blocks is a new process for me, so this is a learning project. When seeding the first flat of mini-blocks (see the 3/4” blocks below), I found one nice thing is the depression in the top for a seed. With large seeds, it’s very easy to get a seed into each depression; however, small seeds are a challenge. Wetting the end of a toothpick and using it to pick up and deposit tiny seeds worked best for me (the seeds are in the white bowl below and the water and toothpick in the brown bowl) – I could [...]
Continue reading Seeding Soil Blocks
In the past, I haven’t been very good at keeping garden records; however, I’m going to do a better job this year. I know it’s important to keep records to evaluate what varieties and techniques work the best; and I really want to start using varieties and processes that produce the best taste and yield, in the fastest – most efficient manner possible.
So this year, I started an Excel garden planting log, where I’m going to record all the pertinent information on what gets planted, where it’s started, how long it takes to germinate, etc. Here’s what gets recorded and why:
Crop & Variety [...]
Continue reading Garden Planting Log (w/downloadable template)
Soil blocks were first developed in Holland as a more efficient method for starting seedlings or transplants; and extensive research in European countries has shown transplants grown in them are superior to transplants grown in containers. I’m for anything that’s more efficient and gets better results, so we’re starting seedlings this year using soil blocks.
Soil blocks are made from a growing medium (seed starting soil mix) that has been compressed into a block by using a forming tool. When the blocks are formed, a slight depression is left in the top of each soil block; and one seed is typically placed [...]
Continue reading Soil Blocks for Starting Transplants
Now that the chickens and goats are here, we have one of the main ingredients for growing great produce. Composted animal bedding makes an incredible difference in garden productivity, especially since I prefer to fertilize naturally rather than chemically. I learned about natural vegetable production early – it was the way my grandfather, who’d grown up farming, raised vegetables to feed us.
Annually, grandpa grew a bountiful garden that provided the families produce all year long. He started by adding composted horse manure from the neighbor’s stable to the same sunny patch of land each year. Then he’d plant his favorite [...]
Continue reading Garden Gold
Over the past few months, I’ve written several posts on growing healthy garden transplants, and I’ve combined them here (for convenience) into one “how-to” on growing seedlings indoors.
I’m always anxious to get a jump on the garden growing season, so I start most vegetable plants indoors instead of direct seeding in the garden; that way, I’ve got stocky transplants ready as soon as the last frost date has passed. Growing them indoors allows me to control temperature, light, and water while eliminating exposure to wind, diseases, insects, and pests. So each year, I consult my seed starting schedule (see Making a Seed Starting & Planting Schedule), and start [...]
Continue reading Growing Stocky Garden Seedlings
Every year, I need to determine where our plants will go in the garden, and that means I have to think about crop rotation. Everyone should consider rotating their crops, because it helps maximize productivity while minimizing pests and disease.
What Is It
Farmers have been rotating crops since farming began, and there are many different strategies. In effect, you’re just making sure that when the bugs and diseases wake up in the bed you grew tomatoes in last year, there aren’t tomatoes there for them to conveniently feast on this year. Instead, perhaps they’ll find carrots which they don’t happen to like, [...]
Continue reading Garden Crop Rotation – A Simple System