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Seed Starting 101: Outdoor Basics

April 8th, 2014

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We recently asked on our Facebook page what topic you’d like to learn a little more about. Overwhelmingly, many of you responded, “Seed Starting!” Being a seed company and all, we wanted to write a post about this as soon as possible. It may be too late to start seed indoors, but for some of you, it’s perfect timing to start seed directly in the garden.

There are a number of compelling reasons to try seed starting: 1) More plant choices than what’s offered at your local gardening store; including organic, non-GMO, heirloom, and non-hybrid varieties, 2) More control (and fun!) over how your plants are grown, including soil, water, and amendment selecting, 3) A chance to use natural pest and vermin control, 4) To learn more self-reliance skills, 5) Save a great deal of money – we hope this encourages you to take the plunge and try seed starting.

Our Basic Guide For Sowing Directly In Your Garden

Suggested Tools For Seed Starting Outdoors

*Seed of choice (beans, carrots, corn, peas, and radishes are great choices for beginners, and truly do best when sown directly in the garden)
*Soil Thermometer
*Organic (safe) soil
*Organic compost
*Plant labels
*Watering system for gentle watering (“shower” setting on hose or “rose” fitting on watering can, etc.)
*A notepad and pen for jotting down notes

Build Up Your Soil

If you’re starting a new garden bed, remove sod, weeds, roots, and rocks from the area. Vegetable garden soil should be a mix of air and solids, and include clay, silt and loam. Work in 6 inches of compost to enhance the soil structure, and get a soil test, aiming for a neutral pH level. If needed, amend the soil further. You also may want to consider using a raised garden bed, as these will yield more vegetables and save time in the long run. This is because the smaller space shades out competing weeds, and watering/harvesting are more efficiently done.

Plan Ahead 

Ensure your soil is ready to sow seeds by taking the temperature (here’s our guide on how to take soil temperature). When ready, moisten the soil so that it’s the consistency of oatmeal a few days prior to planting. Thoroughly read your seed packet instructions for plant depth and spacing. Most seeds will require planting at a depth 3 times the diameter of the seed. If you’re a visual person, we suggest using a notepad to configure a layout of where seeds will go, and the spacing/depth for each before seed starting.

Sow Your Seeds

First, follow the seed packet instructions for the depth of furrows and spacing between them. Lay out the rows in a north-south direction which will ensure that both sides will receive an equal amount of sunlight during the day. Form the furrows with a rake, hoe, or stick; for perfectly straight rows, we recommend using a board or taut string as a guide. Do your best to sow seeds evenly, spacing them out as the seed packet instructs. If you’re using a large seed packet like we provide, pour the seed in your palm and scatter small pinches of seed as evenly as possible. Some gardeners sow seeds more thickly to guarantee germination, and thin out rows later, while others avoid this chore by spacing seeds out evenly. Tamping the soil (gently pressing on the soil surface after you sow seeds) will help secure the seed for roots to grow.

If you planted different types of seed, some gardeners outline the areas in flour, string, or stakes, while others use garden labels. This will help in recognizing plants as seed germination begins and plants grow, and will reduce the risk of mistaking a plant for a weed.

Water Gently, And Not Too Much

This is essential for guaranteeing high seed germination rates. The soil must stay evenly moist for seed germination, yet you don’t want to spray water forcefully either. The “shower” setting on your hose or the “rose” fitting on a watering can should suit you just fine if you’re a beginner. More elaborate irrigation systems are also wonderfully convenient once you’re ready for this step.

Thinning Out Crowded Seedlings

This is done after seed germination. If you sowed your seeds thickly, or you notice two sets of true leaves, then thinning out the weakest seedling is needed. You can transplant those seedlings into the empty spaces of the bed if available. Here is a great guide on how to do it effectively: How To Thin Out Crowded Seedlings.

Let the fun begin. Lots of luck this year!

***Friends, did you sow seeds directly in the garden this year? How’d it go with seed germination rates? We’d love to hear your success stories too.***

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. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.

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Freeze! Before You Plant Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

September 28th, 2010

 

If you’re new to gardening and not sure where to begin one of the most important things to take into consideration is frost/freeze dates. Plants need to be placed in an environment that meets their basic needs, and each of the following is important in determining whether or not plants will flourish: day length, frost, heat, pH, radiation, rainfall, and temperature.

Lower temperatures will trigger a large number of cold hardy plants to go into dormancy. These plants hibernate/sleep through the winter then wake up in the spring. There are, however, many plants that cannot survive lower temperatures.

A great tool to help you determine the best times throughout the year to begin growing plants in your region is the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which was developed with horticultural and meteorological information in mind, including: changes in weather, classification, interactions with cultural factors (how plants are planted, the size of plants, the way plants are placed in the landscape, etc.), interactions with other environmental factors (humidity, wind, soil type, etc.), introduction of new forms of traditional plants, scope, winter hardiness, and zones.

While there are microclimates within each region and area (areas that may or may not allow you to plant more than gardening books say you can) The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a great place to begin when planning your garden.

Here is the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map via The United States National Arboretum.

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