More potting up and moving out

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Dear Carol and Mary Ann,

A few days ago when I started this post for our Dear Friend and Gardener Club, I was potting up and moving out seedlings of most of the flowers I started from seed. In the photo below are Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset,’ a seed strain of beautiful black-eyed Susans that contains double flowers, along with those that have complicated eye zones. I find I have much better luck with many perennials if I start the seed myself. I know it’s easy to be lured in by a pretty face in an overstuffed container at the box store, but try planting seeds instead. When most summer-blooming perennials are doing their thing, it’s too hot and dry to get them started. Plus, my seeds don’t have growth regulators and lots of fertilizer. Prairie plants like rudbeckia don’t need this. I also sowed seed for R. hirta ‘Irish Eyes’, a green-eyed rudbeckia.

Blooms of 'Cherokee Sunset' Rudbeckia hirta courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.

Blooms of ‘Cherokee Sunset’ Rudbeckia hirta courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.

There’s also parsley. Parsley is so slow! I bought two plants of parsley from the local nursery to get the garden started faster. I like flat leaf parsley better than curly, but that’s just personal preference. It’s good to have plenty of parsley and dill for all of the ravenous Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars. Fennel is really good too. I have the bulb type and the bronze.

Parsley and Rudbeckia hirta seedlings I potted up in the greenhouse. I moved them back inside so Bill could water them all together while I was out of town.

Parsley and Rudbeckia hirta in the greenhouse. I moved them back inside so Bill could water them all together while I was out of town.

We had a freeze on April 19. It got down to 26F in my garden. Some plants, like the Wisteria frutescens, American wisteria, may not bloom this year because they took a direct hit. All of the roses and Japanese maples had already leafed out too and are still burned. I noticed today that my wisteria is finally coming out of shock. Other plants sailed through the freeze with almost no damage even though I didn’t cover anything.

Bill tilled the larger vegetable garden. Although I don’t like to till, it was necessary this year. The ground is still pretty new, and it was very compacted from last year. I worked on my garden plan before I planted. At the north end, I sowed sunflower seeds in shades of red with large yellow sunflowers in front. I love a sunflower border in the garden, don’t you? In front of the sunflowers, I planted my corn. I have two varieties this year, one is ornamental, and the other is sweet corn. Therefore, they must be separated like children who don’t get along. I may plant the ornamental corn at the bottom of the back garden far away from sweet corn if I get to it.

Transplants in the large vegetable garden in early spring.

Transplants in the large vegetable garden in early spring.

I also planted tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers in the larger vegetable garden. Many of these I sowed indoors in February. The plants look minuscule in such a large space, but they will quickly grow into their larger selves. I put sweet peppers in the potager where they can grow without mixing pollen with the hot peppers. Although the sweet peppers might not taste hot this year, if I saved seeds, all of my peppers next year would be hot. I also sowed pole and bush beans because our weather appeared more stable and even hot in the longterm forecast. Now, tonight is supposed to be 38F which sucks for the warm weather veggies and ornamental coleus I planted outside. Spring in Oklahoma is full of surprises, but I’m not covering my plants. We’re told the mercury will rise to 90F by this weekend, but that’s hard to believe with the wind howling out of the North.

I have several varieties of indeterminate tomatoes so I’m considering doing the post and string method of support. I’ll let you know if I do. For the determinate varieties, I’ll just simple use tomato cages.

Sweet peppers in the potager.

Sweet Italian frying peppers in the potager.

After spending four weeks or more dragging transplants inside and out to harden them off, I always begin to wonder what it’s all for. However, come June, July and August when the garden is full of flowers and tasty food, I’ll be so glad I did all of this work. That’s why I wrote in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff to start small.

Snowpeas and lettuce in the potager.

Snow peas, garlic and lettuce in the potager.

I didn’t always start seeds indoors. I still buy some plants, especially tomato and pepper hybrids, because they are readily available. I don’t need to start things that I can find locally and organic. Instead, I start all of the weird and unique plants I want to grow. To know which ones are best started indoors, I always look at the seed package.

Black-Seed Simpson and red lettuces, garlic and romaine lettuce in the kitchen garden.

Black-Seed Simpson and red lettuces, garlic and romaine lettuce in the kitchen garden.

The potager is full of lettuce and stir fry greens, along with garlic, onions, shallots and chives. The sage and lemon thyme came back in spite of the brutal winter weather, but my large rosemary succumbed to extreme cold. I bought a few plants of rosemary locally, and they are already growing outside. The chives are blooming at the ends of the kitchen garden/potager, and we’ll have loads of garlic in a couple of months. The snow peas and purple radishes are also growing quickly now.

Four o'clocks still in the greenhouse. I haven't decided where to plant them yet. You can see the greenhouse is overflowing with tropical plants.

Four o’clocks still in the greenhouse. I haven’t decided where to plant them yet. You can see the greenhouse is overflowing with tropical plants.

I’m not planting tomatoes in the raised beds of the potager this year because I have root knot nematodes. This is a bummer, but it’s all a matter of rotation, rotation, rotation of different plants in the beds.

Well, that’s it from Oklahoma this week. I’m wondering what everyone in our virtual garden club is up. If you comment and link to your post, I’ll make sure to come by and visit. I’ll also feature your post on my 20-30 Garden Guide Facebook page and tweet it out. Let me know what everyone is up to. Happy Spring!

 

 

 


Dear Friend and Gardener: Spring in the middle South

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Dear Carol and Mary Ann, I’m so glad we started up our Dear Friend and Gardener letters again. I think having a virtual garden club will be loads of fun. I hope others join us by grabbing the badge below and putting it on their sidebars with a link to the club page. So far, we have several members. I hope our readers will visit their blogs too.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

Although I read that Carol is in early spring, our spring in Oklahoma is coming in at full steam. We’re supposed to reach 85F today, and there is a strong chance for thunderstorms, including hail and possibly tornadoes, tonight. Am I worried? No, I’m a native Oklahoman, and I’m used to crazy weather each spring. My seedlings are growing like gangbusters, and I put some of the tomatoes outside in a shady spot to start the hardening off process. I won’t plant out tomatoes until probably after April 20 unless I just can’t stop myself. Although the ambient temperature says summer, the ground is still not warm. Plus, there’s still a chance of frost although the extended forecast looks very warm.

Lettuce and snowpea seedlings in the potager. I hope they have time to grow.

Lettuce and snowpea seedlings in the potager. I hope they have time to grow.

Very warm isn’t good for my lettuce sown outside in late February, because it is just now getting its true leaves. If the temperatures stay too high, the lettuce will turn bitter, and I won’t get any salads from my garden until I replant in fall. I also planted snow peas, purple radishes, pak choy and a stir fry mix in the potager, with potatoes in Smart Pots on the bricks next to the potager. Some of the potatoes have sprouted, and I’m watching for the others to do the same. I’ll add soil as they grow the same way I would normally hill up potatoes grown in the ground.

My messy vegetable garden. I should've cleaned it up last fall.

My messy vegetable garden. I should’ve cleaned it up last fall.

For the larger vegetable garden that is still a mess from last fall, I want a broadfork. I’m looking at broadforks from Meadow Creature. The reason I’m going with a broadfork instead of tilling is to support the structure of the soil and the creatures in the garden. When we’ve tilled in the past, we’ve hurt the earthworm population and made a soil that is too fine, so I’m changing how I do things. Although that garden doesn’t look its best right now, it’s okay. I’ll have it ready soon. In the potager, I’m thining seedlings because they are now jumping up out of the ground. We’ve got to give them room to grow.

Thinning seedlings in the potager. This is a stir fry mix.

Thinning seedlings in the potager. This is a stir fry mix.

So, we’re in that in-between place where I can’t plant the warm weather vegetables yet, but the cold weather ones may be over soon. That’s the thing about gardening–you can learn all about it and work very hard–but the truth is, you never know it all. Mother Nature always throws you curve balls. I think that’s why I find it so satisfying.

The daffodils bloom all around St. Francis. This small bed was my second garden. It was once vegetables.

The daffodils bloom all around St. Francis. This small bed was my second garden. It was once vegetables.

If you’re wondering what else I’m doing, I’m still pruning the roses and clearing away debris from the perennials in the other parts of the garden. I’m enjoying the daffodils as they bloom. You gotta love narcissus because they are reliable, and nothing–including deer or voles–will eat them. I’m watering the tulips in the layered pots I made last fall. So far, they seem to be working well. I won’t put muscari with tulips anymore though because the tulip foliage hides the muscari. Another lesson learned.

See the muscari (grape hyacinths) trying to bloom between the tulips. That wasn't well planned on my part.

See the muscari (grape hyacinths) trying to bloom between the tulips. That wasn’t well planned on my part.

Everything else is coming up gangbusters and growing. The windows are open in my house, and I can hear birds singing their spring love songs. All is well in my world. I hope it is in yours too. Happy Spring! P.S.  Would you like to join our virtual garden club?  If you grow your own food or flowers and have a garden blog (or even start one), we would love to have you join. Just go to the home page for Dear Friend and Gardener, grab the badge, put it on your blog with a link back to the club page. Then post about your veg garden about once a month during the growing season. We want to hear all about your growing adventures. Let me know you’ve joined, and I’ll include you and your blog on the club page. Let’s get gardening!


See how much these seeds have grown!

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Tomato and pepper seedlings growing like wild fire.

Tomato and pepper seedlings growing like wild fire.

Look at my seeds now. See how much they’ve grown in the two weeks since I sowed them on March 5. It’s time to repot many of them which I’ll be doing later this afternoon. I’ll show you that process too, but I wanted you to see what the plants look like this morning. If your seedlings have emerged and are growing, you can also turn off your heat mats. It’s so exciting! Don’t you think so too?

Flower seeds I started a few days after the tomatoes and peppers.

Flower seeds I started a few days after the tomatoes and peppers.

The flower seeds, above aren’t quite as large because I started them a few days after the tomatoes and peppers. However, they will catch up by the time we move this seedling party outside. It won’t be long now.

These tomato seedlings want to be planted in a roomier home.

These tomato seedlings want to be planted in a roomier home.

The seeds I planted in cells are really ready to find a new home. They are cramped in their present quarters. Remember, when you transplant, make a tag for each container. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell which tomato or pepper is which. They all look alike for a long time until they grow larger and begin producing fruit.

Speaking of tags, everyone has their setbacks. Just look at the tags below. I used a blue Sharpie instead of black, and the humidity from the covered seed tray melted all my words. Frustrating? Yes, but I kept the packets of seed I’ve sown in a separate box. That way, once these have true leaves, I can look them over and see which ones are which. I’ll re-tag them then. So, don’t be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. It happens to all of us.

The blue Sharpie ran due to humidity so the tags are worthless.

The blue Sharpie ran due to humidity so the tags are worthless.

I see seedlings as a sign of hope because no matter what winter throws at us, spring is truly here. Have a great week and let me know how your seeds are doing. I’d love to hear.

I think seedlings are just about the most hopeful thing there is.

I think seedlings are just about the most hopeful thing there is.

To learn more about seed starting and how to build this seed starting station, buy my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.


Starting vegetable and flower seeds indoors

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Let’s do a little seed-starting 401, shall we? Starting vegetable and flower seeds indoors isn’t as hard as you might think. I was once intimidated by the process. So, I’m going to break down how I started my own seeds this year, and I hope it helps. If you like this information and want more, see my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, available at your local independent bookstore, amazon and most Barnes & Noble stores. If you don’t see it, ask them. Your request is like a vote in the yes column, and they’ll order more than one copy for their shelves.

Now, let’s roll.

    1. I’m not as organized as you might think. The seeds in the basket are ones I’ve already planted this year. The ones in my homemade box are separated only by season. Could you do a better job? You bet, but this works for me.

      I'm not as organized as you might think.

      I’m not as organized as you might think.

    2. Start with good, organic potting soil. Miracle-Gro potting soils–for the most part–are neither organic, nor particularly good. Miracle-Gro is in bed with Monsanto, and is now testing a genetically modified Kentucky Bluegrass resistant to RoundUp. If you don’t have a problem with that, uhm, okay. We’ll talk later. I usually buy my potting soil from my local nursery. They make their own mix with locally-sourced ingredients. You can also use potting soil specifically made for seed starting. It’s a finer, sifted soil, but I find it washes away when I water. One way to stop this is to water from the bottom, but I don’t have the space to do that. I’m using my kitchen sink for watering. Sanctuary Soil sent me some Empire Builder Indoor-Outdoor Growers Mix, and I’m using it for this project. I wish I could buy it locally. Still, if you live where they sell it, it’s wonderful stuff.

      Recycled containers with Empire Builder potting soil

      Recycled containers with Empire Builder potting soil. Why I have the potting soil upside down in this picture, I don’t know. I just dove in and began planting without thinking about the photos.

    3. As for containers, you can use recycled items like the ones in the foreground of the photo, above. I really like the to-go containers from Pei Wei, and now, I don’t feel guilty because I reuse them again and again. Also, if you buy rotisserie chicken in the supermarket, these make great seed-starting containers too. If I’m using new seed trays, I buy the Pro-Hex ones also shown above. Their cells are deeper than standard trays. This is good for plant roots and for tags. I must break the tags when I’m planting because they won’t fit under the clear cover otherwise. The less breakage, the more information I can put on the tags.

      Don't forget to tag and label your seed trays and other containers.

      Don’t forget to tag and label your seed trays and other containers. You will kick yourself if you don’t.

    4. About tags, don’t forget to use them. One the worst mistakes I ever made was thinking I would remember what I planted in these little cells. Well, that didn’t work. Instead, I ended up with a mess of tomato plants that I couldn’t identify until they had fruit. My garden was a higgledy-piggledy mess that summer. Since I use a lot of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplant with colorful names, I write as much info as I can get on the tag. Sure, I can go back and look at the package, but that’s an extra step.

      Water mix before you plant seeds.

      Water mix before you plant seeds.

    5. Place your potting soil in the container and wet it down before you begin. This helps seeds “stick” to the soil. Plus, you’ll find any air pockets you have. Seed trays are notorious for air pockets.

      Renee's Garden trio seed packets with colored seeds.

      Renee’s Garden three variety seed packets with colored seeds.

    6. Seeds, glorious seeds. If you have a small garden, may I suggest some of these trio packages of seeds from Renee’s Garden? I bought the Asian and Italian eggplant trios. Inside, you’ll find three colors of seed with an identification chart on the back of the seed packet. In the book, I explain all the juicy details seed packets contain. I separated the seeds, tagged the spots I wanted to use and sowed two rows of each variety. I really like eggplant. I put all of the eggplant seeds on one tray because they will grow to the same height. This is important after the seeds begin to grow. It makes your life easier. Eggplant especially wants heat mats to germinate. I use heat mats for all of my heat-loving vegetable seeds, and you can find them locally or on amazon. To pick up the seeds more easily, wet your finger and touch the seed you want.

      Pink seed on finger.

      Pink seed on finger.

    7. You can see the seeds planted below. You push the seeds down into the soil with your finger–the larger the seed, the deeper it’s planted. On the recycled containers, I scattered seed across the top and covered them with soil. Later, I’ll prick them out and place them in bigger pots. For those, I wrote labels and put them on the side of the containers.
    8. Top the seeds with a bit more soil. Once the plants grow a little, and I transplant them to a bigger home before going outside, I will put grit on top. It helps keep the soil moist and stops those nasty little fruit gnats that bug us so much. What kind of grit you use depends upon where you live. I just use chicken grit I get at the feed store.

      Pink and green seeds planted in seed tray cells.

      Pink and green seeds planted in seed tray cells.

    9. Water everyone again and top them with clear plastic lids or Glad Press’n Seal Food Wrap. In a few days, your seeds will spring into action, and you can remove the plastic. I usually wait until plants have a real set of leaves. The first two “leaves” are cotyledon and are part of the embryo of the seed. Interesting, isn’t it? That’s how I got into botany in college. I also loosen the wrap as plants grow so that it doesn’t squish them.
    10. Place seed trays or recycled containers under lights, or in a south-facing window. Even with the window, you may find they become leggy. I don’t have a south-facing window anywhere but in my bathroom so I use cool and warm spectrum fluorescent light bulbs. I buy these at my hardware store. You can also buy pricey grow lights, but they aren’t a requirement. If growing in a window, turn your plants every day so they will grow straight and strong.
Heat mats, lights and covered seedlings.

Heat mats, lights and covered seedlings.

That’s all there is to seed starting. If you live in the southern part of the U.S., the end of February or first week of March is the time to get started. For my northern friends, look to your cooperative extension service for times in your area.

I’m planting my flower seeds next. They take a bit more understanding and practice. Read their seed packets. Some like light to germinate which means you put them on top of the soil. Others have special heat requirements, and some like to be started outside. For more extensive information on seed starting especially with flowers, Nan Ondra’s blog, Hayefield, has excellent information.


A garden party book launch for the 20-30 Something Garden Guide

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ST LYNN'S 20-30 Something CoverMaybe you haven’t heard, but my book,The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, comes out today!!!

Let’s throw confetti and blow our party horns! For the book launch, we’re having a huge garden party, and the prizes are all for you. I wrote this book because I think 20-30 Somethings want to garden. They just don’t know where to start. They know good food when they see it, but so many think gardening requires a large space and budget. You don’t have to move to the country to garden. You just need a garden coach.

Trust me, you can grow a lot of vegetables, flowers and herbs in a few beds or even in containers on your balcony. And, it won’t take that much of a time investment.

If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry. Gardening may look mysterious, but it’s simply a skill like cooking, crafting or baking that must be learned. The magic happens after you plant that seed. Imagine me on the sidelines cheering for you from every page. Click through and look at the book to see if it’s right for you. I want to give you the tools to garden effectively along with the ability to slow down and ponder. I hope by writing this book I’ll plant seeds because without gardeners like you, we won’t have nearly as much beauty in our world.

Oh, and one more thing, this book is for anyone who is a novice gardener, no matter what our age is. We are all 20-30 Somethings in our hearts anyway.

I’d love to go along with you on your garden journey, and I’m here to answer questions every step of the way. Please feel free to comment here or email me at nashgarden@gmail.com. You can also visit me over at Red Dirt Ramblings.

You’ve heard enough from me. I want you to know The 20-30 Something Garden Guide through twelve of my blogger friends, and they have prizes galore for you. To enter, simply leave a comment on the individual blogs. This giveaway runs through February 23 at Midnight, and it is only open to citizens of the continental United States. We’ll announce the winners on Monday, February 24. We have twelve wonderful bloggers from all over the U.S. just waiting to hear from you. Without further ado, here they are:

Shawna Coronado’s website — a gift certificate to High Country Gardens for a Summer Dreams Garden.

Whitney Curtis at The Curtis Casa — David Austin Rose, ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and Authentic Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea.

Colleen Dieter at Red Wheelbarrow Plants — Garden Girl shorts and Fiskars PowerGear 18” loppers.

Robin Haglund at Garden Mentors — Buckaroo Brand Worm Castings, a hula planter and Empire Soil Builder, from Sanctuary Soil.

Rachel Hough at The Domestic Artiste — Fiskars Tools, two sets of loppers, one is the PowerGear Lopper 32” and the other Power-Lever 28”.

Niki Jabbour at Niki Jabbour, The Year Round Veggie Gardener.

Carmen Johnston at Carmen Johnston Gardens — Garden Girl pants with knee pads and a David Austin rose, ‘The Alnwick Rose’ catalog link for ordering bare root roses.

Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens — DeWit Tool kit and Botanical Interests Organic Heirloom Seed Bank Collection. 

Pam Penick at Digging — Three small Bee Preservers, www.glassgardensnw.com.

Jenny Peterson and J. Peterson Garden Design — is giving away a two-part prize from the Seedkeeper Company, a Seedkeeper Deluxe and Burlap Girdle(s).

Genevieve Schmidt at North Coast Gardening — Annie’s Annuals gift certificate and Keira Watering Cans.

Marie Wreath at the (Not Always) Lazy W Ranch — Longfield Gardens tulips & daffodils


Dreaming of citrus trees

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Closeup of orange tree in Rebecca Sweet's front yard.

Closeup of orange tree in Rebecca Sweet’s front yard.

I often dream in watercolor landscapes scented with bright notes of blood oranges and Meyer lemons. In these fantasies, I grow citrus and let their juices dance the tango upon my tongue. Glasses are filled with clinking ice cubes and tawny iced tea or even Orangina. Lemon tarts, lemon squares, orange marmalade cream cake, blood orange cheesecake, beet salad with orange segments…the possibilities are endless in my reveries.

In my dreams, there are no food allergies like wheat and dairy. Even when I wake, I’m already thinking of how to make these foods gluten and casein free. I often do. Part of what makes all food good is freshness, and there’s nothing fresher than your own orange tree.

I took the beautiful photo, above at my friend, Rebecca Sweet’s house when the Garden Bloggers Fling visited California. Seeing it the other day made me sad I don’t live in a mediterranean or tropical climate. The windswept prairie is where I call home, and isn’t it always the gardener’s lament that we can’t grow certain things in our climate? Don’t we always try to stretch our hardiness zones? Sometimes, this stretching results in failure and hurt feelings, but other times, it can be a wonderful surprise.

Lime tree in a heavy glazed container.

Lime tree in a heavy glazed container.

In the center of the U.S. citrus, of course, isn’t grown as a backyard tree. Still, it can be grown successfully even here. Let me explain how.

  1. Find a sunny spot in your yard. Citrus likes full sun and needs at least eight hours to produce plenty of fruit.
  2. Use a heavy container to keep your citrus grounded even in high winds. This glazed pot is ideal.
  3. Protect your citrus tree from high winds that will tear its beautiful leaves and knock off fruit. Plan where you’ll overwinter your plant before cold temperatures arrive. Planning ahead is always a good idea. It will need to reside indoors, or in a lightly heated hoop house or greenhouse before winter. Keep your hand cart or dolly handy for that move too. Heavy pots aren’t fun come moving day, but this one is important to our success.
  4. Arrange for some type of watering. I think drip irrigation is easiest and best. You want to go on vacation don’t you?
  5. Use good potting soil that drains well. This and water are probably the most important aspects of this project.

One more thing . . . the book is off to the printer. Now the real fun begins. Don’t forget that many more tips, ideas and garden plans are in my guide. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


Video for the 20-30 Something Garden Guide

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I made the video below for The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff last night when I was trying to watch the Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Oklahoma University, my alma mater. It was a nail biter as one friend said, but we persevered.

I hope you enjoy the video as much I did making it.