Pleasures & Planting – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog

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My all-time favorite seed catalog has arrived. There is no mistake that I photographed the catalog on top of pillows and an afghan; this is the perfect entertainment for a cold night. The long, dark evenings of Winter pass quickly when you curl up in a comfy chair and dream of what you will plant come Spring. Baker Street Heirloom Seeds is a 350+ page masterpiece of seed offerings, how-to articles, history and gorgeous photographs. I purchased this version of the catalog. You can also order a 200+ page free version, but it does not have the articles and tips contained in the larger version.

Baker Creek Heirloom Website is definitely the first site you should visit if you order your seeds online. Happy Gardening!

Plants – Microgreens

The post below is a timely re-blogging of one of my favorite winter gardening activities: Sowing and Growing Microgreens. I have grown Microgreens for several years and have never been disappointed. Give them a try.

In winter I love sprouting microgreens. The seed companies listed in this post are very reliable. The seeds I bought a year or two ago are still near 100 % viable. I have flats of microgreens growing in my sunniest windows at this time.

Sowing seeds and indoor gardening seem to be dominating my blog posts. I am starved right now for green, tired of the bare branches of trees silhouetted against the sky. I have been sowing seeds in hopes of harvesting Microgreens. Microgreens are harvested from seeds sprouted through the early leafing out stage. I am using seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. This is my first attempt at this type of gardening.

I am growing the Microgreens on my windowsill in plastic throwaway containers from cookies and other snacks.

 

Gather supplies: antique pots to look pretty, throwaway plastic from cookie containers, corn holder for poking holes in the plastic.

Make sure the containers would fit inside my chosen pots before I added the dirt.

Poke holes for drainage in the plastic with the corn holder.

Fill the containers with organic soil.

Water containers of soil and let them drain.

Space the pea seeds out in rows.

Sow the Kitchen Sink Mix en masse.

Cover with one of my favorite kitchen tools, Glad’s Press ‘n Seal.

The seeds are already up…they sprouted in less than two days.

My Microgreens are up and growing fast. I can’t wait to try them in a salad.

Oh My! The Microgreens look terrible…what happened to my lush crop? I’m afraid to say I have already eaten most of it. I pop off the tops of the pea sprouts and eat them like candy. This is reminiscent of the peas I grow outdoors in the Spring. They never make it to my table. Warm afternoons usually find me standing in the midst of the pea patch eating the fresh peas out of the pods. Actually, the microgreens are a complete success. I am really enjoying growing them and most of all eating them. The best use for them so far was garnishing my turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich with a row of them. Oh Happy Day!

The kitchen sink variety is also thriving and perhaps today I will start grazing on them too. Moo!

Planting – Bolted Lettuce Harvest

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I might have mentioned in an earlier post this summer that my spring-seeded lettuce plants had all bolted to seed. The usual method of dealing with this is to pull the remaining plants and reseed the area with a summer vegetable. This year I decided on a different course; I let a few of my Black-seeded Simpson lettuce plants go to seed.

I’ve been quite surprised by how long it has taken the plant to set seed. After the initial seed stalk came up, rendering the sweet lettuce leaves bitter, it grew at a very slow rate. Finally, I noticed some little buds adorn the stem. They never opened into much of a flower, a little tassel of yellow fluff was all the bloom I noticed. These stringy flowers must have had some desirable pollen though…for suddenly the pod beneath swelled with seeds.

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Knowing exactly when to harvest plants I’ve allowed to go to seed has always bamboozled me a bit. I’ll think the seeds are ready and pick the pod, only to find they are still green and useless. This time the plant itself told me when to harvest the seeds by the yellow tassels turning into white fluff.

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I picked every pod that was fluffy, rolled the pod between my fingers, and voila, lettuce seeds. Hooray! Even better, the lettuce plants are very prolific…dozens of pods per plant stem. The pods mature at varying rates, making it easy to pick and clean a few each day. Each pod seems to hold between eight to twelve seeds, sometimes less, but often more.

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I am planning on growing lettuce indoors this winter as a microgreen. I also will save some for my Spring gardens. Black-seeded Simpson is one of my favorite varieties of lettuce.

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One problem I encountered with the lettuce plants was an attack of black aphids on the stems. They don’t seem to do much damage, but hey, who wants to see all those little sap-suckers attacking a plant. A good dousing with the hose knocks most off the plant. Because of the aphid infestation I will store the lettuce seeds in the fridge to keep all bugs or eggs dormant.

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Plantings – Updated Posts

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I thought I’d update a few past posts. The microgreen seeds I recently sowed, dated 2011, did great.

The seeds were purchased from Pinetree Garden Seeds. I recently ordered more seeds from the company and had them within a week. The sprouts are now a pretty decent size, and I’ve been “grazing” on them as I pass by. They are clean and ready to eat since they are in pots and elevated off the ground. A few cabbage butterflies have laid eggs, and the cruciferous vegetable sprouts have suffered a bit, but most of the plantings are tasty and still whole.

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The Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce that I allowed to go to seed has really surprised me. I didn’t know lettuce would grow so very high. Yikes! It is near three feet tall and still growing. It is beginning to set some yellow flowers so I think I’ll be able to gather quite a bit of seed from it in a few weeks. I enjoyed experimenting with the lettuce that bolted rather than pulling all of it out of the garden plots.

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I am absolutely “Over the Moon” in love with this gorgeous sage plant that unexpectedly showed up in my wildflower garden. Oh the color…amazing periwinkle blue…a hard shade to find in summer garden flowers. I will absolutely allow this to go to seed and gather it in the Fall. I will also press a few of the florets in hopes that they will hold onto the beautiful color. I have been so surprised by how lush my wildflower garden remained. It is August, granted a cooler one than usual, but still…wildflowers tightly sown still doing well in August??? Amazing!

Plantings – Wildflower Garden

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In the late months of Spring, I sowed several packets of wildflowers in empty areas of my garden beds. I’ve been thrilled with the results. The flowers are not showy, but the colors are vibrant and the variety of bloom quite interesting. I also added a few leftover zinnias, marigolds and cosmos from old seed packets I had saved over the years. They are also growing, and when the first wildflowers are spent, I am hoping they will begin to blossom.

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Planting – Cactus

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Two weeks ago the grandsons and I sowed a few cactus seeds in plastic blueberry packages. The square plastic container is aerated with holes, top and bottom. All we needed to do was add some cactus soil, water, and sprinkle the seeds on the top. The cactus sprouted within a week and just fourteen days later are doing very well.

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Planting – Belling the Tomatoes

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My tomatoes are beginning to set fruit and ripen. This is prime time for squirrels and other wildlife to begin taking a bite here and there, ruining countless tomatoes over the course of the summer. My neighbor, a terrific gardener, told me the squirrels do this to quench their thirst when the weather becomes dry. I have a bird bath in the center of my Square Foot Gardens this year. Hopefully, the squirrels will use this rather than nibble at my beautiful, red tomatoes.

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In case this doesn’t satisfy them, I have “belled” the plants with large Christmas bells I set aside in December. I have red ones to mimic the red fruit, a few greens to resemble the unripe tomatoes. If biting into a hard piece of metal doesn’t deter the squirrels perhaps the “ting-a-ling-ling” will scare them away. If none of this works I will cut a few pieces of fresh garlic and push it inside the bell.

I’ve tried this same idea with plain Christmas balls in the past, and had a bit of success mixed with a few half-eaten casualties. I am hoping the addition of what I think might be a “scary” sound to a squirrel will work even better this year.

Planting & Pleasure – Anticipation

I grow the type of garden kind people would label a “tapestry” garden. Acquaintances who are blind to the charms of my flower beds might call it a tad “unruly.” Those who are hard-hearted garden snobs would snort and pronounce my gardening endeavors as being in serious disarray, not well-planned or color-coordinated.

Perhaps all of the above are correct, except for the accusation my gardens are not well-planned. They are very well-planned indeed. You see, I LOVE not knowing exactly what color most of my annual flowers will be when they burst into bloom. Case in point, the zinnia in the photographs below. As the tips of the petals emerged, the joy and anticipation that filled me was intense. In a few days I knew I would see the color of the zinnia. I love a surprise! I wasn’t disappointed when the zinnia bloomed. What a gorgeous shade of pink. I’m thrilled for I have several weeks to enjoy watching annuals and wildflowers burst into bloom. Oh my…I could shout aloud a “Hallelujah!” for the joy of it. Happy Gardening!

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Plantings – Fruit and Vegetable Seeds/Pineapple

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My older grandsons love planting different seeds and plants with me. I thought as a goal this summer we would try growing a seed, tuber or sprout from every fruit and vegetable we eat. A good fruit to start with is a pineapple. I bought a large and succulent beauty this week, on sale for $1.99 at the local grocery store.

For tips I went to Pinterest first and discovered a wealth of information. You can check out the many “pins” on pineapple planting here: Pinterest Search on Pineapple Planting

I found there are two ways to plant a pineapple top…directly in soil, and by soaking in water. Here are links to both ways:

Growing Pineapple Top in Water
Planting a Pineapple Top in Soil

We will attempt to plant in dirt first. This involves cutting off the bottom of the pineapple (eating the yummy fruit afterwards as baked pineapple casserole,) soaking in a bit of water, finally placing the stem end in potting soil.

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I cut the top off and let the fruit dry for a day or two. The next step was to soak the dried out bottom in water. When I checked the progress a day or two later the fruity portion still left on the stem promptly fell off.

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I soaked the bottom of the stem in water for a few more days.

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When the time came to plant the stem my grandsons helped me remove more of the bottom leaves. PSHEW! There was a bit of a rancid odor when these leaves broke away. I think a bit of decay might have set in while the stem soaked in water. Perhaps I should have shortened the soaking time.

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Denuded of bottom leaves, the stem had a promising look.

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Now for the fun part, planting the stem in the potting soil. We used a big pot. The pineapple will grow very large and bushy. I want plenty of weight on the bottom to keep the plant from tipping over.

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We were pleased with the finished appearance of the potted pineapple. Even without new growth it is an interesting plant. Updates to follow on the progress of our experiment.

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Planting – The Great Tomato Saga Part III – To Fertilize Or Not To Fertilize?

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I have over a dozen tomatoes planted in my Square Foot Garden. I started them from seed in the house this year. The tomatoes are doing okay, but not producing growth to rave about.

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The potted tomatoes were sown from the same seed packets, and grown in exactly the same conditions. The only difference is that these tomatoes are planted in pots of Whitney Farms Organic Potting Soil. This is a terrific soil loaded with natural fertilizers. OH MY! Compare the color of the leaves to the first photograph, and take a look at the size of the plants. The tomatoes in the pots are much greener and in some cases more than double the size. The potted plants are already setting blossoms. In hopes of helping them catch them up, I side-dressed the Square Foot Garden plants with organic fertilizer. I think in the case of the tomatoes I need to do a little bit more than the manual recommends. I’ll update in a few weeks.

 

Planting – The Great Tomato Saga – Part One

To all the fine bloggers out there in Blog-World, I thank you. You never know when a post might absolutely consume one of your readers. In the case of this past weekend, that blog reader was me. I happened upon a post on the blog Over the Fence Urban Garden and was completely captivated by a Youtube video they had embedded in their post titled, “Tomato Fingers.”

You can read the blog post here: Over The Fence Urban Farm/Tomato Fingers

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A little of my history in regard to tomatoes: Until I was forty or so I detested the look, smell and taste of tomatoes. A sandwich with just one tomato seed accidentally placed upon it was, in my opinion, RUINED. I am not alone in this. I married a man who felt exactly the same way. We both loved tomatoes in the form of cooked sauce, but raw…”Phooey!” Then…the strangest of strange events occurred. Where once I abhored raw tomatoes, I suddenly could not get enough of them! (Unfortunately, my husband’s taste buds have stayed the same. 😦 ) I bought them by the pound, and became an avid grower of them too. Tomato plants have never done that well for me though. I assumed all I needed to do was plant tomatoes in a decent soil and location, and they would grow. No…I have found tomatoes need a bit of coddling.

I grow my tomatoes from seed. They quickly sprout for me in a sunny window. They don’t grow fast in the house, but they do grow steadily. This year I had great success with my tomato seedlings, many of them heirloom varieties, and hated to give up even one to the compost heap. (Please read important note at the end of blog post on the composting of tomatoes) Instead I planted as many as I could into the soil of my Square Foot Gardens. Since all but one of the varieties I grew were indeterminate, (vining) I was able to plant one to a square. I figured I would use tomato cages again for support, as I did every other year. Then I came upon the terrific youtube video posted on Over the Gate Urban Garden. Maybe I have never had good luck growing tomatoes because I have never “suckered” them or “strung” them.

I have spent the weekend “suckering” and constructing a trellis to “string” my indeterminate tomatoes. The video is a little long, but absolutely full of information you might not have heard in the past about how to grow the perfect tomato. More to come on my “stringing” adventures in parts two and three of my tomato saga.

* Don’t compost any foliage of tomato plants unless you are SURE they are free of disease. Tomato plant disease is easily spread this way. Smokers should also not touch tomato plants unless they wash their hands first as tomato mosaic virus can be spread this way.

Planting – Square Foot Gardens

Recharging…Resting…Rejuvenating… In the meantime, I’m re-blogging some of my best garden posts. Happy Spring!

My Square Foot Gardens are doing great. Except for a few empty squares in the second garden, most of the space is filled with seeds or plants and growing well. I have harvested many servings of lettuce already. In fact, I can’t eat it fast enough and have been taking handfuls to family whenever I visit. The lettuce comes in a wide array of greens, pinks and reds and pairs perfectly with the arugula and water cress I have growing in the herb garden. A new sowing of mesclun is thriving and will soon be ready to begin harvesting. The bread seed poppies are magnificent and I expect them to send up budding stalks any day now. The peas in the back of the garden are in need of quick staking, they are growing a few inches daily.

Here is a closeup of the earliest sown squares. Last week I sauteed a few pieces of kale with olive oil and garlic powder. Ah, so amazingly good; I wish I had begun this type of gardening years ago. This week I tried several leaves of the swiss chard. I chopped the stems and ribs and kept them separate from the leaves.

I gently boiled the chopped stems, and after about three minutes added the leaves along with a little Adobo spice mix, and gently simmered a few minutes longer.

Wow! The taste was beyond my highest expectations. I sprinkled the swiss chard with a squeeze of fresh lime, and “oohed” and “ahhed” with every mouthful. The best thing about both of these greens is they are still producing. I can’t wait to try my hand at cooking and eating them again.

Planting – Growing Squash Upright

Recharging…Resting…Rejuvenating… In the meantime, I’m re-blogging some of my best garden posts. Happy Spring!

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I find squash and zucchini blossoms beautiful. Even better is the fact that a delicious vegetable will grow after the blossom falls away from the plant. Squash plants take up a large amount of room in the garden. Since I grow my vegetables in the Square Foot Gardening method I don’t want to give up many squares to one plant. I was happy this year to find some good information on Pinterest that led me to good articles on how to grow squash upright. Here are a few of my finds:

Growing Winter Squash and Pumpkins

Growing Squash

 

Happy Gardening!

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Planting – Garlic Bulbs

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I recently bought several bulbs of sprouting garlic off the salvage table in a local fruit stand. I have blogged about growing garlic cloves indoors in the past, but this time, since it is Spring, I am going to try growing them in my Square Foot Gardens. Each clove of the garlic bulb will grow a new bulb, multiplying my initial investment many times over.

I researched planting the cloves and found that in a Square Foot garden there were many varied spacings…between four to nine cloves per square. I opted for the larger number since I have so many of the sprouting cloves.

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Here are the nine placed in a square foot, ready to be covered over with soil. Inside the garlic bulb were several smaller cloves that had not sprouted. I decided to use these as a rodent repellent and smashed and smeared several on the edges of my square foot borders.

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I also placed a few smashed cloves within some squares planted with spinach and kale. So far they have not been nibbled or dug up by hungry critters.

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I’m not sure what kind of results I will have, but even if the resulting bulbs aren’t good for cooking, it will still be worth growing the garlic to use as organic repellents and insecticides.

Plantings – Garden Growings-On

Seedlings, Seedlings, Seedlings! They are EVERYWHERE! Last night I had to bring them into the house instead of overnighting in the garage…it is going to be very cold during the next twelve hours or so. I also covered the spinach and the kale I planted Sunday with overturned terracotta pots. They would probably be fine without the protection, but why risk it?

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My dining room table

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Coleus galore! I have more in other rooms, and I started another batch a few weeks later for those bare spots left by poppies, bleeding heart, spring bulbs and other plants that die away near the end of June.

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Gorgeous tomato seedlings…I tried many varieties this year.

Planting – The Scraggly Ones Reborn

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Every year, at summer’s end, I take cuttings from outdoor plants I hope to save over the winter. They usually root for me, but never seem to thrive. They stay alive, but only put out minimal new growth. I do realize that winter is the dormant season for many plants. Combine that with how cold we keep our home at night, and my cuttings don’t have much of a chance to really take hold and grow quickly. A week or so ago I gathered all these “scraggly ones” together on my kitchen table. Along with several pots of houseplants I had rooted from cuttings, I had about eighteen plants in total. I decided that it was going to come down to “Survival of the Fittest,” and put six each of the plants/cuttings into hanging basket pots. I was pretty pleased with the resulting mix of shapes, sizes and textures. I think they will be rather unique as they grow on outdoors. For now I’ll put them outside on their hooks when the days are warm, and in a few weeks post an update.

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It will be interesting to watch how they develop over the next few months.

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Planting – Garden Goings-On/Seeds and Sprouts

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Poppy Seeds are sprouting in my winter sown containers. (gallon milk cartons) Poppies are always one of the first seeds to sprout when winter sown. This is absolutely, at least for me, the best way to sow and grow poppies.

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Here is a picture of me, probably two summers ago, beside my near five foot bread seed poppies. If you look to the right of my shoulder you can see the big poppy buds ready to burst into bloom. These poppies were sown with the winter sowing method and grew in my Square Foot Gardens, one plant to a square. Here’s a link to the blog of Mel Bartholomew, the creator of the Square Foot Garden Method. Square Foot Gardening

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My winter sown crop of seeds are sown now. I have found that for a few the soil has begun to dry out a bit. I have needed to place them in a pan of water to enable them to wick up a bit of moisture. You can find a post on winter sowing here: Winter-sown seeds.

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The coleus seeds I sowed with my small seed sowing method have sprouted and because they are well-spaced out have not developed any fungal or damping-off disease. They are a bit leggy, but when I repot them separately in a few weeks, I will cover some of the leggy stem with soil. They should begin to develop color within a week or two.

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The Martha Washington Geranium I over-wintered with bare roots is leafing out nicely.

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The green onions I rerooted and potted up are growing terrific stems. I just used a few cut up into beautiful green rings in a Cheesy Potato recipe. The original post on how I regrow the bottoms of the onions can be found here: Regrowing Green Onion Stems

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Most of my seeds, except for larger varieties such as zinnias and four o’clocks, have been sown into plastic containers. I use recycled grocery containers for most of my seed sowing.

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Parsley, always rather slow-growing for me in the house, has been repotted into separate pots. It will be moved into the garden very soon. Parsley is cold tolerant and after hardening off for a few nights, will probably grow fine in the herb or square foot gardens.

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Spider babies, rooting in water, are doing well and will soon be combined in a hanging basket for the patio. The new spider plants will join the mother and sister plants rooted up in previous years. My collection keeps expanding. Spider plants are one of the best houseplants for filtering toxins and impurities out of the air. Happy Gardening!

Planting & Problem-Solving – Tulip Bulbs/Update

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On February 20th, I shared a post on how my grandsons and I placed pre-chilled tulip bulbs in a vase of pebbles and water in an attempt to bring them into bloom.

You can read the post here: Planting/Tulip Bulbs

We are watching their progress now. The bulbs have sprouted at different rates, some leafing out quickly, others plodding along, but all are showing signs of growth. A few days ago I noticed a problem that needed solving if I hoped to continue bringing the tulips into flower, yucky green mold thriving on a bulb where it touched the side of the vase.

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I decided to give my trusty bottle of alcohol a try. Alcohol, safe and pure, is usually my first go-to solution for houseplant or gardening problems.

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A few swipes of the alcohol and “Voila,” goodbye pesky green mold.

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I realized another solution was keeping the bare portion of the bulbs away from the side of the vase and let the skin side protect the bulb from another bout of mold. I’m looking forward to showing my grandsons the progress of their tulips this week. Happy Gardening!

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Planting – Seed Sorting

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Busy, busy, busy is my motto this weekend. Except for three containers of coleus I am WAY behind on my winter-sowing and indoor seed starting. Yesterday I sorted out every seed packet in the house, checking the dates, and  discarding those completely empty. I have hundreds of seeds to plant, some held over in my cool, dark basement since 2011. My Square Foot Garden book lists the amount of time you can store seeds and expect them to be viable. I will be using this terrific garden manual almost daily for the next few weeks as I plan out this year’s square foot plots. I am also going to grow some veggies in containers this year. Oooops! I am too long on here already…time to end this post and begin to plant, plant, plant…happy planting to you!

For those of you wondering when to plant indoors and out for your area, check out this terrific site: Let’s Grow Veggies The site allows you a free fourteen day trial period without a credit card commitment first.

Planting – Poppies & Winter-Sowing

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Poppies! I LOVE poppies, but I have some problems with poppies too. Number one on my list of loves is the way poppies develop big, luscious looking pods. When the pods begin to widen and split to reveal the color of the flower inside, honestly, I must admit I run out into the yard several times a day to see if the silken petals have opened. There is something magical in the wispy crown in the center of each flower too. Often there will be a splotch or two of contrasting color at the base of each petal. The foliage of many poppy plants glows in beautiful bluish green tones. Yes…I LOVE poppies.

One of the major drawbacks of poppies, at least in my opinion, is how hard it is to grow them from seed. For years I followed the advice on the back of the packets and on the pages of reliable gardening books and sowed them directly in the ground. This NEVER worked for me. Heavy spring rains ALWAYS washed my poppy seeds away before they could sprout, or if they did, the delicate small seedlings would be beat into the ground by that same rain. the “experts” say poppies don’t transplant well. I think I probably agree if they are grown in the house, but I have found a way to get a head start on poppies and that is through winter sowing.

I’ve written many times about winter sowing, so I am not going to take the time to rewrite what I have already posted. You can read about winter-sowing here and follow some of the links I list for more information: Winter Sowing

I am also including a post that shows the results of my winter sown poppies: Poppies

If you want to grow poppies this year, and have a milk carton or two on hand, give winter-sowing a try. It only takes a few minutes to create a miniature greenhouse to place outside in the sunshine. Happy Gardening!

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