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Mar 182014


Large Beit Alpha for colder conditions.

Socrates CucumberDark green, thin-skinned, 7-8″ fruits are tender, sweet, and seedless. Suitable for growing indoors with temperatures ranging from 50-82ºF/10-28ºC. Parthenocarpic. Intermediate resistance to powdery mildew.

CULTURE: Requires warm, well-drained soil high in fertility, with a pH of 6.8-7.2. Consistent, adequate irrigation is needed to produce an abundant crop. Cucumbers are very sensitive to cold. Make sure both soil and air temperatures have warmed prior to planting. The use of poly mulch and row covers will greatly enhance the vigor and potential yields of cucumbers by providing warmth and insect protection. For greenhouse or high tunnel production the use of gynoecious and parthenocarpic varieties are highly recommended.

TRANSPLANTING: Sow indoors in 50-cell plug trays, 1-2 seeds/cell, 3-4 weeks before transplanting. Keep temperature above 70°F (21°C) day and 60°F (16°C) night. Transplant 12″ apart in rows 5-6′ apart. Do not disturb roots when transplanting.

DIRECT SEEDING: Wait until soil is warm, at least 70°F (21°C). Cucumber seeds will not germinate at a soil temperature below 50°F (10°C). Sow 2 seeds/ft., 1/2″ deep, in rows 6′ apart. Thin to 12″ apart.

DISEASES: Practice crop rotation, residue sanitation, and choose disease-resistant varieties. Control insect pests to prevent bacterial wilt.

INSECT PESTS: Exclude cucumber beetles with row covers at planting, or control with pyrethrin or azadarachtin.

HARVEST: Once fruit bearing begins, pick daily.

STORAGE: Hold cucumbers at 45-50°F (7-10°C) and 90% relative humidity for up to 2 weeks.

DAYS TO MATURITY: 52 From direct seeding; subtract about 10 days if transplanting.

AVG. DIRECT SEEDING RATE: 30 seeds sows 15′, 100 seeds/50′, 250 seeds/125′, 500 seeds/250′, 1,000 seeds/500′, 15M/acre at 2 seeds/ft. in rows 6′ apart.

TRANSPLANTS: Avg. 85 plants/100 seeds.

Buy from: Johnny’s Seeds

Mar 182014

I love to garden in a raised bed. I can control the makeup of the soil, it’s easier to weed and tends to compact far less than beds directly in the ground. This bed is one of my favorite designs and is what I’ll be basing a 8′ x 8′ raised bed space on. The fencing keeps the critters out of your veg and by simply putting a tall fence version in the back, it acts as a trellis for climbing beans, cucumber and other plants that vine.

Favorite Raised bed with Fence and Gate

This simple raised bed is narrow so I don’t have to reach as far and being in a “U” shape, makes far better use of limited space. Pretty pricy using redwood or cedar.

U Shaped Raised Bed

Here’s another example in a brand new bed. The narrow long beds with a slot up the middle maximizes garden space while minimizing stretching across a standard 4 foot bed width.

U Shapped Raised Bed

Mar 182014

Growing GarlicGarlic is used to make a variety of dishes more succulent, it has wonderful health benefits and it can be dried to last for a long time. Growing garlic is easy and inexpensive, and one growing season produces so much garlic that you’ll have plenty to share with your friends. Read on for information on sourcing garlic to plant, cultivating the garlic, harvesting it at the end of the growing season, and storing it properly.

Preparing to Grow Garlic

In general, the best times for planting are mid-autumn or early spring. Garlic grows well in a wide range of climates. It does less well in areas of high heat or humidity, or where there is a lot of rainfall.

Choose a planting spot and prepare the soil. Garlic needs a lot of full sun, but it might tolerate partial shade provided it’s not for very long during the day or growing season. The soil must be well dug over and crumbly. Sandy loam is best.

  • Ensure that the soil has good drainage. Clay-based soils are not good for planting garlic.
  • Use compost and manure to add nutrients to the soil before planting the garlic.

Source fresh garlic. Garlic is grown by planting the cloves – called seeds for our purposes – so to get started all you need to do is buy fresh garlic. Choose garlic from a store, or even better, a farm stand or the local farmers market. It’s very important that the garlic bulbs chosen are fresh and of high quality. If you can, avoid garlic that has been sprayed with chemical sprays.

  • Choose fresh garlic bulbs with large cloves. Avoid garlic that has become soft.
  • Each clove will sprout into a garlic plant, so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how many heads to buy.
  • If you have some garlic at home that has sprouted, that’s great to use.
  • Nurseries also offer garlic bulbs for planting. Visit a nursery if you want to get a specific variety or to get advice on local conditions for garlic.

Planting the Garlic

Break the cloves from a fresh garlic head. Be careful not to damage the cloves at their base, where they attach to the garlic plate. If the base is damaged, the garlic will not grow.

  • Plant the larger cloves. The smaller cloves take up just as much space in the planting bed, but they produce much smaller bulbs.

Sprouting GarlicPush each clove into the soil. Point the tips upward and plant the cloves about 2 inches (5cm) deep.

  • The cloves should be spaced about 20cm (8 inches) apart for best growing conditions.

Cover the planted cloves with mulch. Suitable toppings include hay, dry leaves, straw, compost, well rotted manure or well rotted grass clippings.

Fertilize the cloves or top-dress with compost. The planted garlic needs a complete fertilizer at the time of planting.

  • Fertilize again in the spring if you are planting your garlic in the fall, or in the fall if you’re planting it in the spring.

Caring for Garlic Plants

Water the plants often. Newly planted garlic needs to be kept moist to help the roots to develop. Don’t overdo the water, as garlic does not grow well, or may even rot, if sodden during cold months.

  • Water deeply once a week if rain has not fallen. Watering garlic is not necessary unless there is a drought, in which case water sparingly, as garlic hates wet soil.
  • Reduce the watering gradually as the season warms up. The garlic needs a hot, dry summer to allow the bulbs to mature.

Take care of pests. Insects, mice and other creatures may come to eat the garlic or make a nest among the plants. Beware the following pests:

  • Aphids seem to enjoy garlic leaves and the flower buds. They’re easy to dispense with – simply rub your fingers over them and squash them or apply a
  • Many people tend to plant garlic underneath roses to deter aphids; the roses benefit from the aphids being drawn away.
  • Mice and other small creatures sometimes nest in mulch. If you have a problem with mice in your area, consider using a type of mulch that doesn’t attract them.

Harvesting the Garlic

Note the signs of readiness for harvesting. Garlic bulbs are ready to be harvested when you can feel the individual cloves in the bulb, and the leaves turn yellow or brown.

  • Once the scapes start to dry, it is important to harvest the garlic or the head will “shatter” and divide into the individual cloves.
  • Begin harvesting at the end of the summer. Harvesting can continue well into autumn in most places.
  • Some warm climates may enable earlier harvesting of garlic.

Loosen the area around each bulb with a shovel. Pull the bulbs out of the ground.

  • Be careful with the digging process, since garlic tends to bruise easily.
  • Wash them and leave to dry in a well-ventilated space or in the sun for a few days if rain is guaranteed not to fall. Garlic can get sunburned, so don’t leave them outside for too long.

Storing Garlic

Store garlic in a cool, dry place in your home. Dried bulbs can be kept in a garlic keeper (usually made from pottery), and individual cloves can be pulled off as needed.

Make a garlic plait or braid. The dried leaves can be kept back and plaited or braided into a strand, from which you can hang the garlic bulbs in your pantry or kitchen. This is both decorative and useful.

Store garlic in oil or vinegar. Garlic cloves can be kept in oil or vinegar. However, to avoid the potential for bacterial growth, keep in the refrigerator and consume quickly.


  • For clay soil get sand, mix it in and plant the clove. It really works!
  • Big cloves tend to equal big bulbs.
  • Save a bulb or two of garlic from this year’s harvest to break into cloves and plant next fall.
  • While it’s perfectly all right to plant grocery store or farm stand garlic, you may want to try other varieties. Visit nurseries or nursery websites for many more options, including other colors.
  • Garlic is very cold-hardy. You can plant it in the fall, leave it in the ground over the winter and harvest at the end of the next summer.


  • Don’t let the garlic dry out in the ground. This will cause the bulb to split.
  • Don’t freeze garlic bulbs. They will turn to mush and be unsuitable for reuse.
Thanks to WikiHow and their authors.
Mar 182014

Basil is a great choice to plant both indoors and outdoors since it’s easy to grow and is useful in so many ways. It can be used in salads, makes a great pesto and seasons dishes like soups, casseroles and sauces. It is also a key ingredient in many home remedies (such as treating wasp stings, mosquito bites, relieving coughs, and more). This is a plant that gives and gives…and gives some more!

Growing Basil

Light Conditions: It loves as much sun as you can give it, plant in a full-sun location if possible but it will be ok with at least 4 hours of sun.

Soil Conditions: It can be affected by the disease Fusarium wilt (fungus), mixing compost in with the soil helps fight it. The plant does not like sitting in water so choose a well draining soil. Mulching isn’t necessary but it is appreciated.

Location: Select a location to grow that is sheltered from wind and cold and will provide adequate sun (see above). Space about 10″ apart to provide good air circulation, when it thrives it can grow quite bushy! Basil can be grown in your vegetable garden, flower beds and garden pots. Be clever with location choices when planting it and reap the rewards! Did you know: Basil is believed to naturally repel flies and mosquitoes? Arrange pots of them around windows and doorways. For outdoor gatherings, throwing leaves on the barbecue is another way to repel pests.

Watering Conditions: It doesn’t thrive in parched soil but it doesn’t like sitting in water either. Water well at least once a week. Make sure you water deeply and more frequently during hot weather, allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. If it begins to yellow, this is a sign of overwatering. Wilting is a sign of not enough water. Avoid watering the leaves and aim for the base of the plant.

Containers: It will grow well in pots and containers. Ensure the potting soil is well draining and mix in a bit of compost for best results. Also line the bottom of the container with a layer of gravel before adding soil, this will help with drainage (make sure you have at least one good sized hole for drainage). Remember that soil dries out faster in containers so watch that it doesn’t dry out. If you need directions for planting in a container, see this page.

Growing Indoors: Snip stem cuttings before the first frost of the season and stick them in a cup of water, they should start showing roots within about 7 days. You could also dig up the plant and pot it for indoors. Make sure to choose a location inside where it will receive plenty of light and will be protected from cold drafts. Basil can be planted alone but it grows well with other herbs too. See Herb Garden Ideas for tips. It’s also a great choice for a kitchen herb pot since it’s so useful in cooking.

From Seed: It can be grown from seed by home gardeners just fine. Sow seeds outdoors about 1/8 inch deep when danger of the last frost has passed and nights aren’t too cold (above 50°F/10°C). If you want to start seeds indoors, start about 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Keep seeds evenly moist until they germinate (about 7 days).

More Tips
Bushy Plant Growth Tip: Start pinching the plant when it reaches 6″ tall to promote bushy growth. When it produces a blossom, make sure to pinch the whole stem that produced it (not just pinching off the blossom itself) to promote growth and prevent a bitter-tasting herb (or at least 6 leaves deep from the blossom). If you want to harvest seeds for next year’s crop, let the blossoms go to seed toward the end of the season instead of pinching them off.
Pick the top leaves first, this promotes neat growth.

To promote flavor, trim back about once a week. The more the plant is harvested the better the flavor develops.

Did you know: Some believe growing Basil and Tomatoes together enhances the flavor of both.

Troubleshooting Tip: If it has pale green leaves or is yellowing, it’s because it isn’t getting enough nutrients. Feed at least once a month if this happens (especially watch when growing indoors). Do not fertilize unless necessary, too much feeding affects the taste of the herb. If you’re overwatering, it will also affect leaf color like this.

See the full story with thanks to The Tip Nut

Mar 182014

Fireworks Ornamental PepperFireworks Ornamental Pepper

Radiant sprays of cream, purple, red and orange fruits light up the landscape all summer long. Makes a dazzling container, border or foundation planting, growing 16-24 in. tall.

Ship Season: both Spring & Fall
Items Per Package: For each offer ordered, get approx. 15 seeds per packet
Height: 16″ – 24″.
Bloom Time/Days To Maturity: Late Spring – early Summer for several weeks.
Zone: 10, annual.
Sun/Shade: Full sun to partial shade.
Spacing: 15″ – 24″.
Spread: 15″ – 24″.

Buy: Henry Fields Seeds & Nursery

Mar 182014

Rainbow Butterfly BushRainbow Butterfly Bush

The first butterfly bush to offer different colors on one panicle. Fragrant lavender, butterscotch-yellow and orange star-like blooms blend together to form a striking color display. Butterflies and hummingbirds can’t resist the honey-scented blooms.

Botanical Name: Buddleia davidii ‘Bicolor’
Form: Deciduous woody shrub
Sun Exposure: Partial Shade/Full Sun
Height/Habit: 6 – 10′
Spread: 6 – 8′
Spacing: 6 – 10′
Hardiness Zone: 5 – 9
Foliage Type: Dark green, lanceolate leaves 4-10″ long, white and glabrous beneath.
Flower Form: Lilac-like, long terminal panicles up to 10″ long of a mass of tiny star-like flowers.
Flower Color: Lavender, butterscotch yellow and orange
Flowering Date: Midsummer to fall.
Planting Requirements: Full sun is best for flowering.
Soil Requirements: Well-drained, humus-enriched soil.
Growth Rate: Fast once established, which takes approximately 6-8 weeks.
Unique Characteristics: The first Buddleia to offer different colors on one panicle. Fragrant lavender, butterscotch yellow and orange blooms blended together to form a striking color display. Makes a wonderful backdrop for lower growing perennials and shrubs. The butterflies obviously love this buddleia too!
Pruning: Cut back old flowering stems close to the base in early spring.
Additional Information: In northern climates Buddleias behave like herbaceous perennials with the top growth dying back in winter. Prune back to new growth in the spring. In southern climates, prune to shape.

Buy: Michigan Bulb

Mar 182014

Gomphrena, QIS Mix

Ideal selection for landscaping or bouquets.

QIS Series is an ideal selection for either landscaping or bouquets. Loose, open-branched, and great for cutting beds and midborders. Start indoors 4-6 weeks before setting outside. The mix is a collector’s favorite. It includes unusual globosa type colors and shades, plus the rare, orange-scarlet.

Lifecycle: Annual
Common Name: Globe Amaranth
Uses: Beds, Borders, Container, Cut Flowers
Sun: Full Sun
Height: 24-30 inches
Spread: 8-10 inches
Sowing Method: Indoor Sow
Bloom Duration: 10 weeks


Buy: Burpee

Mar 172014

What a great idea. Build a planter out of scrap cinder blocks.

Sofia lives in Brooklyn, NY and built this in her little plot of soil.

Pam Penick took it to extremes and built the entire corner of her garden as cinder block planters.
Cinber block planter wall

This one is far too formal for my taste but you may like it.
Formal Cinder block planter

Kristin from the Hunted Interior took a simple planter a step further and built it into an outdoor bar.
Cincer block planter and bar

Most people simply take some stiff, small hole galvanized fence screen and bend it into a pocket shape and shove it into the cinder block hole. Friction keeps it in place so don’t trim off all the sharp ends poking out. If you are planting with regular garden soil, it’ll help to push a square of landscape fabric in to line the pocket. Then simply fill with soil and plant seedlings or seeds.

Robin from Society Bride made her planter from used block.
Used Cinder Block Planter

Whether you like the look and go out and buy new cinder blocks or scrounge around and find used ones, this is a great project.