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Tobias41

Vegetable Gardening

59 posts in this topic

Hi All,

I live in the South, and planting time is right around the corner.  This year I am going to try to start my seedlings.  Any advice on this?  I am using organic purchased soil and plan to put them in trays and I have clear plastic bins that I am going to put them in outside, depending on the night temperatures they will be moved inside as needed. 

Thanks for any advice!

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I use plantable containers to start my seeds, makes the transplant process so much easier (and safer). Enjoy it!

 

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I never had any luck starting seedlings early without grow lights. Starting them on a window sill resulted in leggy plants. I have two small (2ft or so) electric housings with grown lights that works great (these are the long bulb types). I put it very close to the plants and raise it as they grow. Good luck! 

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Be sure and don't keep them too wet when they are sprouting or they will die.  I use cheap paper cups that get soft and just peel them away when I plant.  I buy the special media for starting seeds.   I also use grow lights on a timer so they run about 14 or so hours a day.  And, don't start them to soon, six weeks is soon enough a small plant transfers much better than a blooming plant anyway.

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I have been debating about grow lights... in college I worked in a greenhouse so I am familiar, but cheap LOL!

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Posted (edited)

I bought some 24" double bulb florescent fixtures at a box store.  Inexpensive and they work.  I have used them successfully for several years.  I also use a heated grow mat underneath which I received for a Christmas gift years ago.

Whether you’re growing seedlings, year-round crops, houseplants or just highlighting prized plantings, fluorescent lighting is the better alternative. Standard 20- and 40-watt fluorescent lighting tubes are great for starting seedlings.

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/hpgen/fluorescent-lighting-for-indoor-gardening.htm

Edited by SueSTx
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I picked up these things at a discount store that holds several 6 pack cells- It came with a clear lid- Yes, everything that has begun to grow is leggy .. Ever wonder why houseplants don't get leggy? At least mine don't- Yet, when growing vegetables from seed .. leggy .. until they are exposed to direct sunlight-

 

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Posted (edited)

The light source needs to be about 2 inches above the small plants.  I adjust mine as they grow...but yes they will get leggy especially if you try to hold them too long before planting.

When starting tomatoes, you can cover a lot of the stem with soil if they are too leggy and they will root along the covered stems.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent bulbs don't produce heat like other lighting options, so you can place these much closer to the seedlings. Setting the fixtures so they are 2 to 6 inches above the top of the foliage provides high-intensity light. The 2-inch height works well for small seedlings or if you are using reflectors around the light tubes to better distribute the light. Placing the tubes at 6 inches provides light over a greater area, which is preferred for taller seedlings or if you don't have reflectors installed. Use cool-white fluorescent tubes or a combination warm-white and cool-white grow light.

When the days are warmer, I take them outside during the day in a laundry basket being sure to keep them out of a strong wind.

Give your vegetable plants at least 14 to 18 hours of direct light every day.

  • Turn the lights off for 6 to 10 hours every day. Vegetable plants do need a period of darkness to mature and trigger production.

 plug my cords into a timer usually off from midnight to 6 AM.

Also, remember to "harden the plants" before setting them out in the garden.

https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-harden-off-plants-1402554

If you goal is early tomatoes, I'd just buy blooming plants already.  This year, I am going to start some melon seeds indoors because our season is short.  Instructions say to start them only about 3 weeks before the usual planting date.  I have bought melon plants in the past when I had to replant due to bad weather and they made melons.

 

Edited by SueSTx
to add info
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Many house plants have lower light requirements that plants that produce fruits or vegetables.

 

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On March 7, 2017 at 2:33 PM, SueSTx said:

Be sure and don't keep them too wet when they are sprouting or they will die.  I use cheap paper cups that get soft and just peel them away when I plant.  I buy the special media for starting seeds.   I also use grow lights on a timer so they run about 14 or so hours a day.  And, don't start them to soon, six weeks is soon enough a small plant transfers much better than a blooming plant anyway.

Dang. I wish I'd caught this thread before I planted my seeds. 

I have two of those plastic greenhouses and about 10 seed trays I planted a week ago....Only I forgot to tell DH to mix the seed medium in a wheelbarrow with water before filling half the cells, and so for HALF of them, the water just pools at the top, leaving a pudding-like soil skin over bone-dry soil cells. When the seeds sprout in the pudding (iF they even do), I worry they'll be quickly parched.

Is there anything I can do to remediate this, Sue? Without destroying the seeds?

PS-- If anyone is interested in heirloom seeds, there's a fantastic purveyor in Mansfield, MO, that has a cool "village" (buildings with antiques, garden stuff, chickens, a smithy, etc.) and seeds for just about any plant you can imagine. Check out www.rareseeds.com. They have additional locations on the East and West coasts. I'm so bummed they were out of the "Emily" basil, though, because I really wanted to try it this year.

What's everyone growing, if you don't mind my asking?

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Posted (edited)

It probably depends on how small and fragile the seeds are.  The green house lady told me that petunia seeds are the hardest to start and she even buys "started plugs" from her supplies.  Is there any way you can punch holes in the bottoms and try to drain out some of that excess moisture?  I know this is crazy, but heat a "corn on the cob holder" over a gas burner or a candle and actually melt a few holes around the bottom of those plastic cells and set them on some paper towels and see if you can wick away come of that excess water.  AND...prop the lids on those 'greenhouses' so they do not contain the moisture in the units...I have actually taken them off and dried them and replaced them several times a day when my cells have been overwatered.

I think if I had extra seeds, I might just try to start a few new seeds for insurance.

Good luck.

Edited by SueSTx

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At the moment, growing only pepper and tomato -- both are leggy- But look like they'll make it- Planted a bunch of perennial seed varieties last Fall- We had roller coaster weather this Winter so they might have germinated during the warm spells then froze beneath the snow- I prefer plants that dont need tending, that can adapt and volunteer or reseed, can withstand drought and high heat, that provide for bees, birds and butterflies- Bulbs are about out of the question since they get dug up by the wildlife although they left the elephant ear alone ... I guess the bulbs were too big to move .. Last year they devoured the hollyhock- I saved a bunch of annual seeds from last summer- Still in the process of amending the garden soil where the veggies grow ..

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We won't be able to plant or vegetables until after the first of May.  We will till the garden this week or next though and water up that first crop of weeds.

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@oscarsmaman thanks for the head's up on rare seeds...their West Coast location is less than hour from me. 

That said, I've been buying my heirloom seeds from Monticello...I visited there years ago and bought seeds at that time that are heirloom varieties descended from Thomas Jefferson's gardens. They've all done well and I do save seeds for the next year from this year's crop. The seed bank will satisfy my need for instant gratification!

I'm late getting things going this year due to working a long term sub job. However, I think it ends next Friday so should all work out. Our Spring/Summer are generally mild, so I can plant well into August without worry of cold...harvest can go into late November here.

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I'm really impressed by all you advanced gardeners.  Most of my life I've had the opposite of a green thumb and managed to kill every plant I ever purchased or was given.  Then I went to Target with my kids in late February and in the dollar bins they had these little pots with seed starter and a packet of seeds and they said you just had to add a little water and put them in a window sill with light.  They were a dollar each and my kids really wanted to grow plants so I figured what the heck.  We bought a bunch of them.  Tomatoes, watermelon and various flowers.  We had excess seeds so I used egg shells and containers and bought some potting soils and planted them in the eggshells and containers.  I also bought some herb seeds since I had this fantasy of growing fresh herbs - thyme, parsley and cilantro.

Well, it's been about a month or so and we've managed to sprout just about everything and all the plants are still alive.  Now I have to plant them in the soil in the backyard soon like I promised my kids I would do.  And I've had to do all this research on getting the soil ready because it appears to have clay in it.  We went to the local garden store and I was told to add chicken manure a few days before planting the seedlings.  I read that you shouldn't plant outside until they have sprouted their second set of true leaves.  I'd never even heard of "true leaves" until now.  

I've done more research on plants, potting things, re-planting, soil, gardening in general, in the last month than I've done in my whole life.  I've also been working outside digging up the area where we are going to plant everything - turning the soil over and trying to break up the dirt clods and trying to get it ready to plant stuff.  I kinda of figure that even though the soil has clay in it it can't be all that bad since at the end of my street there is a big field where they've planted multiple crops of celery and cilantro since I've been living here.  

So, anyway, I just want to say I'm super-impressed by all you gardeners.  It's a lot of work.  If anyone has any words of advice it'd be much appreciated.  I'm kinda winging it here.  I honestly didn't expect to still have living plants at this point. 

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26 minutes ago, britomart said:

I'm really impressed by all you advanced gardeners.  Most of my life I've had the opposite of a green thumb and managed to kill every plant I ever purchased or was given.  Then I went to Target with my kids in late February and in the dollar bins they had these little pots with seed starter and a packet of seeds and they said you just had to add a little water and put them in a window sill with light.  They were a dollar each and my kids really wanted to grow plants so I figured what the heck.  We bought a bunch of them.  Tomatoes, watermelon and various flowers.  We had excess seeds so I used egg shells and containers and bought some potting soils and planted them in the eggshells and containers.  I also bought some herb seeds since I had this fantasy of growing fresh herbs - thyme, parsley and cilantro.

Well, it's been about a month or so and we've managed to sprout just about everything and all the plants are still alive.  Now I have to plant them in the soil in the backyard soon like I promised my kids I would do.  And I've had to do all this research on getting the soil ready because it appears to have clay in it.  We went to the local garden store and I was told to add chicken manure a few days before planting the seedlings.  I read that you shouldn't plant outside until they have sprouted their second set of true leaves.  I'd never even heard of "true leaves" until now.  

I've done more research on plants, potting things, re-planting, soil, gardening in general, in the last month than I've done in my whole life.  I've also been working outside digging up the area where we are going to plant everything - turning the soil over and trying to break up the dirt clods and trying to get it ready to plant stuff.  I kinda of figure that even though the soil has clay in it it can't be all that bad since at the end of my street there is a big field where they've planted multiple crops of celery and cilantro since I've been living here.  

So, anyway, I just want to say I'm super-impressed by all you gardeners.  It's a lot of work.  If anyone has any words of advice it'd be much appreciated.  I'm kinda winging it here.  I honestly didn't expect to still have living plants at this point. 

Same deal here with the clay- I learned there are two type of clay soil, the type that's actually like clay and soft and pliable when moist and the other type which tends to clump into mini meteors and when dry (hard as stone) and thrown against rock, or anything hard, shatters/explodes into dust or little pieces- Supposedly this type, the clumping type, is easier to amend than the pliable clay type- We have the mini meteor type that shatters, so add a mix of compost and manure to it- Why? Supposedly because this type of clay soil is so binding, and absorbent, that water can't work it's way through it and neither can roots- So it needs to be mixed with other things to allow the movement of water and root- But what else I'm doing this year is taking the sticks/branches in the yard that fell this past winter, busting them up, and then pressing them into the soil after all has been planted- I'm hoping by doing so that it will add more nutrients to the soil eventually and created more space for the water and roots to move- It sounds like you've really thrown yourself into your gardening and wish you the best of luck! If you need additional inspiration watch Dirt! the movie- It's an awesome documentary!

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@britomartso stoked you are sharing this journey with your kids....My dad always had a garden (he never lost his farmboy roots) so I had a garden as soon as I had  place to put one. My kids think its great, they all have some sort of garden, even if its in window sills and 5 gallon buckets (hanging veggie gardens are really fun). 

Years ago when DS was about 5 he had trouble getting to sleep one night....very rare for him. His bedroom overlooked the new garden, so I told him if he was really quiet he might get to hear the garden grown. Of course he dropped off like a rock, but came flying into my room first thing next morning yelling "I heard it, I heard it!" The lettuce had sprouted overnight! He's a farmer at heart, so will grow as much of his own food as possible.

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There have been very few years in my life when I didn't grow some sort of vegetable.  A little or a lot.  We now only plant six rows and do a pretty good job with extra to share with the neighbors.

I have a lot of experience with "clay" soil.  We actually live on a caliche hill with only about an inch of top soil in places. Caliche is layer of soil in which the. soil particles are cemented together by calcium carbonate.  If you can dig a hole, it is like planting in a container and plants just sit there and don't grow.  We have amended with manure and humus for years and the soil is slowly getting better.  I do still plant my flowers in containers though and I have stock tanks with water lilies.  Water is easier to move around than bagged dirt.  I have given up on grass in some areas and laid lots of pavers.  We like "patios".

My vegetable garden now is actually planted where we tossed all limbs, leaves and grass clippings for years.  A friend removed the debris and the soil is pretty good in most of the garden.

You can buy bagged humus and manure mix at most box stores.  Don't be afraid to use too much unless it smells like feces.  Work in into the soil not just pour it on top like mulch (use that later).

The most important thing about when to plant is to wait until the last danger of frost.  We actually had a slushy sleety rain mix this morning and we have had at least one 90* afternoon.  I live in zone 6 and I will wait until after the first weekend in May to even think about planting my garden.  I will start my seeds soon though.  I have learned to just buy my tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse.  I don't use many and it works for me.

I will start my melon seeds though because we have a short season and I want to give them a head start.

Don't over water...don't worry over much is there is a lot of rain (you can't control that anyway).  If the leaves are wilting, be careful about spraying water on the leaves during the heat of the day.  I use a DIY drip system.

Just remember, what works for one person in their climate and conditions does not necessarily work for another.  I know neighbors who use totally different methods and they swear by them and they both have nice gardens.  Bugs and small animals can do more harm to a garden than weeds.

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Thank you so much for the advice ladies!!

Thank you for the movie suggestion @Komorebi.  I will definitely check out Dirt. Hopefully, it's on Netflix.  I think I have that second type of clay soil because there are hard little dirt clumps that explode when my kids throw them against the wall or bricks.  That's how they were helping me the other day when I was digging up the soil.  They picked up the dirt clods and threw them against some bricks.  Then they took their mini spades and started attacking the clumps to break them up.  They were actually pretty helpful.  lol.  

This is really a new experience for me because I hated being outside helping my parents when I was a kid.  My parents would have us up at the crack of dawn to help them either plant flowers or some sort of ground cover or weed.  They have this gentle slope in their front yard and for years they put in some sort of ground cover and it would get overtaken by weeds or die and they'd have to replace it.  They tried lots of things and finally a few years ago they ended up just putting in grass.  Anyway, I hated being out there squatting in the dirt and pulling weeds.  It became a form of punishment.  

But now that I'm doing this with my kids I'm really loving it.  They run each morning to check on the seedlings and see if any new plants have sprouted.  I have to confess I do this too!  Then they help me water them.  I went out and got them gardening tools and hats and then took them with me to the local garden store which they both loved.  I hated going with my parents to the garden store.  I thought it was so boring as a kid but my kids love it.  We walked around and looked at all the flowers and trees and picked up a little thing of strawberry plants that they helped me re-plant in some big plastic containers I turned into planters by drilling holes in the bottom for drainage.  

One of the gentlemen at the garden store suggested chicken manure for getting my soil ready but I really like the idea of adding grass clippings @SueSTx.  The owner of our house (we rent) has gardeners come every 2 weeks.  I think next week when they come I'll ask if they can dump some of the grass clippings onto the dirt I'm prepping instead of putting it in the trash.  I've also started reading up about composting because I read that adding composted material can improve the quality of the soil.  

I think I managed to overwater a succulent that I've been tending to since last May.  My son decorated the pot at pre-school and gave it to me for Mother's Day.  I've managed to keep it alive and it outgrew the little pot so I put it in a bigger one and put it outside to get more sun.  Then we had a crazy amount of rain and I totally forgot to bring it inside and I think it got too much water because it started dropping it's leaves.  I haven't watered it in days and am trying to dry it out.  Crossing my fingers.  

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Posted (edited)

A word of caution on grass clippings.  If the grass has runners, if using it for mulch, they can actually take root and spread through out the garden.  Talk to the gardeners first to be sure your grass is the type you can just dump in the dirt.

Speaking of strawberries in pots.  I saw an article where a lady had taken a cheap tall laundry basket, lined it with weed cloth and cut holes in alternating holes and filled it in with strawberry plants.  A great idea especially for folks with bad backs.  It could be raised so they could sit and pick.

 

Edited by SueSTx

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Posted (edited)

@SueSTx Thanks for all that information about clay soil! Totally makes me sit and consider what pioneers had to deal with! Next to no topsoil here, too- We're on a moraine, on a slope- So even the leaves that have been piled in the same place year, after year, after year, the rain works its way underneath it and washes it all away down into the creek bed- Mulch? The same- I've lined some of the more level beds with rocks, to help protect them from eroding too quickly- Every year the path the water takes shifts and washes something else away- During drought, the ground splits- Last time we had a bad one it cracked and it ran right through the darn house! It broke the tile!

@Mame925 and @britomart great stories about the kids! Two of mine enjoy growing, the other just likes to eat :) 

Dirt! the movie can be viewed for free on YouTube- It looks like two different users uploaded it -- an alternative if it's not still available for streaming on Netflix- Another food doc I enjoyed was The Fruit Hunters- It's also available on YouTube- I read the book first-

Edited by Komorebi

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Posted (edited)

Many free movies are available on you tube. 

Our ground cracks often.  Some summers you could drop a 12 inch ruler down and maybe never see it again.  Our yard gently slopes also, away from the house. 

Edited by SueSTx

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LOL...we've had some large very wet snow flakes this afternoon.  Of course, it is too warm for them to stick.

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1 hour ago, SueSTx said:

LOL...we've had some large very wet snow flakes this afternoon.  Of course, it is too warm for them to stick.

It's moisture, Sue! Not rain, which I see your area finally received, but it's water!

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We have had about 3 inches this week.  We are very wet...and loving it.

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