Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

Ten Transplanting Tips

Little guys ready to go outside

So when I started gardening in Santa Fe the last frost date was May 15th….this year however it was more like April 15th!! Crazy….But I am still cautious of putting my little starts outside and if you too have waited, dotting over those tiny creatures in your window sill as I have, or worked hard to make money to buy those babies….you want to make sure they have a good strong transition into the great wide open wilderness of your garden from the climate controlled nest from which they are pushed.  So as you prepare for the final transplant, here are a few tips to help those babies along.

Just right

#1-SIZE DOES MATTER– Though it may be transplanting time, are your plants ready to transplant is a really good question to ask – Plants do have an optimum size for transplanting– if it is too big the root to shoot ratio will be way out of proportion and the roots will be circling in the bottom of the pot or the top growth toppling over, many more times higher than the depth of the pot.  In this case plant ASAP and you can also do a little root stimulation to break those pot bound roots out of their tangle, even trimming roots if necessary and prune back the top foliage.  If you haven’t purchased plants yet– please don’t buy things that seem top heavy, and though is pretty, NEVER buy something in flower or fruit stage.  If it is flowering in a pot it is probably stressed and will continue to be in your garden.  Most thing will tolerate a little pruning back, if it is an annual crop and few clean pinches with clean finger nails should do the trick.

Now If a plant is too small–If a plant is too small for transplanting it will not yet have it’s second set of true leaves and seem very tender.

This Basil is too small…It only has it’s Cotyledons (first growth) and one set of true leaves. Better to wait until it looks more like ….
These Basils are getting second sets of true leaves, much better time to transplant, the one my finger is on is too small, see the difference

Adequate ‘root knit’ is also a sign your plant is ready, meaning the roots hold the soil(at appropriate moisture, see below) when removed from the pot. Root to Shoot ratio means that the plants has equal root and vegetation growth.

This guy has good root knit- the roots hold in the soil when the soil is moist to the touch
Here is it’s foliage, in balance with the root growth inside the pot

#2-HARDENING OFF- is a process of transitioning your plants from inside to outside taking anywhere from 3-25 days.  You can begin bringing the plants out for a couple of hours each day in a nice shady, cool spot.  Then maybe a few more hours adding direct sunlight, even placing them where you might plant them.  Remember, plants in pots dry out quicker than those in the ground, so keep an eye on them so they don’t dry out.  Little by little, lengthen the days and then add few nights.  Once they have spent a few night outside their cell walls should be acclimated, and hardened enough to be planted in your garden. If you don’t have time to harden things off, see below for ways to protect them in harsh conditions after planting in TAKE COVER.

#3-MOISTURE LEVEL– You don’t want the soil in you pots to be dry and crumbly, nor just watered and thus muddy,  moist to the touch, but not wet.  The best bet is water well in the morning and plant in the evening.  Your roots should hold the soil together enough so that you are planting a soil mass and not bare roots.

Hard to tell moisture form a picture, but about like this

#4-SPACING-You will have in mind how far apart you plants should, be but sometimes you are so eager to get them in the ground you end up with a mess.  I like to mark out my rows with string, that way as I am planting I just plant along the string and measure with my trowel according the to space I want.

Strings strung to keep a straight line when digging trench and planting potatoes

You can also, as a school garden teacher passed on, measure and mark every spot with a popsicle stick, before you plant, that way you get to plant twice!  Exciting if you are a kid gardener.  You can of course plant here and there and everywhere, but keep in mind how big your plants will get when planting, they look little now but just wait till September!! Also irrigation lines, if you are adding them, are linear and can only bend so much, so laying the lines and then planting where the water drips out is a perfect way to get it right.

#5- TIME OF DAY-Think cool and crisp.  I like to transplant in the evening, so peaceful and lovely….some prefer early morning..Or during the day when the shade hits your garden..When ever you choose, try to make sure it is Cool, crisp and the plants will not be in direct sunlight very long.  These days we have had some clouds rolling in and that is perfect for transplanting.

#6- WIND PROTECTION– Spring winds can be fierce and take a toll on young plants, especially those that have never experienced it before inside.  You can’t always predict or work around the winds in spring, but you can protect your plants in a few ways.

Glass Cloche for sale in Italy

Homemade Cloches (glass covers for plants) work well.  Just cut a plastic bottles bottom off and place over the plant after transplanting.  You can leave it on for a week or so until you notice the plant has really taken hold and is showing new growth.

Bottle over a transplant creates a mini greenhouse

You can also add floating row cover for protection from wind, bird, bug, etc…This is basically making a mini hoop house over your bed with wire hoops and woven fabric.  I believe the Row cover is sold by the yard at Plants of the Southwest and the wire is 19 gauge wire you buy in rolls at the hardware store, I found mine at Lowe’s in the back of the garden section with the fencing supplies.  I fasten the cover to the hoops with clothes pins and pile dirt or rocks where it meets the ground.  If the wind gets underneath it, it will take off like a sail. Here is a video on Using Row Covers from Johnny’s Seed Co to get the full idea.

#7- WATER-Water well, really well- The soil into which you plant should be pre-moisten, not a mud hole, but moist.  I like to water the morning before transplanting, so the soil has a bit of time to absorb the water.  If you can’t do that go ahead and water first, then plant.  Once your plant is in the ground, water the plant daily, or twice daily, for about a week until you see it thriving, then you can taper off down your irrigation schedule.  If you are using a cloche, it does create a mini greenhouse so make sure the plant stays moist in there.

#8- DEPTH-Pretty intuitive, but do make sure you plant your plant at the same soil level as it was in the pot.  You can make a little moat around your plant too so that the water will pool around it and not runoff, but seep in slowly around the roots.

Little moat helps catch water

#9- FERTIGATE– Meaning add liquid fertilizer to a watering can, and give a little to each transplant.  This vitamin boost will help them along in the transition.  I use Super thrive and liquid seaweed or Kelp Extract.  Remember a little goes and long way!! (dilution recommendations are on the bottles)

ORGANIC Liquid fertilizers

#10-WHO TO TRANSPLANT— Every seed packet comes with a recommendation for your plants, but in the case that you inherited all home saved seed and don’t know where to begin.

GENERALLY (there are always exceptions)

I like to transplant ( Heat loving Crops)

Tomatoes, Basil, Peppers, Eggplant, Cabbage, Broccoli,

I like to direct seed ( Large Seeded Crops & Roots)

Large Seeded Crops:  Corn,Beans,Squash

Root Crops: Carrots, Beets, Parsnips, Turnips, Rutabega, Kolrabi, Potato, Radish,

Hearty Crops: Dill, Kale, Chard, Arugula, Leeks

Things that don’t transplant well: Spinach, Cilantro, Peas

Exceptions: Onions (though onion sets are transplanted and do wonderfully here) Lettuce does well direct seeded, though I do transplant lettuce for early crops,

Summer Squash, Melons, and Cucumber are traditionally planted direct seed, but I have had great luck transplanting them.

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Abundant blooms

For those of you who are loving the flowers right now, I just posted a little something about the wonderful world of the Rose family.  If you are interested in learning more about these wonderful blooms click here

Seeds & Stones | A Life Home Grown–to read it on my other blog.

Peach blossom

 

“What do I plant, and when?”

Over the years I think the most common question I get asked is “What do I plant, and when?” I have answered the best I can, sent people to my favorite books, taught classes, blogged about it….But I fear I may be giving too long and complicated answers… the basic home gardener doesn’t want calculate and compute, they just want to know what to plant and when and get on with it, am I right!!  So here is this years attempt to make gardening in the high desert all the more straight forward and accessible to everyone.  Please keep in mind, many might argue with me, as we gardeners all love our own way of doing things..I am just sharing what I do and what I believe you can do too. This post is loaded with links so be sure to click on them for more info.

January–

Plan– Take a seed count, Order any seeds from your favorite Companies,( Mine are Johnny’s, Seeds Savers Exchange, Native Seed Search , Order potatoes (companies can and do sell out)

PlantGreenhouse (Indoor south-facing window) Onions, Leeks, Scallions, Tomatoes(yes it seems early but is works for me)Lettuce, Cilantro

Cold Frame– Spinach, Mache, Cilantro, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens.

February–

Plan– Decide where you might want to put everything measuring square footage, you can use graph paper, or this fancy software. Once you know how much of what it is you want to grow, you can really start.

Plant- Greenhouse (Indoor south-facing window)Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards  (these can also be direct sown outside next month),Tomatoes

Cold Frame– Spinach, Mache, Cilantro, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens, Carrots, Chard

Outdoors with Row Cover-Spinach, Mache, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Cilantro, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens,

March-

Plan-Order Compost (I like to put down compost every year, about 1inch thick on all my veggie beds, if you can produce this much on sight, well done!!, if not it is worth buying some here) Plan/Purchase Irrigation system–lots to say on this matter, but this year we are going with t-tape.(more on all that later)

Plant

Greenhouse (Indoor south-facing window)

Basil

Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards, (can also be planted directly at under cover outside)

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant

Cucumber, Melon, Winter Squash (Pumpkin, Butternut, Acorn, Etc…)Summer Squash (zucchini, Yellow Squash) These all do well direct seeded outside later in the season

Flowers- Calendula, Marigolds, Sunflowers, Snap Dragons, Tithonia, Zinnias (direct sowing works very well for all of these later in the season, I just have a greenhouse and can’t help myself!)

Cold Frame– Spinach, Mache, Cilantro, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens, Carrots, Chard, Beets

Outdoors with Row Cover-Spinach, Mache, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Cilantro, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Carrots, Chard,

Outdoors in the great wide open– Potatoes, Spinach, Peas, Radishes, Lettuce, Dill, Chives, Flowers- Sweet Peas…I always try to get these guys in by St. Patty’s day, but am usually about a week or so late.

Just a note-March is when I really start planting outside as I am lazy with cold season watering.  If I were more serious about production I would be gardening year round, but March really feels right to me, everything must rest, right?!!  Remember, once you put seeds in the ground, you need to keep them moist for them to germinate and grow, granted the soil dries-out much slower in the cool season, but this is the desert, so only sow when you are ready to hand water (irrigation usually isn’t turned out till May).  If you are watering outdoors in the cold months (you should be watering perennials and trees every 2-4weeks with these dry winters)…..always drain and unhook your hoses, they can freeze and burst and cause you real trouble!!

April

Plan- Spread compost and lay irrigation if that is part of your plan. Till or dig any bed you plan to turn.

Plant-

Greenhouse (Indoor south-facing window) I am full up in the Greenhouse by this time and just watering my babies.  I always try to have a flat of sunflower sprouts growing, you can sow these once a week.

Cold Frame-Pepper, Eggplant (If your cold frame is tall enough this ensures a nice hot mini greenhouse that you can close up if we get frost before they ripen in the fall)

Outdoors with Row Cover- Spinach, Mache, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Cilantro, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Carrots, Chard,

Outdoors in the great wide open- Onions, Leeks, Scallions,Potatoes, Spinach, Mache, Lettuce, Arugula, Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Chives, Peas, Radishes and other cold season greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Carrots, Chard, Beets, Parsnips, Flowers- Marigolds, Snap Dragons, Sweet Peas 

May (Last Frost date May 15th)

Plan-Spread compost and lay irrigation if that is part of your plan. Till or dig any bed you plan to turn.

Plant-

Outdoors in the great wide open- (Direct seed or transplanted from the greenhouse)

Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Carrots, Chard, Beets, Parsnips, Beans, Corn, Squash, Cucumbers, Melons, Amaranth, Basil, Flowers- Calendula, Marigolds, Sunflowers, nasturtiums, Cosmos, Zinnias

Who Did I Forget?- Garlic is planted in the fall, sweet potatoes I have yet to try though they are getting experimented with in gardens all around me, Bok choy- yet to really succeed against the flea beatles, but will let you know when I truly get a successful crop!

Well I hope that helps– never a short answer from me, but hopefully somewhat simple and straight forward?  Happy gardening!

Re-Post-Guide to Companion Planting

Now that your garden plans are really starting to come together , where will you put everything?� Here is a great guide to companion planting from

Mother Earth News Magazine.

via Re-Post-Guide to Companion Planting.

Seeds & Stones

Everything about this is lazy– the cold frame was not build, it was simply a window, torn out of the house during a remodel project and thrown on the ground.  The spinach was planted last fall, the cold frame closed when it got too cold, sat under snow for three months and was just opened last week…..to find laziness sometimes yields great bounty!  Things were alive and well, thriving in the micro climate and eager to provide us with our first humble harvest of the season, 1/4 of fresh spinach for dinner* Note to self — sometimes it is o.k. to be lazy gardener.  happy harvesting!!

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Making the Greens Last

I know I haven’t posted in a while, life and the garden kind of got away from me, but that is the beauty of the garden, you can always pick up the shovel and begin again.  I try to write posts that might be helpful and timely in your garden as well as mine, so I thought I would share was is happening around here.

As this cold air moves in a few cold nights can’t hurt our brassicas and lettuce, in fact it actually makes them sweeter, that’s why Brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving are so very delicious. But after a few killing frosts and our little hardy greens start to freeze deep down, we can either let them fade back into the earth or…. we can BRING THEM INSIDE.

Chard in the greenhouse

I admit, I am blessed to have a little greenhouse that doesn’t frost during the winter, so I dig up big kale and chard and just transplant them right into the bed inside.  But you can easily do this if you don’t have a greenhouse.  A big pot and a sunny window will do just fine.  A couple of plants, well tended, will provide your family with greens all winter! Just keep them moist and in at least six hours of direct sunlight a day and they should grow beautifully.  I will admit, after a few months in captivity some brassicas do seems to get aphids, but by then you can probably start your spring crop.

Three Green Cold frame

You can also use COLD FRAMES which I am sure most of you either have or want to have.  They are mini little greenhouses that provide a micro climate for your plants.  Depending on the design, and there are a million out there, your crops won’t be totally protected all winter long from frosts, but they will guarantee a nice extension on the season.  I usually store the cold frames in the summer, though if yours are too big to move you can just take off the lid or prop it open all summer, and then come the first cold nights, button them back up and your crop can go for another month or so. For more info on Building your own cold frames, a google search will yield amazing resources, though Elliot Coleman, a four season farmer in Maine has written many great books on growing in the cold.

Lucious baby lettuce from a cold frame

I often harvest lettuce on Christmas from and outdoor cold frame, feeling quite pleased with myself, I must admit.  Remember lettuce has a shorter life span than other greens, which is one of it’s wonders, but if you keep cutting it and letting it grow back, it will eventually get too bitter, remember to taste a leaf before you harvest the whole dinner salad.  You can plant lettuce as late as September for it to get enough growth to be stretched into the winter.  Once it gets too cold and the days get too short it will stop growing,  but it should stay alive for more cuttings. Spinach is another nice one to plant late, it will just kind of hold on all winter and it will be the first sign of spring when it starts putting out new leaves and bulking up in Feb/March.

The last easy homemade way I like to extend the season is by getting little wire hops and FLOATING ROW COVER FABRIC.  Both these things can be purchased locally.  I believe the Row cover is sold by the yard at Plants of the Southwest and the wire is 19 gauge wire you buy in rolls at the hardware store, I found mine at Lowe’s in the back of the garden section with the fencing supplies.  It may take a little looking because no one seems to really know what I am talking about when I ask, but here is a picture to guide you.

19 Gauge wire used to make mini hoops for floating row cover

With this wire you will by it in a round and need wire cutters(big ones) to cut it.  I usually cut it in 3 ft pieces and because of the arch, the are nice little half circles you just slide in the ground.  Place them about 3 ft apart and push them in at least 6inches deep on each side. once they are in over your bed you can lay the row cover over them and you have a little hoop house looking thing.  i use clothes pins to hold the fabric to the hoops and put soil over the edges where the fabric hit the ground.  Without a picture this might sound confusing so here is a little video I found on the Johnny’s Select Seed Co website that tells you more info on row cover.

From the ground to the greenhouse

I hope this inspires you to take the gardening inside and keep growing all winter long, I know we will.

Cooking it up!!

In the light of morning here lies my sleeping child, can you spy him?

Between our new freezer, the abundance of eggs from a friend, the farmers market and my own humble harvest…Preserving time is here again.  I try to be effect with my energy, both personal and fossil fuel based, so when I crank up the oven I want to get my moneys worth.  So today I decided I would bake bread, (a daily ritual in the winter, but summer is for store-bought tortillas!!) and then I went at Quiches!! I found a great whole wheat crust recipe on-line from the cheeky kitchen and went at it.  I was in a frenzy of basil and cheese and custard over flowing form my mixer, trying to work quickly before the baby boy wasn’t having it anymore, when I turned around to see …..

Fast asleep and smiling in his new bouncy chair!!  Now, for many of you mamas this is no big deal, but this boy has put himself to sleep all of 4 times since we meet and the joy it brought me was priceless!!  I continued on and came out with this lot…Not bad huh!!

three quiches and a loaf of mighty fine bread!!

Two are tomato basil and one is wild mushroom and Lamb’s Quarters, both with lots of yummy cheese, onions, garlic and eggs of course.  I am no Alice Waters, but I have been inspired lately, mostly from reading my two new favorite cookbooks..

Seasonal Fruits Deserts by Deborah Madison & Lucid Food by Lousia Shafia

They both address local fare and seasonal eating.  Lucid Food even has recipes for Lamb’s Quarters, Chervil and Wild Mushrooms, not to mention the recipes can be made mostly with things I have in my pantry or garden. That is where I usually get stuck, having to run tot the store for some fancy ingredient I would frankly never buy on my budget.  I often leave the fancy things out and carry on, but I like that Lucid Food can come from things I already have, validating that my pantry is quite Lucid indeed!! Well my friends, just thought I would share my excitement, now we are into the second nap and the real challenge lies ahead, tackling this mountain of dishes without waking the baby!!  Wish me luck

Wow I made a mess!!

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