Apr 052014

Build Your Own Simple Seed Starting Shelves with room for up to 576 seedlings under the grow lights. Sturdy, moveable and easy enough for a weekend project

Each year I start several hundred vegetable, herb and flower seedlings.  Almost all of them begin on the simple seed starting shelves my husband built over 15 years ago. I wasn’t blogging then (I started that around five years ago), so I didn’t snap any photos. Heck, I didn’t even have a digital camera back then.  Photos or no photos, these indoor planting shelves have served me well, and are fairly inexpensive to make.

The lights are suspended from chains on hooks, so they can easily be adjusted up or down.  Mounting casters on the bottom makes it a snap to move – even from one house to another.  If you use standard 22″x11″ nursery trays with 72 cells per tray, there’s room for 576 seedlings under the grow lights, plus an extra 288 seedlings on the top shelf, if you have room for it in your greenhouse, sun room or very well lit room.  Cross supports and water proof paint make it sturdy and durable.  I pair it up with a fan on a timer, to help keep the seedlings sturdy, and I also use a timer to turn the grow lights off at night.  Once the seedlings get bigger, they graduate to the greenhouse or cold frame, and then are hardened off (gently exposed to the elements over several days) and planted out into the garden. Continue reading »

Mar 192014

When Should I Start My Seeds?  Seed starting tips and printable seed starting calendar. #seedstarting

I get quite a few new gardeners asking me, “When should I start my seeds?”  It really depends on where you are and what you are planning to grow.  Thankfully, most seed companies will label the packets with basic growing information.  If you’re using your own saved seed or happen to find a package that’s not labeled, it’s helpful to have a simple guide to help you plan.  One of the best things about a planting schedule is that you get to spread your planting out so you don’t feel rushed.  When you try to cram too much to do in too little time, it doesn’t get done properly.  Gardening is supposed to help relieve stress, not cause it.  In this article I’ll share my seed starting schedule, organization strategies and printable indoor seed starting and outdoor seed sowing charts to help you get organized, too. Continue reading »

Mar 102014
How to Grow Tomatoes Organically - From planting to harvest, 8 simple steps to Homegrown Tomatoes Without Chemicals, plus Innovative Gardening Techniques. #tomatoes #organic

Sungold and Black Cherry tomatoes, some of my personal favorites.
These are so sweet they taste like candy.

There are probably several million articles on the internet about how to grow tomatoes.  Folks will tell you how to grow tomatoes organically, or how to grow world record tomatoes, or how to grow 60-80 pounds of tomatoes from a single plant, or how to grow the tastiest tomatoes.  We have a love affair with our tomatoes.  Tomatoes are the most commonly grown plant in home gardens – and with good reason.  That first taste of a perfectly ripe, fresh off the vine, sun-warmed tomato is pure awesomeness!  Even if you’re not sure about fresh tomatoes on their own, homemade spaghetti sauce, salsa and ketchup may make you a believer.

Based on advice from my friends, I’m going to break this post into two sections – Beginner on page one and Tomato Whisperer Guru Ninja Level on page two. Continue reading »

Mar 042014

The Market Gardener:  A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier

The Market Gardener:  A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier demonstrates that it is possible to earn a good living on a small piece of land, and provides the reader with the tools they need to do it.

With under 2 acres of cultivated land, Jean-Martin and his wife aren’t just small farmers, they’re micro-farmers.  They have been supporting their family for the last ten years with just 1 1/2 cultivated acres , and achieving a profit margin of over 40%.  I live in a state with large amounts of agriculture, and I know most farmers around here are struggling just to break even, let alone post that sort of profit.

How do they achieve these results?  Through strategic planning. Continue reading »

Oct 032013

How to Harvest, Cure and Store Onions - Root Cellaring, Braiding, Dehydrating and Freezing

You can enjoy home grown onions for months after the growing season has finished with just a little extra time and effort. In this post we’ll cover onion harvest, curing onions, and several different onion storage methods.

Which Onions are Best for Storage?

I usually grow onions from onion sets (the little mini onion bulbs).  Out of the red, white and yellow varieties I’ve tried, the yellow Stuttgarter Riesen has been the best keeper. Stuttgarter Riesen is a large, deep golden-yellow onion with firm white flesh.  The reds and whites I’ve tried have not kept as well, so I usually use them first.  My friend, Tami, said that the onions she started from seed were much more solid and less prone to rotting than the ones that she started from sets.  The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible recommends Stockton Reds for storage.  I’ve grown them, and they store fairly well, but the Stuttgarters store better.  He also recommends the varieties Copra and Prince. Continue reading »