Bet there are some of you out there who are seed freaks like me. Can’t wait for the next seed catalog, find yourself trolling through seed websites, seeming to always be looking for the next thing you want to grow.
Then what do you do when you do order your seeds, and don’t use the whole packet? Do they go in a drawer, or bag in a big jumble? Oh, then sometime later, you find some other seeds you just have to get, and those packets get put, well, on the kitchen table, a pocket in your garden bag, in a jar – somewhere!
It is time to plant and you were absolutely sure you got that variety, but darn it, can’t find it, quick buy more. A month later, oh there are those seeds I knew I bought, darn, I double bought and now have more than I need.
I confess to have done all the above!
The answer is coming up with a seed inventory system that works for you. It can be simple or complex, depending on how many seeds you have, and what your personal style is. Make it something that works for you.
I have allot of seeds, I run a seed swap, save seeds, partner with seed companies and did plants sales for years, so having a system became critical to business. You don’t have to be in business to need to organize your seeds.
Here are some tips to create a seed organization system that works for you:
Create a spreadsheet, chart, list on your phone, or a notebook to jot down seed orders when they come in.
Have one place to put seeds that have not made it onto your inventory yet.
Have one place where you store your seeds after they are on your inventory.
Create a way to know when you have used up your seeds. I fold my seed packets in half for example.
Have a trigger in your system that lets you know when you need to buy more of that variety.
And a trigger if you grew something and you don’t want to grow that variety again.
Review your inventory at least once a year. I like to do it over the winter, and if you have a system in place, it takes much less time, so you can get back to important things, like looking at more seed catalogs and websites 🙂
Do you love soups in the winter? I sure do, a pot of soup on the stove heating up the house with its yummy smells filling the air. Dried beans are a must have for winter soups.
Today is a pleasantly cool rainy fall day, perfect for listening to some favorite tunes, enjoying a cup of tea and shelling beans, humming and dancing while the shelled beans pile up in a bowl, ready to be planted next spring and eaten this winter.
When I shell dried beans, I keep some of the biggest, plumpest out for planting the following year. The rest are put into jars for eating.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of dried beans, so choose the ones you like to eat. Are you into Minestrone soup, then grow Cannellini beans. Into nachos, then grow pinto or black beans. Love making chili, grow some Kidney beans. Beyond these pretty well known favorites there are loads of other types to try to make you own unique winter soup.
A couple lesser known of favorites I like to grow are Vermont Cranberry and Christmas Limas. Vermont Cranberry is a bush bean, where Christmas Limas are pole beans. They are both beautiful and both make your soup broth a rich warm burgundy color.
You can find lots of varieties of dried beans that grow as bush beans or pole beans, depending on which you prefer to grow. I like a bit of both. Bush beans yield faster, but I get a larger harvest from pole beans. Check the Days to Maturity on the varieties that look interesting to you. This will tell you if you’ll have enough time to grow them until they dry on the plant. If you are in the south, this is usually not an issue. Northern gardeners whose number of hot summer days are shorter may want to stick to shorter days to maturity bush types.
When looking at seed catalogs for bean varieties, note that some beans are good both fresh and dried. This can be a good use of garden space, as you can have a round or two of fresh green beans, then let the rest go for dried beans. This way you get two types of beans from one plant!
Bon appetit, I’m off to enjoy my first cool weather soup made with home grown beans.
Had a client ask me yesterday about Cucumber Beetles so
thought I’d write up this post so you can all benefit form the information too.
I admit, of all the bug type critters I have dealt with in
my gardening endeavors, these little buggers have been the hardest to deal with
and some of the most prolific. I also admit, I have stopped growing cucumbers
because of them. With those caveats, let look at why these
critters are such a challenge.
First, there are two types, striped (Acalymma vittatum/A. trivittatum) and spotted (Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi Barber). This can be confusing, with some folks thinking they are dealing with something other than cucumber beetles. So, yes, both of these are cucumber beetles:
Cucumber beetles attack, yes, cucumbers, but also other members
of the Cucurbit plant family that includes summer squash (and zucchini), winter
squash and melons. I have also found
that they love, I mean LOVE, Amaranth, both the ornamental and grain type, so
we strictly avoid growing all types of Amaranth. They will really love to eat your Cleome, so
we have stopped growing those beauties as well. They have also been known to munch on beets,
beans, peas, sweet potatoes, okra, corn, lettuce, onions, and various cabbages
although, gratefully, I have not had them go for these other crops.
These little critters do munch on your plant leaves, but the
main issues is that they transmit bacteria that cause Fusarium or Bacterial Wilt and this is what will often kill the
plant first. Adult cucumber beetles can severely
defoliate plants and scar fruit. Adults generally reach their peak activity in
morning and late afternoon and are fast and pretty hard to catch. If you do catch them, they have very hard
shells so are hard to squish. Don’t try and put them down to step on them like you
might a worm, as they’ll fly before you can get them. If you are able to catch them, put them in
soapy water. All that said, this is not
the best way to deal with them.
As with handling any pest predation, a good Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy that includes more than one option works best. All the products on this list are OMRI rated for organic use. Not sure what that means, check out this video.
Ways to concur cucumber beetles:
Row cover or growing in completely protected culture in a high tunnel or greenhouse. I recommend this at the beginning of the season to give your plants a good head start. This client, Kathleen, did this and I am sure this is why her plants have done as well as they have. She also used..
Neem oil spray. Neem can be effective here as it is a wide spectrum killer. It is also effective against fungal diseases, which is an added benefit. When sprayed on garden plants, it does not leave a lasting residue because it washes away with rain and is broken down by ultraviolet rays. It can kill some beneficial bugs if they are directly sprayed. Most of Neem’s action is from critters biting leaves that have been sprayed with it. Your beneficial insects are carnivores, eating those other bugs who are eating your food.
Kaolin Clay, or Surround. We love this stuff and use it often. The product name is Surround, which is made from a specially modified Kaolin clay. This forms a barrier that protects plants from many pests. We spray it on and it makes a white barrier not only repels bugs, but causes them irritation, confusion, and is an obstacle for feeding and egg-laying. We have found it very effective against deer too! The deer look at those ‘white plants’ and don’t think are food. Like the Neem, you have to keep applying it after rains and as new green growth appears.
Cleaning up. Cucumber beetles will overwinter eggs in the mulch under your plants. If you have had an infestation, remove all the mulch from the area and don’t even compost it. Dispose of it off property or burn it, depending on your location. Then you can apply ..
A spray containingSpinosad, like Monterey Garden Insect Spray used to drenchto the soil tokill the larvae before they pupate in the soil can be effective to avoid further infestation in following seasons. I should mention here, I only see these critters in the warm summer months.
Beneficial insects. Ladybugs, Green Lacewing, Spined Soldier Bugs and Assassin Bugs will all feed on various life stages of cucumber beetles. Attracting and keeping these garden helpers in your garden will not only help keep the cucumber beetle population down, but many other less desirables from eating your food. A few good plants to start with are: yarrow, sunflowers, dill, cilantro and parsley. Makes sure you let the dill, cilantro and parsley go to flower.
7. You can also buy cucumber beetle lures and use these with yellow sticky traps. The lure is effective for 45 days. If the trap becomes covered with insects or other debris before that time, remove the lure and attach it to a fresh trap. One advantage is that these are not a spray and therefore you run less risk of killing other critters you would rather not kill. I confess I have not tried these although it seems a reasonable thing to try and I might get some for the cucumber beetle population currently in my garden. If anyone uses these, let me know how they worked for you.
8. The last option in this article is adding a Heterorhabditis bacteriophorabeneficial nematodes to your soil. Nematodes occur naturally in our soil, but we might not have the ones that really like beetle, and specifically cucumber beetle larvae.
So to wrap up, here is my recommended IMP strategy if you have a cucumber beetle infestation:
Spray Neem to get the population down.
Put out lures and traps for adults you have
missed or that continue to hatch.
Depending on how diseased and chewed up your
plants are, remove them off site or burn them.
Remove all the mulch under where the plants were
and spray Monterey Garden Spray heavily into the soil.
General process to build your own seed starting rack:
Decide where you want to put your rack. It is best if you can place it in front of a window that gets good light as this will enhance the productivity of your rack. I can also say, it is really nice if you can place it in a permanent location. Ours was built with screws so it can be taken down an reassembled, but frankly, since I am four season gardening, I just keep it up.
Consider how much space you need for seed starting. Small scale home gardeners may not need much. My rack holds 14 seed trays and that is not enough for all I grow. Most folks can get away with one bank of lights which will cover two to four standard sized seed trays. A double bank will give you space for four or five seed trays.
I prefer to use found wood instead of buying new since so much is thrown out these days. We used wood found in a dumpster in back of a store, and some left over from a job.
Build the thing. It can be as simple or complicated as you make it. I have the advantage of having a partner who is a contractor, so he built and wired switches for me.
The best way to show you how we build it is in photos .. so here you go …
I’ve had several clients and new students ask about garden soil. It seems many folks that have tried to garden have wanted to quit because their garden didn’t do well. Most times it turns out it was their soil that was at issue.
Soil is the foundation of our garden and can grow our plants for us. I have put together a 5 Day Free email course on soil, so you can transform your understanding of good garden soil, to begin to transform your garden.
For Step 1: it is important to take time to document your garden vision, what goals you have, and your garden as you have dreamed it. Many folks don’t take the time to document this, so their dream garden becomes a vaporous ‘some day’ vague memory, vs actualizing the manifestation of their dream.
Step 2: Observation & Assessment
To avoid making a mistake on the type, size and location of the garden you put in, take some time to observe your space, light, water and other resources as well as your time. This way you can be sure the garden you put in not only is in the best place, but also fits into your lifestyle, and that is where Step 2, Observation & Assessment comes in. This is a critical step to be sure you get a garden that will work for you, and hence move you along that success pathway.
Step 3: Building Healthy Living Soil
Healthy living soil is the foundation of any garden, so building soil that will support your garden and grow plants for you is Step 3. You probably know that chemical pesticides and fertilizers kill your soil, but did you know that tilling does too? Tilling allows the carbon in your soil to be released into the atmosphere thereby depleting your soil of it. This is why commercial conventional growers add fertilizers, because they have, by their actions, depleted it from their soil. The soil becomes nothing more than an anchor for the plants, but it is the life in the soil, that grows healthy lively plants.
Step 4: Choosing Quality Plants & Seeds
Step 4 is choosing quality plants and seeds for your garden. Learn clues for buying plants, such as purchasing those with a USDA Organic tag or from small local growers you know are chemical free. Checking in on seed companies to be sure they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, thereby committing to only offering non-GMO seeds, and belonging to organizations committed to organic growing and sustainable biodiverse practices.
Step 5: Garden Layout & Planting
Then, in the last step, it is time to layout where plants will go in our gardens and do our seeding and transplanting. Once you have done the other four steps, you can be confident that the garden you have built is the right one for you so those young plants and seedlings have the best chance of providing you the yummy home grown produce you desire.
Have had a bunch of questions about dealing with squash vine borers. Here are my 5 ways to deal with them:
You can look for squash vine borer resistant varieties. The only zucchini I grow anymore is Raven, which is a hybrid. It does eventually succumb to the bug pressure, but I at least get a few weeks of zucchini from it before that happens and I take it out. I cannot recommend Black Beauty as it is a real bug magnet.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has come varieties you might want to try that are more resistant: for summer squash: Lemon Squash. For winter squash: Green-Striped Cushaw may do well for you. Last year, we did very well with the Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash (see pic of two Debby grew) which looks like a big tan pumpkin and was a big hit.. that was what was in the photo of me near the end of the presentation. Waltham Butternut is also good at borer resistance and has grown well for me.
Checking daily, or every other day goes along way! Look at the base of the main stem, about 4” from the ground up.
If you see a bulge in the stem, there is likely a squash vine borer worm in that bulge.
To remove the worm:
make a vertical slit, along the stem:
carefully open the stem to find the worm
remove the worm and give it a new incarnation
carefully close the wound and gently wrap it with tape (the tape is optional, but helps the wound heal and keeps out dirt, etc.)
Rotating crops works best if you have a large garden, say at least a couple hundred square feet, or have beds that are on opposite sides of your property. You want to rotate all members of the cucurbit family as one rotation. This includes not only winter and summer squash (and zucchini), but also cucumbers and melons (including watermelons).
If you do not have enough space for this, or if you have a major infestation, don’t grow this family of crops for a year or two. I have done this a couple times with good results and got to experiment with new crops in the meantime.
One organic way to deal with these critters is by adding certain nematodes to your soil. My go-to company for these is Arbico Organics.
Got a text last week from a wonderful lady, who inspired this post. I suspect the heavy bug pressure she in her garden this summer, is what has had she and her husband decide not to garden this fall and winter. I see this allot, people are going into the fall, having had some difficulty gardening, whether it be bug pressure, drought, or life circumstances, get garden burn-out and stop, right when it becomes the easiest time of year to garden.
Here are 3 reasons for you to reconsider and get that fall and winter garden going:
Lack of bugs – As cooler weather approaches, there are not only less bugs eating your food, but less bugs wanting to eat you. Once there is a freeze, you don’t have to worry about bug pressure until it gets warm again next spring. A major relief.
Pleasant Weather – The cooler weather is also much more pleasant to be out in your garden than the brutal heat of summer. Your garden can be a welcome haven of outdoor time when it is enjoyable to be outside. Taking an afternoon day-trip to your garden is less expensive and time consuming and still allow you to get away from work and other concerns.
You get food all year! Most everyone loves their homegrown summer tomatoes. Think about how much better your homegrown tomatoes are than the ones you buy in the supermarket. Ok, translate that into your salads, green smoothies, and winter root veggie soups. Yes, homegrown produce of any variety is going to be fresher, more satisfying and better tasting then store bought.
You still have time, the end of September is the time in US Zone 7 to get those fall and winter transplants in the ground.
I hope all of you out there who are bailing on your garden this fall, reconsider.
For years I have considered Territorial to perhaps be my favorite seed company although I really cannot pick one favorite as you can see from this series of posts. The reason Territorial Seeds has gotten consistently high marks is because they have such a wonderful large diverse selection of varieties, with most being open pollinated. I must say, for 2017, they seem to be moving into more hybrids to a disappointing degree. I prefer a large selection of open pollinated varieties with a few highly tested hybrids for certain situations.
That said, they have made one major improvement in their already outstanding catalog. Territorial has always provided outstanding growing information in their catalogs, making it a great resources, but for 2017, they have improved the layout of the information, which now looks similar to Sow True Seed and is much easier to read than previous years.
Territorial is very conscious of offering quality non-GMO seed. Although not all their selections are organic, they do have organic options. One of the first seed companies we started using in the 1980s and the only one who has had the sustaining power to keep us coming back all these decades later.
Some interesting new varieties they are offering for 2017 are Sugar Magnolia, a violet-podded snap pea, Nurti-Red carrot, high in lycopene, Dazzling Blue lacinato kale with shocking pink midribs.
Wanting an orange cauliflower the variety of which is NOT owned by Monsanto (Cheddar is owned by them), try Orange Burst Cauliflower, a hybrid worth trying.
They carry many of our must have favorites including Blue Lake pole bean, Purple peacock broccoli, Alderman shelling pea, and Gourmet orange bell pepper. For red slicing tomatoes we like Stupice, Siletz and Carmelo. For smaller tomatoes try Gold Nugget, Chocolate cherry and Principe Borchese.
I’ve always loved their outstanding selection of lettuces. Some favorites include: Matina sweet and Victoria butterheads, Loma French crisp, Merlot and Two Star leaf and Flashy Trout’s Back (Forellenschluss) and Marshall romaine.
If you need or want a hybrid summer squash, Territorial has our two favorites, Raven zucchini and Bush baby, which is good for small space and container gardens. Considering great container varieties, Betterbush hybrid butternut squash lets you harvest butternut squashes from containers. Unheard of until recently, but we tried it last year and its true!
For those wanting to garden in all four seasons, Territorial has a Fall & Winter catalog dedicated to varieties for the cold seasons, including overwintering varieties. This catalog has the same type of great growing information you find in their Spring & Summer catalog.
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