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What To Plant In October

September 27th, 2013

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Unless you’re living in California and Florida and are essentially free of frost, it’s important to be mindful of your first frost date when it comes to October sowing. Typically, the first frost in most regions will begin at the end of October. This means that it’s a wise idea to start preparing your garden…right now!

If each season you’re feeling stumped on what to plant and when, run (don’t walk!) and check out our Humble Seed Garden Planner. This clever slide chart has a variety of features; including the critical frost dates in your specific region. To make your garden even further fail-proof, the planner also shows planting depth, distance between rows, and the distance between plants after thinning for 22 different popular vegetable varieties.

What To Plant Right Now

Asparagus – These vegetables thrive in areas with winter ground freezes and dry seasons. Essentially if you’re living in anywhere other than Florida and the Gulf Coast, go ahead and plant in October. While it takes some time until harvest, crisp asparagus stems smothered in butter is well worth the wait.

Beets, Turnips and Radishes – Root crops can take a little frost, but be sure to continue protecting them from the extreme cold to extend the season if you plant in October.

Broccoli – This versatile vegetable not only likes cool weather, it tends to taste better when grown in down right chilly weather. Cloth cover these guys on the coldest nights, but don’t fret too much if your region has moderately cold winter weather.

Brussels Sprouts – While  slow growing, Brussels sprouts truly prefer cooler weather and will not give you trouble if you plant in October AND live in the Pacific Northwest (“the fog belt”) where they tend to grow best.

Onions, Scallions, Shallots  – Depending on the variety of Allium, there are quite a few to choose from that will hold up well during frost and can be planted safely in areas with moderate winter climates.

Peas – These little veggies prefer October sowing in cool soil that is not overly fertilized (they tend to reject too much nitrogen). Go ahead and sow in October, and enjoy a variety of winter soups all season.

Winter Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Kale and Spinach – Hardy leafy greens are the soul of winter! Sow a really hardy variety and be mindful to not overwater. Protecting these leafy greens from the cold is essential, so try using fleece covers or winter lights to help provide additional warmth if you plant in October.

Readers, we’d love to ask you: What are you planting in October? 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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How to Transition from a Summer to a Fall Vegetable Garden

September 14th, 2013

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Whenever we tell someone that we’re planting a fall organic vegetable garden, we sometimes hear, “Woh! I thought it was too cold to plant.” But there are quite a few vegetables we recommend planting at the end of the summer because they love the cool weather. Be sure to check off your chores, and you’re ready to go for fall!

Chores For Transitioning From a Summer To a Fall Garden

*First look around and see what’s working in your garden and what’s not. Pull out the plants that are no longer producing, and remove any lingering weeds or debris.

*Consider making or buying new tags or markers to label fall crops. We love this crop marker idea if you want to get your children involved!

*Before sowing in particularly hot climates, shade and water the area for a few days to allow the soil to cool down.

*Since the previous plants have used most of the nutrients from the soil, incorporate organic compost and smooth it out well. Adding compost will rejuvenate the soil when planting something new.

*Adding mulch will retain the seed moisture, and helps to prevent the soil from baking at the end of the summer. Straw or hay works well as an insulator, but there really is a variety of mulch options  you can use. If you’re concerned about keeping the straw down, consider using a floating row on top of the mulch.

What To Plant At The End Of Summer

The Brassica family in particular grows very well in cool weather (think broccoli, arugula, cabbage, lettuce, chard, collards, kale, spinach). Mustard greens also tend to be less bitter when grown in cool weather climates. Root crops like parsnips, turnips, beets, and radishes can also do quite well. Most of them can take a little frost – but you can extend the season up to 30 days (give or take depending on mother nature) by using a frost blanket. To learn more, check out our other frost suggestions for keeping your veggies safe. 

Planting Tips

*Count back from frost date but tack on extra time to the calculation. Remember that the days are getting steadily shorter and cooler as fall plants mature. Don’t expect them to produce as fast as in longer and warmer spring time days.

*You generally don’t want to plant a seed more than 3 times the thickness of the seed. Strive to plant the seed two times the thickness; remembering that any deeper can impose stress, making it an issue for the plant to grow above the soil.

*Sow approximately one seed about every two inches. You don’t want to plant too many together, yet being too skimpy can cause problems too! You will be thinning them out later, so make like Goldilocks when sowing seeds. You’ll find your rows will look “just right” after some practice.

*If you’re trying to conserve water, focus watering activities on the most vulnerable plants – along with the oldest trees and shrubs on the property.

**Fellow gardeners, what are you planting for your autumn garden?

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

 

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The Most Frost Tolerant Plants In Your Garden

December 1st, 2012

Don’t wait until after the last frost to plant these vegetables that prefer cooler weather. These plants can take a little frost – and should be planted a month or more before your area’s last average frost. While most vegetables may perform better when started indoors, radishes, turnips, and lettuce germinate and grow rapidly, and are simple to sow directly into the ground. When they are finished growing in the spring, it’s easy to grow warm loving vegetables in their place. Be sure to follow spacing recommendations, and place them in a full sun location during the coolest months.

Broccoli – This nutrient packed plant loves cool weather, and will tolerate a day or two of frost or freezing weather. Plant this vegetable approximately a month prior to your area’s average last frost date. We carry the Di Cicco Italian variety in our Veggin’ Out and The Producer seed kits.

Carrots – These beta-carotene rich vegetables taste sweeter in cooler weather, but can be enjoyed in the spring, summer, and fall. Adding mulch over the roots to keep the soil from freezing can add even more vitality during the winter months. The Scarlet Nantes Carrot, featured in Veggin’ Out and The Producer has a reputation for abundant production.

Chives – These perennial herbs are incredibly weather tolerant, and can be harvested in the spring as leaves appear. Our Purly Chives offer a mild onion flavor, and can found in the Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed kit.

Collards – These hardy greens love cold weather, and can even tolerate a hard freeze. They also fair well in the warmer months, though- keep them out of extremely hot weather.

Lettuce – Green leafy vegetables like lettuce do quite well in cool weather, but need some protection from freezing weather. When gardeners take the time to plant a few seeds every week, a crop can become available on a continuous basis. Red lettuce varieties, like our Red Saladbowl can add beautiful color to your garden.

Peas – These cool season vegetables grow well on a fence or teepee, and under direct sunlight.

Radish – These cool weather-loving vegetables can be harvested as quickly as a month after seeds are planted. You may want to grow these smaller vegetables in containers to save space in your garden.

Spinach – Spinach is loved by gardeners for its low maintenance and cold tolerance. These plants perform better in areas with mild winters, and thrive in the shade during the summer months.

Swiss Chard – Our Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard is one of the most cold tolerant varieties around. This pretty leafy green tastes great raw, sautéed, or added to your favorite soup.

Learn how to protect plants that are not frost tolerant: Protecting Plants From Extreme Cold

**Friends, which frost tolerant plants do you have in your garden right now? How are they doing?

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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What To Plant Late Summer For A Fall Harvest

July 24th, 2012

With temperatures steadily rising, and many cities experiencing one of the worst heat waves in decades, it’s hard to imagine that fall is just a few short months away.  If you’re already dreaming of chilly temps and a gorgeous fall harvest, you may want to consider planting now, or in the near future. There are a variety of plants that are adapted to grow well in warm soil, when temperatures increasingly get cooler. Choosing fast maturing plants will also ensure that your bounty can be harvested before the fall frosts become an issue.

What to Plant in the Summer

First, check out the average frost date in your city or town. Places with early starting frosts may not be able to plant their heart’s desire, or perhaps should start planting earlier in the summer time to prevent frost damage. Below is a general guide to what to plant and when:

July: lima beans, eggplant, okra, southern peas, peppers, and tomatoes.

August (these plants have a 60-80 day maturity cycle): snap beans, pole beans, corn, cucumbers, southern peas, peppers, pumpkin, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, onions, and turnips.

September (these plants mature quickly):  beets, cabbage, carrots, endive, escarole, mustard, onions and radish.

Protecting Plants From Mr. Freeze

Plants can grow successfully in the late summer and early fall.  Yet, when those chilly temps begin to drop, frost damage can wreak havoc on vulnerable plants. Most plant damage can be prevented (see our guide to preventing frost damage), but do keep in mind that hardier plants are better adapted to withstand cooler climates. Knowing the frost date in your area can help prepare your garden, and sticking to plants with cold hardiness can better ensure a successful crop.

These hardy plants can withstand a fair amount of frost and continue to grow relatively unharmed: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, mustard greens, onion, parsley, peas, radish and turnips.  Avoid planting basil, bush beans, and snap peas too late, as these sensitive plants will only disappoint come frost season.

Soil that is too warm can also pose a problem early on. Certain plants are unable or are difficult to germinate in soil over 85 degrees F. In exceptionally warm climates, stay away from planting lettuce, snap peas and spinach until the soil can cool down a bit.

Helpful Tips for Summer Planting

*Pest control can be particularly bewildering in the summer time.  See our guide to treating pest naturally.

*In very warm climates, utilize large plants and trees to provide some shade during peak sunlight hours.

*Do not allow seeds to dry out. Provide at least 1 inch of water, once a week.  This will moisten the soil without overwatering. You may wish to water young seedlings more often.

*Warm, dry soil can form a layer of dry crust around young seedlings, interfering with germination. To prevent this, layer compost, mulch of moist potting soil over the seed row and continue watering to keep the soil moist.

***Friends, what are you planting now for a delicious, fall harvest?

Sources:

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-66.pdf

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/fallgarden.html

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/M1227.html

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Companion Planting: How To Effectively Play Musical Chairs With Your Garden

October 10th, 2011

Have you had the dilemma in which your pea plant grew remarkably tall with plump pods next to last year’s carrots, but were sulking by the onions the following year? I can tell you it is not the vegetable gods cursing your peas this year.  It has to do with placement.  Companion gardening is strongly recommended as an eco-friendly way to manage your garden.  This is because most of the plants in your garden have substances in their leaves and roots that repel and attract other various types of plants.  We can thank the Iroquois tribe for discovering companion gardening when they noted that three vegetables grew very strongly together. They dubbed them the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash. Since the discovery, vegetables and plants have been studied to find which plant took from the soil to compliment plants that put nutrients back in.  Companion planting is commonly used on personal gardens, and can greatly enhance your crop as well as aid in naturally deterring insects.

You can find any of these premium vegetables and herb seeds in Veggin’ Out and Uncle Herb’s Favorites!

 

                  Vegetables And Herbs That Grow Well Together                                                     

Vegetable

Friends: Companion Plant

Enemies: Non-Companion Plant

Bull’s Blood Beet Bush beans, cabbage, broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions, garlic Pole beans
Scarlet Nantes Carrot Beans, tomatoes None
Di Cicco Broccoli Beets, celery, dill, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes Pole beans
Washington Cherry Tomatoes Carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers Corn, potatoes
White Spear Bunching Onion Beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, pepper All beans and peas               

Herb

Friends: Companion Plant

Effects

Superbo Basil Tomatoes Improves flavor and discourages insects
Bronze and Green Fennel None Most plants dislike it – keep it separate
Common Sage and Greek Oregano Carrots, cabbage, peas, beans Deters some insects
Bouquet Dill Cabbage and carrots Improves growth and health
Titan Parsley Tomatoes, Asparagus Improves growth and health

 

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Themed Gardens for Kids: Pizza Anyone?

June 7th, 2011

 

Getting kids interested and involved in gardening is not only a great way to spend quality time together, it’s also a fun, adventurous activity for them, and it’s a great educational experience—you never know, you may have some future plant botanists or horticulturalists in your family!

Make gardening with the kids fun by allowing them to help plan the garden from the start. Incorporate a theme that will really get them excited, such as “Pizza Garden,” “Stir-Fry Garden,” or “Peter Rabbit Garden.”

Decide together what you want to plant and how the plants will be arranged in the garden then get in there and grow your own foods. You can also mark a wall calendar with fun, colorful gardening stickers on the days that you and your kids will be tending to the garden; this will give them something to look forward to, and it’s a great way to incorporate routine and responsibility into their lives.

Help your kids make and decorate some whimsical signs for their garden or let them pick out a few garden accessories to place in their garden.

Pizza Garden

A Pizza Garden is as much fun for the adults as it is for kids. Why? Because who doesn’t like pizza? And this themed garden is shaped like a pizza!

Place a stake in the ground, attach a 3 ½ foot piece of string to the stake then mark off a circle, keeping the string tight. Divide circle into six wedges.

In each wedge, plant classic pizza ingredients: 2 to 3 basil plants, 1 to 2 bell pepper plants, onion, 2 to 3 oregano plants, 2 to 3 parsley plants, and 1 tomato plant. If you plant more, you can always transplant them into another area of your yard.

It just doesn’t get any better than homemade pizza made with fresh herbs and vegetables from your own garden.

Stir-Fry Garden

Stir-fry is one healthy meal, and fresh-from-the-garden vegetables make it simply amazing. This is a great dish for experimenting with your favorite food flavors.

Some classic stir-fry ingredients include: bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, garlic, green beans, hot peppers, squash, etc.

With stir-frying, foods cook fast so they retain their flavor and texture, and cooking fresh ingredients contain less calories than packaged stir-fry entrées.

Peter Rabbit Garden

Beatrix Potter’s characters are great inspiration for kids to garden, and this theme is a wonderful way to educate kids on nature and animals.

Plant a variety of herbs and vegetables along a border or in raised beds then tuck garden bunny statues in between the plants. Name the statues after The Tale of Peter Rabbit characters: Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, and/or Cottontail. Even though Mother Rabbit forbade her children to enter Mr. McGregor’s garden, your children’s garden can be a cozy home for their sweet garden statues.

Parsley, sage, thyme, bush beans, cabbage, and carrots are perfect for a Peter Rabbit Garden.

Making fun, meaningful, and long-lasting memories with family is so important, and this is an activity your kids will cherish for their whole life.

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Starting Garden Seeds Indoors

February 10th, 2011

 

For many gardeners, February is the perfect time to start seeds indoors 2-3 months before your average date of final frost. If your region’s average final frost date is the end of March then February is a great time to get started so your seedlings will have a good 6-8 weeks to prepare for their new home in your garden.

Starting seeds indoors is easy, and you do not need expensive supplies to get a head start on spring gardening. Supplies include: containers that are 2-3 wide and 2-3 inches deep, like a plastic 40 count tray; loose textured potting mix that has soil, vermiculite or perlite and sphagnum peat moss; seeds; popsicle sticks, a waterproof pen; clear plastic bags large enough to go around your container(s); a 15-15-15 soluble fertilizer; and snail bait.

Here’s how to sow spring garden seeds (such as broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, head lettuce, onion, peppers, squash, and tomatoes) indoors:

1. Fill your container with pre-moistened potting mix then level the soil. To moisten soil, simply put potting mix in a large bag and get it wet until it’s just moist.

2. Sow 1-2 seeds in each tray cell. Gently press the seeds into the soil then add a little bit of soil to the top, to cover seeds.

3. Mark your seedling trays by using your waterproof marker on the popsicle sticks, noting the date you planted and variety of seeds.

4. Place the tray inside of a clear plastic bag then tie it shut. If covering the tray with plastic wrap, you will want to make sure that the plastic does not touch the soil surface. Once covered with plastic you will not need to water the soil until your seeds sprout.

5. Set your seed tray in a spot that is evenly warm, such as the top of your refrigerator if you have the room. Do not place your seed tray in an area that is too drafty or too warm.

6. Once the seeds have sprouted remove the plastic and move the seed tray to a sunny south-facing window. If you do not have a window that provides full sun, you may need to purchase lighting equipment. If the region you live in continues to get very cold at night, you will want to move your seed tray away from the window so that the seedlings do not get too cold.

7. Watering your sprouts is easy. You’ll want to check the soil moisture daily by feeling the soil with your finger. If the soil is dry use a spray bottle that contains room temperature water and mist them with a fine spray.

8. 3-4 weeks after seeds are established, add some complete soluble fertilizer to the water. You’ll only need to fertilize once or twice before planting your seedlings into the garden.

9. After 6-8 weeks, you can start hardening off your seedlings by placing the seed tray outside in full sun for 2-3 hours. Bring the seed tray in after the allotted time. As your seedlings start adjusting to the 2-3 hours in full sun start moving them into the shade too for a few hours before bring the seed tray back indoors. You’ll want to follow this process for about two weeks. After the two week hardening process you can leave your seed tray out all day and night, as long as the temperatures are not freezing. This process, of putting your seed tray outdoors then moving them back indoors allows your seedlings to get used to being outdoors and keeps them from going into shock.

10. Once you’re ready to plant the seedlings in your garden you’ll want to: transplant them in the late afternoon when the sun is low; make sure the seedlings are well watered before planting them in the garden; make sure the garden soil is moist; try not to disturb the root ball when transplanting; water the seedlings once planted, to make sure the soil has settled around the root ball; place snail bait around the seedlings; and keep the seedlings moist for the first 4-5 days after transplanting, to make sure they get established. Once established you can water your seedlings when the soil is slightly dry in between watering.

That’s it! Starting seeds indoors gives you a head start on the spring gardening season and is an activity that provides you with great gardening practice (if you’ve never gardened before) and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. We’re excited for the spring garden season, and we hope you are, too. It’s going to be a great year for healthy, homegrown food!

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Seed Spotlight: Red Express Cabbage

January 26th, 2011

 

Delicious, antioxidant-rich cabbage may not be the most popular vegetable in the garden, but it offers wonderful flavor and versatility that should not be overlooked, especially for warming winter meals. In season from late fall through winter, now’s the time to enjoy cabbage.

An ancestor of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, cabbage was once prized by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and for centuries, during famines, cabbage was a staple that helped sustain people in need.

Red cabbage, such as our Red Express, is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron and magnesium. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, K and B6.

Generally used to make coleslaw, it is also perfect for Braised Red Cabbage and Apples (below), a classic German-style dish that is easy to prepare. It complements a variety of foods, such as braised meats, game birds, and pork dishes. When cooking red cabbage, it’s important to note that cabbage’s red coloring reacts to changes in Ph, so avoid cooking it in aluminum cooking vessels and include an ingredient like acidic fruit, lemon, vinegar or wine.

Braised Red Cabbage and Apples

Ingredients

2 tablespoons bacon fat

1 small onion, diced

2 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and diced

1 small head red cabbage, cored and shredded

½ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup cider vinegar

Kosher salt, to season

Freshly ground black pepper, to season

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Sauté onion in bacon fat in a large Dutch oven. When slightly caramelized, add apples; sauté for two minutes. Add cabbage, brown sugar, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil then cover and bake for 40 minutes or until cabbage is very soft. SERVES 6

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Garden Vegetables: A Kaleidoscope of Health

November 20th, 2010

 

Fruits and vegetables come in all shades of vibrant colors—green, orange, red, yellow and more—that will make your plate and palette pop. But did you know that each color offers health benefits as well?

Plants contain phytochemicals which protect them from things like UV rays and garden villains. These same phytochemicals help boost our immune system when consumed and have been shown to act as free radical scavengers. Here is a short list of vegetables with some of their benefits.

– Tomatoes and red bell peppers: their bright red color comes from lycopene, a carotene and caratenoid pigment. Lycopene has been considered a potential agent for prevention of some types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.

– Carrots and winter squash: their vibrant orange color comes from beta carotene, which can be converted to active vitamin A. The phytochemicals found in orange and yellow vegetables may help lower the risk of some forms of cancer, as well as help vision and heart and immune systems.

– Broccoli: its green comes from indole-3 carbinol (I3C), a compound that occurs naturally in broccoli and other green vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and more. I3C has been shown to inhibit the development of cancers of the breast, colon, liver, lung and stomach in some animals.

– Eggplant: it’s chock-full of anthocyanins, water-soluble vacuolar pigments that belong to the parent class of molecules called flavonoids. These anthocyanins have been shown to protect cell membranes from damage.

So much potential in small packages! The next time you eat your favorite fruit or vegetable look at its color and think about the health benefits that may come from eating it. There’s so much to appreciate and more there than meets the eye!

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Bean Soup with Fennel

March 22nd, 2010

1 1/2 cups dried navy beans, soaked overnight
1 pound smoked ham hocks
8 cups water
2 large bunches of fennel leaves, stems snipped off
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 teaspoons black pepper
3 large potatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped, white parts only
1 cup chopped cabbage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound ground pork sausage, browned and drained

Place beans, ham hocks and water in a large pot; bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer ingredients until beans can be mashed and pork is tender, about 1 hour. Chop fennel until you have about 2 cups; set aside. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf and pepper to pot; simmer 5 minutes. Add chopped fennel, potatoes, green onion, cabbage, olive oil and cooked sausage to pot. Return soup to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf before serving.

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