Q: What seeds do you sell?
A: Short question, but needs a long answer. Vegetable seeds only - no herbs or flowers
1/ We don't sell (or grow) anything GMO
2/ Our preference is open pollinated/organic, but some purchased seed will be anti-fungal treated
3/ Hybrids are also sold if: a) an open pollinated variety does not exist, ie: orange cauliflower, etc. or b) a hybrid is a major improvement on open pollinated versions (sweet corn), etc.
We are always trialing the lastest and "greatest" new varieties available, to compare with our current offerings.
Our seeds come from 3 places: 1/ we propagate them 2/ they are grown by our associates or 3/ professional seeds are puchased bulk.
I am not a "seed hugger". -There are many people who want to save every variety of seed ever propagated, in a "bank" to keep the variety from becoming extinct, and they also offer them for sale. Many of these varieties were discontinued because an improved variety is what seed companies now offer. Don't get me wrong, - I am truly grateful that these people are retaining the historic varieties, because it provides a greater selection of seed stock to use, if a person wants to produce a new hybrid.
In a nut shell - I only sell vegetable seeds from the varieties - my customers and I like the best, and perform the best, and sell the best at the market.
All tips and information contained with-in are from 4 different places: 1/ my personal experience (45 + years of gardening) 2/ taken from other gardeners who are smarter than I am 3/ from books, manuals, and other literature, and the many seminars I have attended 4/ or from the internet.
These tips are here to help others and to answer questions that I receive. I believe that there are many better informational sources on the web, which I will direct you to with some of your inquiries. This is not set up as a forum because there are lots of them to visit. I do not want to irk anybody with differences of opinions, BUT I have added some thought provoking topics which may stimulate you to dig deeper.
If you have other methods or constructive ideas, I am all ears - if you will allow me to share them with others.
I will be adding a new topic periodically to keep you coming back, and it is ALWAYS up to you what it is. If the topic is out of my small intellectual range, I'll find someone who can answer it - if I can.
Again, I apologize for all of the capital letters - I'm gradually getting rid of them.
And for those of you asking for more pictures with the answers - Will do.
Feel free to copy and reproduce anything which you may find helpful.
This is a question accompanied with a recent order: Do you check for germination percentages?
Excellent question! ty.
The answer is yes and no.
When commercial (professional) seeds are purchased in bulk, sometimes there is not enough time between ordering and re-selling, to do a germination test. "Their" word on the packaging is used.
Initial test: During the winter months, 100 seeds of every variety in every container, are germination tested.
A variety with poor germination is not sold.
Because of the rarity of some varieties, extreme care is taken in isolation for seed saving.
Colorado Potato Bug
Controlling Colorado Potato Bugs
Did you Know that this bug's stripes influenced 19th century fashion? and you want to kill it!
Options Effective? Comments
1/ pick and squish can be works only on very small patches very tedious wear rubber gloves
2/ swat into can filled much faster than squishing maximum garden size 50 ft X 50 ft with paint thinner do it daily until they are controlled
3/ chickens quite effective fence them in and feed/water in opposite corners move to the country if neighbours are offended
4/ battery powered vacuum very slow only good for small patches
5/ d/e - Diatomaceous earth start dusting before you see bugs "very" bad for the lungs fairly effective
6/ spoiled "hay" mulch (not straw) quite effective ---------------------------if you've NEVER had problems less effective - ------------------- if you've had previous problems
7/ move patch good luck will not work - unless you move 100"s of feet
8/ change potato variety won't work UNLESS you go to King Harry or New Leaf GMO's , but "I" wouldn't eat New Leaf
9/ sprays many choices with different results find what you can use in your area (you may have to take a course to purchase some of them.)
10/ Rhubarb/dish soap (oxalic acid works well) You can use this for other pests as well, - Organic? - yes Get on them early could it kill you - yes, Avoid edible parts of veggies Recipe - online
11/ stay away from hedges once you have the problem, hedge removal but it did help create it won't solve your problem
12/ floating row covers (netting) great idea! BUT too late previous infestations will come from below
13/ Use a gas powered leaf blower my favorite this is the ultimate, if you have one.
with a vac attachment read below
I used this method in conjunction with some of the other methods above - #'s 6 and 9 for 2012, so I didn't have to use method 13 very much, but it does work well - quite aggressive and may remove leaves. (Use 13 with 2.) But I have built a prototype end on my vac tube which eliminates the nozzle sticking to leaves and the bugs going into the storage bag, with a few more mods this winter, I will be offering the adapter on this website. It's in the prototype - patent stage.
Squash Beetles: If your squashes or pumpkins are being attacked by squash beetles you can also use above methods 2, 9, &13. Using #2 with #13 regularly is my preference. Remember to check under the leaves and on the stem at the root, and also try to get the eggs before they hatch. There is also an added method which works quite well on squash beetles: place a board on the ground near the plants, - (they will seek refuge under it during the night), get up early, - turn the board over and smack it with another board.
Let's put these two pests on the endangered species list.
Potato Sprout Inhibitor
Below - Thought for food, or is it, food for thought?
Since I'm on the topic of potatoes - Do you want fries with that? Supersize? Sprout inhibitor? --- Say what? It doesn't matter how you answer the last question you will get sprout inhibitor. Commercial potatoes have sprout inhibitor sprayed on them.
Why? To keep the sales weight high and make a better looking product to sell. Years ago, potatoes used to sprout in the bags on grocery store shelves and "customers" got upset when 10 pound bags didn"t weigh 10 pounds. (Another law-suit that changed things for the rest of us).
What's in it? I'll let you check that out on sprout inhibitor for potatoes websites. (I bet you will start growing your own potatoes). Note:-- in Canada, both seed and grocery store potatoes may be treated, - different chemicals.
Sprout inhibited seed potatoes take forever to emerge, so keep your own seed, (even though you are not supposed to). Sprout inhibited seed potatoes give the weeds a 3 week head start on your potatoes,-- yes I know, you can use "Round-Up" on the weeds, but every one wants early "new potatoes", and my customers and I want as few chemicals as possible. Sorry, did you say coke? Hey, where'd ya go? Dang, I lost another one to the sprout inhibitor website. Y'all come back, eh?
Potato chitting and coring:
Chitting: Chitting a potato is a process of getting a potato to sprout as early as possible, if you want the absolute earliest "new" potatoes you can achieve. This is done with "early" varieties for first-to-market new potatoes, or if you just can't wait for delicious new potatoes. It is a very common practice in Europe, but seldon used in North America. Simply described: the seed potatoes are taken from cold storage 3-4 weeks before planting and spread out at room temperature with artificial light or sunlight. This will give you potatoes at least 2 weeks ahead of your neighbours. Small green/red sprouts (depending on variety)1"-1 1/2" are perfect. - You do not want long white spouts. Note: Immature "new potatoes" do NOT store well, and depending on conditions and varieties, they will lose their superb flavour very quickly - (sometimes with-in hours). Dig as you use them, and NEVER refrigerate them. If purchasing new potatoes ask when they were harvested - just like you would if it was sweet corn. You are being ripped off if they are over 2 days old! New potatoes do not need to be peeled and a quick rinse will suffice.
Coring: There are two ways of producing a new potato variety - cross pollinating the flowers at bloom stage and keeping seeds, or using the simple ancient coring method. Coring is a long-lost art - rarely used anymore, because results are not as "controlled and predictable" as other more refined methods, but if you have a trait in one variety which appeals to you, then you may want to try to pass it to another variety. For instance: Prince Hairy and the (taste improved) King Harry potato have "hairy" leaves and they secret a sticky substance which greatly deter the old Colorado Potato Bug. Both varieties have tubers which are unattractive (knobby and rough skinned) and not my favourite tasting potato, so I am trying to incorporate the "bugless" characteristics into other varieties.
How coring is done: You should purchase or fabricate a very large wood working "plug cutter" - 3/4" minimum. Then you cut the "plug" from potato variety "A", making sure that it is centered on an eye, immerse the plug in ice cold water immediately! Then drill a hole in potato variety "B" (full potato) at the same size as your plug, and insert the "A" plug into it immediately. Drill the holes one at a time and make sure the plug, with the eye, is level with the surface of potato "B"). (Both the drill and plug cutter should be dipped in vegetable oil periodically.) Remove all the other eyes from the seed potato, so they will not sprout. (if in doubt - cut it out.) Then, brush on molten candle wax or paraffin wax over perimeter of the cut (around the plug), and all eye cut-outs. (Make sure no wax gets on the eye of the plug) Your accuracy in all of these steps will greatly govern the number of plants which will emerge. (30% is an excellent result.) Note: some of the plants might be variety "B", because you WILL miss an eye removal. There are many methods to monitor and eliminate "B" variety sprouts, which you can use: very shallow planting and pulling dirt away and replacing it after emergence to check which eye sprouted, or waiting for the potato's characteristics to appear, or chitting, are a few. If your new variety does not give you the desired results, you can try coring "B" to "A" or use a core from your new variety, in potato "A" or "B" next year. It usually takes more than 1 year to get to the results you desire. I will include pictures of coring next year. (This art is quite similar to grafting.)
Potato history: Discovered in the Peru, - potatoes were initially feared to be eaten in Europe & Asia, - - - was the very first food to be grown as a monoculture (farmers grew the same crop every year - Irish Lumper potato) which proved disasterous 1845-1852 in Ireland, when a blight wiped out 3/4 million acres and over 1 million people starved, - (it is estimated that if we had the same monoculture problem happen now - with rice, wheat, corn, sugar cane or potatoes 50-100 million people would starve.) There are now more than 6.000 varieties of potatoes world-wide.
Seed Potatoes: Q #1: Should I buy seed potatoes every year? A: No. Unless you don't have have a cool place to store them.
Q #2: What size of potatoes should I keep for seed? A: As most people do, I had 2 grandfathers. They had totally different thoughts about which potatoes to keep for seed. Grandpa "A" always said - Ya plant small potatoes - Ya get small potatoes Grandpa "B" told me: your Grandma would be pretty upset if she had to peel the little ones and I kept the big ones for seed, so she leaves me the little ones to plant next year. And we purchase new seed every 2-3 years, because their vigor will "run out"
So I had to do a little experimenting over the last 40 years -
Because most of my market gardening "potato" income is from "New Potato" sales, this is my stategy - which works better for me than either of my grandfather's methods. 1/ I stagger start potatoes - every 2 weeks (from as early as I can get them in (chitted), until as late as July 15th (depending on variety - some potatoes mature slower) 2/ I sell and use the tiny potatoes at blossom stage - (dug daily) for a premium price - awesome 3/ I move to the 2nd plot when the 1st plot of potatoes start getting large and then later to the 3rd, etc. letting the unused plants mature - (the plants die back). 4/ When the tops die back I dig the mature potatoes, which store better than the "New immature babies". 5/ Then to finally answer the question, I keep the 1-1/2" - to 2" diameter potatoes for seed and bag the larger potatoes for winter storage and sales. The smaller potato seed will actually produce better than planting larger potatoes, cut or uncut. (Many people cut the large potatoes for seed and let them "heal" before planting). - So, use the large ones through the winter and if you have any mature potatoes under 1-1/2" when you dig them, use them right away - washed and unpeeled.
Here's the math: for potato seed tiny - wash and use immediately use the largest potatoes first and sort the smaller ones out for seed = best production
You will never have to purchase "sprout inhibited seed" after you have the varieties that perform and taste the best. BUT: There are always new varieties developed every year. So, if you are ever in the grocery store produce department, and see a beautiful variety which you "Just Have To Try" - (buy a dozen - eat 4 - if they've got great flavour - plant the other 8, if they don't taste as good as they look - Eat The Rest. (sometimes you gotta eat your mistakes) (try to obtain the variety name so you don't do it again.)
Caution: Never eat commercial potato seed.
Planting: Make a furrow 6" - 8" deep, 40" between rows (if you have room) 30" minimum, plant 9" - 12" apart in the row (depending on variety and harvesting - baby vs mature), cover with 2" of soil. Potatoes need to be hilled twice - once at approximately 6" tall, and secondly just before blossom stage. (approximately 3-4 weeks later) Broadcast approximately 2 liters of 5-10-10 fertilizer between the 50 foot rows before hilling. Aggressive hilling will eliminate having to weed them. Keeping a larger distance between rows makes it easier to pull the loose soil up. A disc hiller or a micro tiller are great tools for this. Potato tubers will turn green if the sun beats down on them - making them inedible. Potatoes need approximately 1" of rain a week.
Productivity: Most of my potatoes are dug before maturity, but potatoes at maturity should produce 10-14 times the amount planted. (weight) depending on variety and conditions. Hybidizing a new variety will sometimes increase this number up to 20 times, but they should be developed "cored" in late June to prevent over-sizing and being hollow. (the first few years growth should be held back, by planting later or digging before die-back) Also, there are people who use barrels, large tires, and wooden cribs to increase productivity by continuously burying the plant as it is growing. (I am told it works, but nobody has ever unearthed them in my presence. Seems like a lot of work when you could simply plant a couple more potatoes and get the same result.
There are many types and varieties of potatoes - wax; starch; white, yellow, red, blue, purple, and two colour skinned; white, yellow, red, blue, purple meat; round, oval, and fingerling; smooth skinned - rough skinned; as well as variety of sizes; early vs late varieties, etc.
For More info - Canadian Food Inspection Agency > Plants > Potatoes >Potato Varieties or Eagle Creek Potatoes or Potatoes Canada ____________________________________________________________________________________________
Q: What are "Professional" seeds? And how can I tell when I'm buying them?
A: Well, this will open up a can of worms, but worms are good for the garden, so here goes.
Professional seeds are seeds offered by most of the large mail order companies who offer catalogues, (JOHNNY'S, BURPEE, STOKES, VESSEYS, OSC, ETC Or any feed store (who offer bulk seeds), And most of the companies offering seeds online.
A: They are seeds which are offered before size screening, OR they are the larger seeds sold after size screening.
Commercial Growers want large and sized seeds, so seed "manufacturers" screen seeds and sell the larger seeds to reputable retailers who sell them to the commercial growers and knowledgable buyers.
In the past, the smaller seeds were generally thrown out, but now they are sold to retailers who market to unsuspecting customers at some - supermarkets, dollar stores, nurseries, hardware stores, and garden centres. So, some prepackaged seeds may be professional seeds and others will be the smaller ones which went through the screen or possibly year-old seed left over from reputable seed companies. (And SHOULD have been thrown out) It totally depends on which company's name is on the package.
Many reputable "seed savers" screen their own seeds and use the little ones for germination testing. Or they are buying in bulk and repackaging. There is also a strong arguement that if a "seed saver" keeps the largest seeds from the earliest plants, the strongest plants, and the largest fruits, then their seeds would be better than commercial professional seeds, especially for the gardeners in the local area.
How can I tell if I am buying professional seeds? Only one way I know of - Buy a package from each company (in the same year) and compare. size and vigor of seeds side by side. Note: if the package has improper grammar or is packaged in a foreign over-seas country it would be a good idea to avoid it.
( It's all in the seed - is the old adage) Somewhat true. But: location, soil, weather, weed control, knowledge, and counter-acting problems quickly are also major factors for successful gardening.
Q: Where do large market gardeners get enough green tea for their fields?
A: "Green tea" that experienced gardeners refer to, is not the tea you would keep in your kitchen cabinets.
Green tea is actually a slurry of some of the following items: decaying garden refuse, fresh grass clippings, decaying weeds pulled from the garden, lime (for pH adjustment), (grass eating) animal waste, urine, fish by-products, seaweed, and generally any fruit or vegetable waste you throw out. (The quick decomposing materials which usually get thrown into a compost pile, are your green tea ingredients.)
Gardener's green tea does NOT contain old tea bags, dry tree leaves, sawdust, wood chips, dried hay or straw from bales, newspaper or cardboard products, or any animal by-products from meat eaters, - some of these items can be composted or used for weed control.
Some unused products from last year's garden can be used for producing spring time green tea - ie. pumpkins, squash or any fruit or veggie which is decaying in storage - potatoes, turnips, beets, etc.
The soggy "green tea" mixture is kept in a container full of water and will give off a septic odour, so it is usually kept in a large barrel or silo with a lid. A screen or weighted porous plastic mesh bag usually holds this material, and it is immersed in the water in the silo. This very potent steeped "tea" is removed from the silo by tap, and is always mixed with a lot of water when applied (1 to 20 ratio max.), unless you are pipe-root watering. The silo is always kept full after tea removal. Make sure none of the tea gets on the leaves of your plants. (Pipe-root watering is when a tube with a funnel type affair is driven into the ground beside a plant, and nutrients are guided directly to the roots - to super-size a veggie to take to the fair).
Most people, these days, are on the "compost pile, band-wagon", and are missing out on the nitrogen found in these "green tea" materials. The big loss however with composting is - enzymes and beneficial bacteria break down your compost piles and after many stages the nitrogen is used up, these bacteria then starve and die off in your pile. By the time you add the compost to your garden there is very little nitrogen and very few enzymes or living bacteria left in the pile. (The heat generated from your compost pile is from all of these guys working the pile). (Also by using only slower drier materials in your compost pile you will find that it will be full of earth worms, when you apply it to the garden. They can not survive in the hotter "active" compost piles. In this "hurry up world" we live in, we miss out on this bonus.)
If the faster compost materials (green tea) are added directly to your garden, the nitrogen would gradually become usable to your plants. The bacteria would live on, to decompose anything you weed from your garden, or any refuse from dead vines, plants (especially corn stalks), or anything culled from the garden. The quicker garden refuse is decomposed by these beneficial bacteria, the less chance it will cause a problem in next year's crop. And you still have the benefits of the compost for a soil loosening amendment. For more info check out - (nitrogen cycle) on the internet.
Somehow, years ago this green manure slurry was nicknamed "green tea" and unfortunately some gardeners have been trying to get beneficial results in their gardens with tea and even coffee, ever since.
Could I interest you in a cup of green tea?
Additional Question - (similar topic) Some gardening experts recommend aerating green tea - why didn't you mention this?
Answer: Actually "green tea" is aerated to produce "brown tea" (or garden tea), which is a somewhat different product..
Aerating is definitely an option, especially for city dwellers with close neighbours, who would be offended by the septic smell. Aerating using a bubbler system reduces the odour by allowing the bacteria to work faster and therefore use up the nitrogen quicker, in the tank, - but the purpose of green tea is to get the nitrogen to the field. If you are aerating the slurry, it will be no-where near as potent as if it wasn't aerated. Real "green tea" will be somewhat greener in colour than the aerated "browner tea". Actually, brown aerated tea is sometimes spritzed right on the leaves of some plants because it has less strength (nitrogen), (This is done so that any beneficial bacteria and enzymes would attack bad bacteria and to allow for nutrient absorbtion through the leaves), . Green tea would make the plants suffer a little bit. Personally, I would not put sewage on any of my produce before I eat it, or sell it. (I'm-a-bit-of-a-wimp, that way I guess). Rotting vegetation in a slurry (whether it went through an animal or not) - just doesn't appeal to me. But, go for it - if you are so inclined. As I said above - make sure no "green tea" gets on the leaves!
If you went back 50 years ago in the farming industry, - most manure was stored in piles which contained air, and then it was applied to the fields in a flat-bed manure spreader with rear beaters to spread the load. It was a wet solid product (brown tea). Most of it's nitrogen had already drained off in the barn-yard - which killed most of the vegetation in the nearby area because of it's strength. Yes, the "brown tea" manure smelled a bit, but the barnyard smelled a lot - if it was disturbed.
---BUT - Now, most live-stock manure is stored in huge lagoons (similar to rural septic tanks for humans) and is applied with large tank-type sprayers onto the fields. It is a liquid slurry (green tea). If you get behind one of these tankers on the road you will have no doubt about what is aboard! The smell, as they say - would gag a maggot! Ask an experienced farmer which product makes a crop jump the fastest. Smell = Potency
Honey, I Just Bought Worms For Your Compost Pile
There are aggressive sales people suggesting you should use their variety of worms for your compost piles - extolling the virtues of speed, volume, and winter hardiness, etc.
I recently attended a horticultural meeting for the purpose of listening to JUST what the snake-oil saleswoman had to say. I didn't understand any of it, and she was using a lot of heavy-duty Latin names for her worm varieties. I was amazed that nearly 1/2 of the crowd signed up for her plan. $180 entrance fee and $20/month service/maintenance fee. (It seems her worms need on-going training, soil amendments and encouragement. (she likes talking over their heads too) What a load of castings! OMG, somebody crack open a window!
I know that you would not have signed up for this plan, because you know that if you build a compost pile they will come. (or was that a baseball field?) (KISS theory keep it simple stupid). All dew worms eat and poop (cast), but mine are just a little slower. I can live with that! Honey, where's the x-lax?
Varieties - Take Control - It Should Be Your Choice
If you go to your favourite nursery (or any seed and plant sales place) and wanted to purchase sweet and hot pepper plants, what two varieties will you purchase? Stop reading and think about this. Also think about why you chose those two varieties.
Why do 81% of Tim Hortons clients order their coffee double/double or black? Have you ever heard anyone ask for single/single? Why is your domestic vehicle more likely to have an automatic transmission as you get older? Why do stores have the best deals up high over your head or on the lowest shelves? Yep, we buy what is marketed to us, and then we get in that habit forced upon us by sales people.
So, if you are in the seed/plant sales business you have no choice - you must sell California Wonder and Jalapeno. Are they the best choices? - absolutely not. (taste - average, productivity - below average, speed to maturity - average, size of fruit - below average). So why does nearly everybody choose these two varieties? Several reasons: (1) they are very dependable producers, (2) it becomes a habit and you are familiar with the plant, (3) they are marketed the most aggressively, (4) they are the most popular - available everywhere, and (5) most people don't study seed catalogues or packages.
Why did this happen with peppers? We are purchasing a lesser quality product when most other products are better. Are we doing this with other vegetables? Probably. The reason this happens is, California Wonder and Jalapeno peppers are two of the (6) quickest varieties out of the starting gates and very dependable. If you were to start/plant CW and any other heritage sweet pepper seeds - at the same time, in 7 weeks the California Wonder would dwarf most of the other varieties, and definitely be easier to sell from your greenhouse. Tall - robust plants. (Note they are not the quickest to maturity - mature fruit). (7) And of course, if you compared their pricing versus hybrids, their seeds would be cheaper.
Most of the time, the retail sales outlet is not the nursery where these plants were incubated, so the unskilled sales crew need "bullet-proof" veggies so they don't kill them with irregular watering and improper hardening procedures. They HAVE however, probably stunted them, disabling them to perform for you as they should. Better tended plants and the upscale varieties are found at the source nursery where the sales outlet purchased them.
As a general rule - the hotter (scoville rating) a pepper variety is, the slower the plant grows. Habanero peppers are not for beginner gardeners. Jalapeno peppers are the easier to grow, so complaints to the retailer from novice gardeners with poor results would be few. - because your plants performed just fine, but you got very few fruit (and that happened in the late summer - so you blame yourself)
Personally, pepper plants are not something I would want anyone else starting or greenhousing for me, - too temperamental. What we do to them in early life will greatly influence how they preform and produce as adults. (something like humans)
So the next time you buy plants or seeds, you can be like everyone else and buy California Wonder or OMG you could live on the wild side and bungie jump with a new variety. See you on the bridge!
I chose peppers for this comparison, but nearly all varieties of vegetables have "cadillac cousins" which you should try out, after you attain growing skills with the common, cheaper, run-of-the-mill versions. Soon you will be starting your own upscale varieties indoors, so you can not only grow some of your own food, but totally amaze people with the quality of your products and superior results.
Note: 1/ choosing upscale varieties in vegetables generally does not increase difficulties in growing them and in many cases it makes them easier to grow. 2/ I recently attended a seminar where the presenter/master gardener highly recommended certain varieties as being the best, - many of these were varieties I used to grow and have replaced with a newer replacement in my offerings. I will be "re-trialing" a few of his suggestions to see if I was too hastey with their elimination. But remember taste is subjective. 3/ Also keep in mind, as a market gardener there are a few things I grow, which HAVE to be very productive with a very large fruit. This is not as important for some home gardeners. example: the corn I offer MUST have very large cobs 8-9", - corn with 7" cobs won't cut it when you can get 6-1/2" cobs at the grocery store. People not only want the best taste, and the freshest products, but they also want value for their money. 4/ At the same seminar I was asked why I grow mainly bush beans and very few pole type beans. Three reasons - 1 they mature later, 2 they need trellising (I'm lazy), and 3 you have to pick them individually - every couple of days. Our bush beans are planted on a weekly rotation and harvested by pulling the plants from the field, (cutting off the roots) and bringing them home. The plants are then inverted and the fruit is pulled off as needed, while we sit at a picnic table, in the shade. (takes seconds to do) Many of my customers actually buy the entire plant and harvest them at home, knowing they get a little better value by doing so, ($2.00 a plant vs $2.00 a small container which holds less) and the beans will stay "fresher and crisper" if you leave them on the plant until you use them. These two methods save us time and create loyalty, and give the customer a better product at a lower price. Customers tend to "share" their better product and secrets with their friends, who also want to buy their beans on the plant. (A product you can't get at the grocery store.)
Seed starting tips
Before I start on this topic I should explain that I do have a little Scottish pigment in my blood, and everything you see here can be done using other devices and techniques which you can find easily on the web.
Starting soil composition: mix 1/2 - 5yr old leaf compost 1/2 - peat moss Potting soil (used after germination) - add 1/2 cup to a wheelbarrow load of the above - 10-10-10 fertilizer or equivalent organic mix OR simply water with heavily diluted green tea.
The above ingredients should be screened at least 2 times - to mix thoroughly. The best material for doing this is called 1/4" hardware cloth, which is actually a galvanized metal mesh. It is available at hardware, building supply, or farm stores - in small economical rolls. Cut to the length of your wheel barrel (+ 1 foot), with tin snips, fold down sides over wheel barrel and you're in business.
Wooden Box construction: As you can see (below), they don't have to be pretty, and definitely won't be, after 3 or 4 years of use. Size of boxes is your choice, but make them all the same, and the bottoms must have many holes 3/8" - 1/2" diameter. I have been using plywood bottoms, but there are people who are afraid of the chemical composition of plywood, so my future boxes will have wooden slats on the bottom. Remember to put spacers or lifts under bottom box for drainage when stacking, after planting. 2 1/2" sides are all that's needed for most plants, because they will not be stacked after germination. 5" sides are needed for beans - peas - corn; and 7" sides for carrots. Most of the plants in the shallow boxes, will be transplanted to larger pots or to the garden before the roots hit the bottom. The carrot box is a little more elaborate - because it needs 4 plastic inserts 1/4" thick, inside the walls and it must have a removable bottom (screwed on). The inserts must be taller than the sides and substantial enough to pull out without ripping. When carrot transplanting time arrives, you remove the bottom, work up and dig a hole in the garden 12" deep, 10" x 14" in size. Put 3" - 4" of starting soil in bottom of the hole, place box in the hole, backfill with soil, gently pull plastic inserts, then carefully remove the box, and fill the box void with starting soil. Voila, you have successfully transplanted carrots. After a little practice you will get the knack and have the earliest carrots in Canada. Years ago I simply took off the bottom and transplanted the box, which also works well, but the box only lasted 3-4 years. I currently have a total of about 250 boxes, and have to replace approximately 20-25 a year.
After using the boxes - hose out all of the dirt, fill your wheelbarrow with water, and add 2 cups of bleach, sink 3 or 4 boxes at a time, with rocks for 10 minutes, and store the boxes upside down criss-crossed in a dry place. Replace any parts that are rotten and they are ready for next spring. The bleach removes all possibilities of transmitting any problems to next year's seedlings. Note: storing all boxes, pots and starting trays, and your starting soil outdoors under cover is recommended to eliminate any transmission of bacteria or fungi from harming next years' seedlings. - very important! No, your starting soil will not be sterile and will still contain weed seeds, but they are easily pulled from your boxes.
Starting boxes: There are hundreds of variations, but the two types shown below, are all I use. The plastic type has heat mats.
I find: 1/ "pressed" porous pots dissipate too much moisture, plastic doesn't,
2/ the plastic should be black - to absorb heat
3/ covers should be used until 50% germination - (on the heated trays turn the lid upside-down until the first seedlings appear, this will increase the soil temperature by 4 or 5 degrees higher than right-side up.)
Some seeds need bottom heat and others don't, (if the room is warm enough).
A "warm" spot near a stove or furnace outlet, is where they should be placed. The wooden boxes pictured above can be stacked corner-wise on each other (to let the air to circulate), up to 8 high, (if you don't have small kids or pets) - partly cover the top box. Use the bottom boxes for onions. After germination all boxes will need lots of light.
Carrots should be spaced at 1-3/4"+ so you will only be able to squeeze 15 (or 25 in a box, if used at baby size)
corn, peas, and beans at 1-1/4" will give you 35, which will later be transplanted directly to the garden
and all others at 1" will give you approx 54, most of which will be transplanted before going to the garden
of course the above numbers are for the size of boxes shown above
(the grid will let you know your germination rate)
Earliest Greenhouse starting (In order of date), south eastern Ontario.
Inside planting dates:
(these dates are dependent on how good your grow lighting and hot frames are.)
We all have seen 2 foot tall potted tomato plants (with blossoms) for sale at the nurseries, on May 24th; - these would be listed under gambler, Remember gambling quite often doesn't pay, so always back your gambles up with later plantings.
6" tomato plants on May 24th, would be under standard,
and 3" tomato plants on May 24th, would be listed under conservative.
* means it would be destined to be transplanted under row cover
Listed earliest to latest
variety gambler standard conservative
Asparagus Dec 15 -Jan 1 Feb 10 Mar 10
Celery Dec 15 - Jan 1 Feb 12 Mar 12
Bulb Onions Jan 1 Feb 25 Mar 15
Bunching Onions Feb 1 Mar 2 Apr 1
Peppers Mar 8 Mar 18 Apr 2
Tomatoes Mar 10 Mar 19 Apr 2
Broccoli Mar 20 * Apr 2 * Apr 15*
Cabbage " * " * " *
Cauliflower " * " * " *
Brussel Sprouts " * " "
Kohlrabi " * " "
Chinese Cabbage Mar 31 * Apr 10 * Apr 24 *
Lettuce Apr 2 Apr 9 Apr 25
Beets Apr 6 (trans May 10) May 8 direct May 18 direct
All melons, squash, pumpkins Apr 11 Apr 26 May 20 direct
Cucumbers Apr 12 * Apr 27 May 21 direct
Radishes Apr 12 Apr 30 direct May 11 direct
Beans *Apr 17 (trans May 12) May 8 direct May 22 direct
Peas * Apr 18 (trans May 10) May 7 direct May 20 direct
Corn Apr 18* (trans May 12 May 15 direct May 22 direct
in plastic tunnels)
Corn OR field direct Apr 29 under plastic*
The most common mistake everybody makes when starting seeds and small seedlings is over-watering. Especially melons, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins.
Heirloom - Open Pollinated - Hybrids - GMO - Organic - PVP - AAS - Mutants - Stabilization - etc.
Open pollinated - An o/p variety is one which, - if you keep the seeds from this year's crop, you can use them next year and get the same results. (Of course, if it is a biennial, then it would take 2 years for the plant to generate seeds) This trait is called "coming true" and your results can be relied upon, as long as you make sure that no plants cross-pollinate with your seed plants. This enables you to purchase a small amount of various seeds and "trial" grow them and keep seeds from the varieties you like best.
Many of the large seed retailers are gradually offering more hybrids, so keeping your own seed from o/p varieties, will make sure you have your favourite varieties next year. 100 years ago nearly every one kept their own seed and traded with their family, friends and neighbours, and virtually no money was expended on garden seeds or tubers.
Heirloom vs Heritage - Nearly every gardener and seed company gets this wrong. You will find I do also on this web-site, but it is done intentionally, so customers don't get confused. (I am sure that is why other seed companies do it too.)
While heirloom is a term rarely used when describing animals, both terms can be used for plants and animals.
To simplify the difference - think of "The Antiques Travelling Road Show" on TV. Let's say we are talking about an 1861 musket. One person takes in "an" 1861 musket to the road show for appraisal, which they purchased at a flee-market a few years ago. There are no significant ties to their family, but that musket was probably used in the American Civil War - (Heritage).
Now, another person takes in "the" 1861 musket, that one of their ancestors used in the Civil War (with proof), and it has passed through the generations down to them. (Heirloom)
So there are actually very few heirloom seeds, - yes, maybe a few in families who would never give any seeds or produce to friends or neighbours, or maybe some in small settlements who were isolated from the rest of us. ie: Amish, Mennonites, or distinctive tribes. But just once, if they sold produce at the garden gate, somebody might hi-jack their variety.
As a general rule, heirloom is usually family oriented and heritage is regarded to a country or a certain district.
Q: Can a heritage seed become a heirloom seed, or vice versa (I was once asked this at a horticultural meeting, and got it wrong.)
A: The correct answers are actually - yes and yes. Because seeds are dynamic, and they change over generations, (each year) - a heritage seed can actually become a heirloom, but not if they are being actively traded. The same goes for that flee-market musket, even though it was simply purchased at a flee market, it could be regarded as an heirloom in 50 years! An actively traded heirloom seed will become a heritage seed, but it is usually (incorrectly) still referred to as an heirloom.
Note: Both heirloom and heritage seeds are open pollinated and have a history of at least 50 years. Many gardeners believe that number should be 75 or 100 years, or at least back to the end of World War 2 (1945).
All vegetable plants have been developed by humans from wild plants and have been improved upon continuously over the years. So every variety was/is a hybrid, but some were developed long ago and are now heritage. Example: I have an old tractor which is crank start and has no hydraulics, so it is not as useful as my newer one, but you will NEVER buy my old one, until I die. It's my baby! People resist change and sometimes cling to the good old technology, which can harm their productivity.
Hybrid - A hybrid is the cross between two or more varieties, and can be achieved intentionally or by accident. When a hybrid is developed intentionally, it is to bring the best traits of each "parent" plant to the off-spring. Some hybrids fail miserably at doing this, but so much time and money has been expended in the experimentation, it may be offered anyway. On the other hand, some hybrids are a major improvement over the previous parental varieties. All heirloom, heritage and open pollinated varieties were once hybrids. As a matter of fact, everything alive was once a hybrid. Yes I'm talking about you too. (Unless your father is your mother's brother.)
Example: A mule is a hybrid (F1) - a cross between a horse and a donkey. (If a mule was a plant,) "cross pollinating" a donkey with a horse would be a highly guarded secret, so you couldn't do it yourself. Now, we all may agree, that a mule might not have any great qualities, that it's parents don't possess, but many people make their living breeding them. And one great advantage for the breeders, is that mules are sterile. But "if" mules could have offspring - what would you get? a horse? a donkey? a mule? a new animal? or the luck of the draw? This is the same if you keep seeds from hybrid plants - very few don't have seeds (watermelon, etc.), very few have sterile seeds, some may give you a bunch of varieties - maybe some resembling the grand-parent plants, but most seeds will produce plants of the hybrid parent, and maybe you might even get some new and exotic varieties.
One very BIG advantage to developing a new hybrid is the vigor they tend to add to the plant. Open pollinated "inbreeding" generally limits the maximum size that a plant or it's produce can achieve, but if it is hybridized it may give bigger produce or more production or become stronger than it's parents, which may also give it superb strength to fight off diseases.
Hybrids are generally developed to: give more product, a stronger plant, larger fruit, add disease or pest resistance, make the produce tougher (for travel or storage), produce an earlier crop, make the produce mature or ripen all at once (for machine harvesting), produce a seed you have to purchase every year (for higher retail profits and continuing sales), for aesthetics (for growers and customers), for vigor, for cold soil emergence, to develop a new variety with a different colour, shape, size or other characteristics and many other reasons that are attractive for commercial growers.
Creators of new hybrids are generally not concerned as much about taste, nutrition and plants having a continuance of output throughout the summer.
F1 hybrid - Filial 1 (first generation) is simply the first year's seeds from the hybrid cross breeding. F2 would be the 2nd generation, grown with seeds collected from the F1 plants. Nearly all hybrids offered for sale should be considered to be F1's.
Some seed suppliers will falsely identify an o/p product as a hybrid or F1. - I recently sold some "giant jalapeno pepper" seeds to a supplier, (which I have been growing for 30+ years), and they got labeled as hybrids in their catalog listings. I'm sure it wasn't by mistake. (most gardeners would NOT try to keep seeds from a hybrid)
Stabilization - is when a person saves the seeds from a "loved" hybrid variety and plants them, in the hope that they may come true. If the seeds grow, any undesirable offspring would be culled, and only the desired plants are allowed to produce seed. Every year there would be less culling. After 6 years of doing this , you should have a "stabilized" hybrid which can now be considered to be a "new" open pollinated variety. It would be very unwise to offer it for sale under the old name (as stabilized) however, because of a possible patent infringement.
PVP - Sometimes you will see a PVP (Plant Variety Protection) symbol beside a package of seeds offered for sale.
The reason for this is that the seed manufacturer has spent a great deal of effort and money to produce this new (usually open pollinated) variety, and they have acquired a patent of sorts, to keep other people from propagating seeds to sell. It is not an offence to keep seeds for your own use, but it is not legal to sell them.
The PVP "patent protection" lasts for 20 years, but the labeling usually does not get removed. It would be nice if they labeled them with the date. ie: - PVP2012
Mutants - Most people get disturbed when one of their plants does not give the same product as all of the others of that variety. Home gardeners and big time operators with many acres usually cull it out, as soon as it is noticed. Possibly a good idea if you are growing hybrids. However, I get very excited if it is an acceptable quality variation. Many (now standard) varieties of veggie seeds were mutants. I will be adding another stabilized mutant next year, for sale. Over 40 years I have had 5 that have been worthy of propagating.
GMO - GE- Genetically Modified Organisms - Genetically Engineered plants are created when part of the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is modified, removed or transplanted from one type of living matter to another. This is done to try to achieve or enhance a characteristic in the host from the donor. For instance: some reptiles can freeze and not have their cells explode, because of a certain characteristic (antifreeze type substance) in it's DNA, then when it warms up, it will "come back to life". So if we took a piece of DNA from a snake and put it in a tomato, - you get the picture. (Glowing fish, 3 parent babies, cloning and internal/external organ manufacturing also are from this field of science.)
One example of a GMO is called "Round-Up Ready". Over time a company noticed a rogue plant growing in their chemical waste disposal area where nothing would grow. Part of this plant's DNA is now added to "Round Up Ready" seeds, so the plant can withstand the Round-Up pesticide and will survive after spraying to kill off weeds. A chemical "spill" which became very lucrative.
My thoughts of GMO's are that the science is a way ahead of the regulators (who are being bought off), and it is scary stuff. Maybe it's just fear of the unknown, but with all of the varieties of o/p's and hybrids, I see no need to risk it. Nearly all of the grain, corn and soybean which is eaten by the animals we consume, or that we consume directly is GMO. When the GMO company's officials and many politicians refuse to eat GMO products, maybe we should heed the warning. The same companies who are saying GMO's are safe, also told us that PCB's. Agent Orange, and DDT were safe. They also declared Round Up as bio-degradable, (it isn't) which proves to me, that they can never be trusted. Many North American consumers are concerned about GMO's, and the companies are spending millions of dollars each year, to keep us from knowing which products are GMO's. Maybe, GMO company officials should have to eat GMO products for 5 years before offering them to the public.
BTW: It is illegal to keep seeds from all GMO's, and any left over seeds must be disposed of at the end of planting season. So, even though you purchased the seeds, they are not your property, and actually still belong to the manufacturer.
Organic - Are you certified organic? Is there a difference between organic and non-organic? Questions fired at me all the time. My answer is the same as what you would have to answer. No I am not "certified" organic. Why? - Even though I am growing most veggies organically, I am not going to jump through all of the government's hoops, and spend a bunch of money, and wait for many assessments over the next few years to become certified. Yes I could charge more for my produce that I sell to uneducated customers, but I'd rather under-cut the competition's prices and educate my customers.
Note: .9% (9/1000) of all food "produced" in Canada is certified organic. (2013) This is a very strange statistic, when 20-30% (200/1000) of super market veggie and fruit shelves are "marked" organic.
I asked a new employee, stock boy (friend) in a large supermarket about this: He said that on "day one" in the produce department, he ran out of organic tomatoes and the boss got very upset. He was taken to the back of the store by the manager, and told to never let that happen again - "get out there and bring some tomatoes back and relabel them organic. And don't let me ever catch you running out of any organic stuff again!"
I have also learned on wikipedia that after many independent studies over the years, organic food has been proven not to have any benefits over non organic food. (obviously not, when they are interchangeable on the grocer's shelves).
When large produce companies (producers, wholesalers, food processors, and retailers) fail the government's organic testing - (chemicals are found to be in the produce), they can still use organic labels on all of their products, if they pass with any of their products. The government hopes that this tactic will help these companies, to have more "passing" organic products in the future. So even though, they got caught cheating - the government allows them to continue to do so, with their blessings. Inspectors have no way of knowing where the organic/non organic mix-up occurred. (Small producers get a little bit different treatment). (Maybe they will start doing this with speeding tickets.)
AAS - All America Selections - are varieties of flowers, vegetables or plants which have been proven to be superior for home gardens or farms. They "must" excel in two categories of qualities over the past offerings to be chosen. 40 horticultural specialists from 24 States and 5 Provinces in Canada judge submitted entries each year.
In vegetables, they are looking at the following qualities: speed to harvest, total yield, taste, quality of fruit, ease of harvest, plant habit, and disease/pest resistance.
Note: some AAS winners are "national" winners and some are "district" winners. Check out the AAS website for more info. There are many acronyms which use AAS, so use the full name.
Bar Codes: When buying produce at the supermarket: - a 5 digit bar code beginning with a 9xxxx designates organic - a 5 digit bar code beginning with an 8xxxx designates GMO or GE - Genetically engineered - a 4 digit code xxxx indicates conventionally grown (may contain pesticides) (notice how GMO snuggled up to organic)
Treated seeds: In some cases seeds are treated to protect - the seeds and the newly germinated seedlings from common pests and diseases which are inherant in a particular species of plant. Corn seed often has "cruiser" added as an insect guard from flee beetles, corn maggots, and Stewart's bacterial wilt. (It has no effect on corn borers later on) "Farmore" is added to pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and melons for protection from soil bourne diseases and striped beetles. Beans and other legumes are sometimes coated with an innoculant to give them an early boost when germinating. My experience is that it also slows/stops cut worm activity. Onion seeds may also be treated for root maggots, onion smut, and soil borne diseases.
These products do work and are used in commercial greenhouses and by commercial growers of our food. Seed wholesalers offer treated seeds at the same price or cheaper than untreated seeds because they will have less problems with their seeds and their customers.
When you are buying plants, it would be a safe bet that they were propogated from treated seeds and chemicals were used in their greenhouses which eliminated the chance for crop failures, - which leads to the question, - if a grower (large or small) buys plants, can they be sure that they aren't introducing non-organic plants into their organic fields.
What your neigbour does in his field or garden also affects your ability for organic labeling.
A tiny company (like us) can not offer both treated and untreated without driving prices up. eg. if we use/sell 1 pound of "hooligan" pumpkin seeds each year, buying 1 lb. -T and 1 lb. -UT would double the costs and we would have problems keeping or seeds fresh without throwing out 1 lb. at the end of the season. If we buy 8 ounces of each, at the per ounce price, the costs are more for 8 ounces than they would be for a pound.
I know: My larger customers feel very strongly in favour of treated seeds because of their advantages and the success they have with them. But - Most customers who buy their seeds by the packets would rather have untreated seeds.
Customer satisfaction is what any company strives for, so we will be offering both treated and un-treated seed when our company grows and it is practical to do so. Meanwhile many of our offerings will be treated seeds and others will be untreated. (Growing pains.)
Staggering News: The biggest mistake even the best gardeners make.
Most gardeners go to the "same" place every year for their seeds and plants. If they are asked what varieties they grow - their shoulders sort of - go quickly up and then return to their natural postions. So (maybe), they are doing all this planning, tilling, raking, leveling, row marking, planting, transplanting, watering, weeding, mulching, debugging, fertilizing, covering, monitoring, and harvesting to get "standard" results that can be found at the supermarket. Reminds me of a guy I worked with who had peanut butter and jam sandwiches in his lunch pail every day for 20 years - when asked if he never wanted a different type of sandwich - he answered "Sometimes I change the type of jam." So if you don't know what variety you are growing, take a little time to find out the advantages/disadvantages of your varieties, and try some up-scale quality varieties this year. True gardeners can"t wait for their first produce every year, which is better tasting and more nutritious than what you can purchase. With all of the work you are doing, you deserve it! Also, if you are growing only 5 types of vegetables add one more this year. Variety IS the spice of life!
Last year I offered 6-paks of tomato plants (2 each of 3 varieties well labelled), for people who were new customers, and didn't know one variety from another. When purchasing other produce through the summer from me, they raved about one variety of tomato which they liked better than the other two. When I asked them which variety was their favourite, they didn't know which one it was. Unbelievable!
There are also people who have a variety allegiance which will NEVER let them be successful. You can't win the Daytona 500 with what is sitting in your driveway. (Unless your name is Earnhart or Logano). If your neighbour's corn tastes better than yours, don't keep trying to beat them with YOUR variety,-switch! Your variety will never win. But, if you do your homework on variety selection, you can beat them, this year. I repeat: you will NOT beat them with your old variety.
If you have difficulty growing a certain vegetable - investigate - do not try it every year and waste your time. Do some homework and find out why your results are not what you want. If other people have success, you can also.
Ok, so hopefully you are going to try different varieties of veggies to compare to some of your tried n true guys, and when you get that special "hot day in May", you will plant your seeds (new varieties and old), and you are going to transplant everything at the proper distances, and you will produce a very accurate map of what you have done. And this year you are going to have the PERFECT garden! (Btw - no-one ever has "the perfect garden") You will then clean up, eat, drink, crash on couch and announce: - " Ethel, the garden is all planted". (substitute spouse's name for Ethel) Ooops, here-in lies the mistake. (and it has nothing to do with not marrying Ethel !)
Did you ever take a drive through the country in late August and see many gardens already "put to bed" for the winter? Obviously these people either - (a) "fast" in September and October, or (b) they are connoisseurs of frozen vegetables. Many of these people are the BEST gardeners I know.
If you plant your entire garden in one day, chances are you will be buying lettuce, radishes, Chinese cabbages, etc. by mid July and beans, peas, corn, etc. by early August. And if you transplanted 24 cabbage plants in May, then you will have used 5 or 6 before they start to split. Why not stagger start your garden, or at least use varieties with different maturing dates.
Advantages of Stagger Starting:
1/ It is easier to sneak your planting in between those spring showers, if you plant 1/2 the garden in May, and add a row or two every week.
2/ If there is a weather challenge - late frost, flood, etc. you are diversifying your efforts. (Or if your neighbour's cows get out.)
3/ All of your crops won't be mature at the same time - Plant 20 radish seeds a week instead of 200 at once - planting all of your corn, zucchini, beans, etc. at once, will swamp you with that vegetable, and you will be force feeding it to keep up. Having to eat the same vegetable for dinner every night for 2 weeks is similar to my peanut butter and jam friend.
4/ Germination will probably be better in June than May
5/ Weeding by hoe and hand starts about 2 weeks after planting, and comes on strong because of all the spring showers. Stagger starting allows for a lot less hand weeding hours.
6/ Extending summer (or cheating winter) makes a person feel good.
7/ A storage vegetable - will last longer into the winter, if it matures in October rather than in August.
8/ Many vegetables are more valuable in October and November than they are in August.
9/ Remember: Hybrids are developed for commercial growers, where the entire crop matures all at once, - (allowing for mechanical harvesting and therefore eliminating expensive hand harvesting). The plant is designed to be pulled from the ground and go through a machine to reap the harvest. So definitely stagger start hybrids!
I always push my planting dates to the extreme, and often lose the first or the final crop, - why? Because many fresh vegetables in late October have no competition at the market and therefore command high prices. A gamble that often pays off. In Market Gardening, first and last to market is where the easy sales are.
Some crops can be extended with covers and others are next to impossible to protect, when the first fall frost hits in the fall. (ie: corn) So I'll use corn as an example. Let's say we are using a variety of corn with an 80 day maturity and we want the "last" crop to mature on October 10th. So if we do the math - the planting date would be July 22. Emergence will take a week, so let's make that July 15. Houston we have a problem! An October growing day does not equal a July growing day, and the corn will lose the race and become compost. (Actually, do NOT compost corn - it was just a figure of speech) I am NOT going to suggest what the (LPD) Last Planting Date is, because it depends on growing conditions, fertility, shelter from frosts, hills or hollows, distance from bodies of water, and a little thing called "the weather". Just be forewarned it is not an acquired science - it's more of a gamble. Of course other crops can be covered from the frost and make you look like a hero.
(2014 we had a very hard EARLY frost on September 17th - this stopped my corn from growing to full size, but it still continued to ripen and was marketable after everyone else closed up. It was even sweeter than normal because of the frost, and I know I have pulled many permanent customers from my competition.) I sold corn until November 3rd!
Spring 2015 - perfect start to summer and on May 22 POW! severe frost. Nearly every one lost their plants. Department stores and greenhouses all sold out - none available. Then we went 3 weeks with out rain and everyone had germination problems. Then It rained and rained - most fields and gardens flooded out. Welcome to gardening! But what a fantastic growing season after the poor start.
Extending some crops can bring on a new set of problems. For instance - larger animals (mammals) may find the last stand of cabbage, lettuce, corn, or whatever you have to offer, totally irresistible when no one else has anything left in their gardens. They will travel miles, for a feast of that sweet smelling veggie to fatten up on, before resorting to eating bark. Migrating birds and wild turkeys are also looking for a thanksgiving dinner in October. They can make a lot of coleslaw in an hour. Some bugs and worm type pests will be done their cycles, but the old corn borer is always looking for a fall munch.
You know this, but I am going to add it anyway. Days to maturity is actually how many days to get the first produce - after emergence or transplanting into the garden. So, for instance a 100 day melon would be 100 plus 3 weeks greenhouse = (121 days). Peppers are (plus 8 weeks), Tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc are plus 6 weeks. Direct sown crops - emergence is usually 5-7 days.
Staggering - is very addictive.
Most of this information is well known and practiced by most experienced gardeners, but there may be some info that is new to some gardeners
1/ Beans, peas and other legumes actually affix nitrogen to the soil so they are a good crop to use the year before nitrogen dependent crops - ie corn
2/ Corn should always be planted in multiple rows (at least 6) for proper pollination. Not in single rows
- rows should be 28"- 36" apart and corn should be 7-1/2" - 9" apart in the row (more for newer hybrids)
- corn planting depth varies upon variety
- corn too close together can:
a/ cause smut (which is also caused by clipping the stalks while cultivating),
b/ cause more suckers,
c/ produce smaller cobs,
d/ and is difficult to care for - weeding and watering
---- (many of us were taught by our elders to plant corn in "hills" of 3 or 4 kernels each, but you will find - that you will get bigger cobs and more production, if kernels are planted individually with proper spacing. Larger "cobed" corn and corn with multiple cobs need 9" between seeds. In the past, open-pollinated varieties had smaller cobs, on shorter stalks and had a smaller root system, so planting in bunches or hills "may" have been beneficial to keep them from tipping in the wind. Also when put in hills they could be cultivated in two directions - cross-cultivated. But the main reason was that the corn planters of the past were notorious for dropping many kernels at a time. You may have to make or modify planting plates for your corn planter for different varieties, especially the sh2 shrunken kernels.
Making your own corn variety:
The tassels (male) at the top of the plant, drop pollen to the silks (female) on the top of the cobs, and each silk is attached to a kernel which has to be fertilized to produce the kernel (this is achieved by wind and gravity). If the silk is damaged or does not get pollen, the kernel will not form. In a drought or other severe stress, the plant goes into a "self preservation mode" and the silk will dry up and it's kernel will not form.
If you wanted to produce your own hybrid, you would plant "A" variety of corn in every second row, alternating with "B" type variety, and you would cut off the tassels of the "A" variety. "A" would have to be pollinated by "B" tassel pollen ("B">"A"). Remember the "B" type corn would still be "B" type, and you would consume it as you normally would. Cutting the tassels off of the "B" type instead of "A", will produce a totally different variety with it's own characteristics - ("A">"B"). Of course both varieties would have to mature at the same time for them to pollinate properly. It takes a lot of experimentation and tons of notes and accurate record keeping to improve on what varieties are available, but if you have the property and too much time on your hands - fill your boots. If you are developing a hybrid, your rows should be closer together - 24 - 26". What you just created would be a F-1 hybrid, so you would have to do it every year, or stabilize the hybrid for a number of years to get good germination and for it to come true. Plant biologists and scientists let on that this is rocket science, but I have proved that a back-woods cowboy can do it. The tricky part is getting the good traits to be in the hybrid, by cross-breeding in the right direction. Experimentation and experience are crucial.
3/ Raised beds advantages: - less bending over
- easier to water
- easier to hand weed
- pretty and makes crops easier to pick and show off
- keeps crops out of "standing" water on the ground after a rain
- excellent for community gardens
- a good idea if you are in an area which is prone to floods
or the soil is very shallow
- walk-ways can be concrete or grass - easier walking
disadvantages: - cost
- higher water needs
- difficult to use power tillers and power weeders
- must repair and replace boxes as needed
- wind may be more prevalent
- only practical in small gardens
4/ Certain plants need full sun, while others will do better with a "little" shade, ie lettuce
so keep this in mind when planting a small garden - don't shade your tomatoes with corn
This may sound stupid, but keep in mind the way the sun tracks in the sky in July (taller plants at back of garden)
5/ There are companion plants and plants which do not like each other
This info is readily available on the internet, BUT compare many people's ideas, because they do differ.
What I do recommend however,
a/ plant pumpkins or squashes in corn (helps with coon/skunk control) - it's like barb-wire to them, but it does make weeding and watering a little more difficult
b/ plant quick maturing veggies between your tomato rows (even if you stake or cage the tomatoes) ie: radishes, beets, quick maturing cabbages, lettuce, first beans - these will be gone before tomatoes get into their super sprawl mode.
c/ This may be new to some gardeners - but I have found - tomatoes should not be near peppers, I have no idea why, but you will have more fruit on the peppers, if kept apart - I have proved this to myself - and other doubters have also proved it to themselves.
d/ no stakes - when planting multiple varieties of any vegetable in a row, place a transplanted vegetable where 1 variety stops and the next one starts
example: X-----------------X-------------------X-------------------------X X = cabbage
beefsteak delicious mortgage lifter (tomatoes)
- if something happens to a plant you will know which one, so you can fill in with the same variety (this also eliminates making, placing, pulling and storing stakes)
Being a lazy sort - I also put a transplant at the end of each direct-seeded row instead of using stakes
e/ when planting your garden always consider how big the veggies get to determine the distance between rows and spacing in the rows - gourmet beans for instance can be 3" apart, but pencil pod beans would need >5" between plants, small early maturing cabbages can be placed between very large (later) cabbages in the row (they will be gone before the big ones need the additional room) - with experience you will be able to distinguish them from each other, or use alternate colours.
f/ in a "mixed" variety garden I find it's easier to keep the row length less than 50 feet and plots 50 feet wide by making "roads" between the plots, in my case they are tilled and driven over, but some people leave them to mowed grass - looks real cool, and you won't get stuck after a rain.
Why shorter rows?
- easier for watering and gives you more even watering with soaker hoses
- easier for mapping out vegetable variety locations
- when weeding, picking, or hilling, - it gives you a sense of accomplishment when a row is finished
(It can be a little overwhelming starting into a 500 foot row)
6/ Peppers stress easily from:
a/ - under watering - over watering - irregular watering - broadcast watering
(all plants, especially peppers should always be watered at the roots, not on the leaves)
b/ - wind
c/ - too cool - too hot (temperatures can be controlled with row covering)
d/ - transplanting too late, too early
e/ - improper fertilizing (less is best)
f/ - weeds or crowding
g/ - tomatoes as neighbours
h/ - hardening procedures
For better peppers - (compost - compost - compost) or add peat moss to even out moisture available to the roots - (put your peppers in your best soil)
Everybody can grow nice plants, but any of the above stresses can cause blossom drop or poor production.
want more production? peppers like potash-potassium - (wood ashes)
Note: Generally the hotter the variety, the quicker they will stress, except for the "tiny" thin varieties.
Peppers are like some people I know, - "they'll use any excuse - not to produce."
7/ east-west or north-south rows - some gardeners feel very strongly about this
some feel east-west is better and others north-south,
I grew up with an east-west dad whose neighbour was north-south
it made no difference.
Two important things - put the roots down
and keep taller veggies on the north end of your garden
Proof: Field corn (a very tall plant which gives off a lot of shade) is nearly always planted around the perimeter of a corn field (20-30 rows) - to provide room for machinery to turn around when harvesting. If you look across the field you will see that it will be all at an even height, unless there is an area of poor soil or a hollow which may have flooded.
I find it very strange that, what professional growers of corn have been doing for decades, now suddenly isn't suitable for a garden. As a matter of fact if - you read a book, or are at a seminar, or read on a web site that it does make a difference - change the channel!
8/ watering - there are two main methods - broadcast watering or root watering
Obviously overhead broadcast watering is a tremendous waste - and if it is cold water, it can be a severe shock to plants especially in the heat of the day. Watering from above tends to produce blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers, melons, squashes, etc. and in extreme cases will cause BFB - Bacterial Fruit Blotch - (see below) and - broadcast watering helps weed seeds to germinate.
fyi - 1/2" of rain on a square foot of ground is 1/2" X 12" X 12" = 72 cu. inches
for us Canadians - 1 liter is 61 cubic inches (sorry I'm still not completely Metric)
How much would you need for your garden? if you root water it would be 1/4 as much.
As plants mature, they "need" more water - 4 foot high corn needs a LOT more than 4 inch corn
The BEST way to water plants in rows is by soaker hose - (not a sprinkler hose) Tall plants - (ie corn) can not be watered evenly using a broadcast system.
2nd best is a watering can - (vine type plants are best watered with a water can)
There is absolutely no replacing a good rain, but you must be prepared if it doesn't fall,
Highly composted soils retain water much better than sandy or clay soils
For squashes, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers - drive in a 3 foot stake (1"X 1"), right beside every plant when transplanting, train the vines (pull them where you want them to grow with the round "handle" end of your hoe), and when they need to be watered - water the stake only.
9/ make accurate detailed maps of your plot(s) with an accompanying page detailing dates of planting and transplanting, where you purchased the seeds/plants, hybrid or o/p, whether you want to save the seed, varieties used and whether you want this variety next year. As you try more varieties and get older, you will need better maps.
If below was your garden layout you would have: 1 garden over view with 16 detailed plot layouts marked row by row as they are planted and 16 accompanying description pages in a 3 ringed binder. This binder will get more attention than your spouse from early April until halloween.
Plot labeling example: A-D X 1-4
D lD1 lD2 lD3 lD4l
C l C1l C2l C3l C4l
B l B1lB2 lB3 lB4 l
A lA1 lA2 lA3 lA4l pages labeled A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, etc.
1 2 3 4
10/ Record your results, compare with other gardeners in your area and on the internet, see how other people compare your varieties to theirs, and improve every year. Don't be shy about sharing your problems with other gardeners, help comes to those who ask.
11/ Nitrogen requirements - regarding pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and melons - peas and beans
Keep nitrogen to a minimum for tastier and more plentiful fruit, use older compost - (2+ years)
If you are going for fewer and larger squashes - pumpkins, use fresher compost or "green tea."
Plants are dynamic
What does that mean? Plants and animals will gradually adapt to their environment or die. (Darwin evolution)
Some animals will actually migrate to avoid adapting. ie: Canadian snowbirds - Florida trailer parks. But plants are forced to the environment where they are planted.
So what if you take a pit (seed) from a Georgia peach or a pineapple plant from Mexico and tried it in Canada? Probably the same thing that would happen if we dropped you on Mars. Yes indoor growing or green-housing may give it a chance, just as indoor living for the first few winters might save a southerner marrying a Canadian.
What if I try a variety from Guatemala, or Italy, or Japan? Exotic seed companies offer them, and may ship to Canada (maybe with a disclaimer that this plant is not suitable for your zone) or a Canadian snowbird may be able to get them up here for you.
One of three things will happen. 1/ they will thrive
2/ they will die
or 3/ they may adjust to their new habitat, which could take many years
Obviously seed retailers would have unhappy customers, with options 2 and 3 above, so it's best for them to simply not offer them to us.
So far I have only discussed climate, but there are many factors to be considered - length of day, types of soil, rainfall, and amount of wind, methods of growing, etc. which the plants have to adjust to. So the question is - do you know where your seeds were grown last year?
Below is a picture of a Hungarian Hot Wax pepper plant taken August 18/ 2012 in my garden after 4 years of me struggling with it. (Which I found strange, because many companies sell them in Canada.)
My History with this stubborn guy -
2009 I bought seed from dealer in USA - expensive - very poor germination <40% (came with a disclaimer - many of the seeds I ordered are not suitable for my zone) I knew that, but many people grow Hungarian Hot Wax up here.
2009 - 6 plants kept by me - total production 2 peppers - I sold 24 plants (money returned to customers) - no production
2010 - largest 60 seeds planted - germination approx 80% - best 30 plants initially transplanted to 6-paks - strongest 6 transplanted to garden - production total - 10 peppers, plant sales - not offered
2011 - 48 seeds started - 47 plants initially transplanted to 6-paks - 98% germination
strongest 6 planted - production total - 82 peppers, plant sales - not offered
2012 - 48 plants started - 46 initially transplanted to 6-paks - 96% germination
strongest 6 planted (1 broken off with tiller) - production from 5 - (120 plus) peppers
- offered seeds online
- also gave away some plants - and most customers were happy with production
Because I kept the earliest and largest fruit, from the largest plants and used the largest seeds - the plants have now adjusted to me and Ontario and they like it up here, and I finally feel comfortable offering these "Hungarians" as seeds and plants to Canadians.
(the small plant in picture below has 28 large peppers hanging from the poor little thing + some buds and small peppers)
Taz is giving it "the look", because I spend too much time in the garden. Jealous cat.
Seed Production: Where are your seeds from? Did you know that the majority of the vegetable seeds produced in North America come from only 3 States? Idaho, Washington and Oregon are the main producers of most seeds offered in our seed catalogues, and if you are buying new seeds every year, your seeds may have to adapt to your conditions for a few years before they perform as promised on package descriptions. Approximately 90% of sweet corn seed is produced in these Western States.
BFB - Bacterial Fruit Blotch (Melons)
First discovered in 1965, Bacterial Fruit Blotch had no serious out-breaks until 1988 and occurrences have been drastically increasing ever since. It is believed to be spread by hot, humid weather and unsanitary seed saving, greenhouse practices and growing procedures. It often rears it's ugly head just before harvest time, and can decimate an entire crop. An infestation may also render the field useless (for watermelon growing) for a few years (in the south). As the pictures below indicate, if close attention is taken at transplant time, some affected seedlings could be culled and destroyed before the problem is introduced to the field. It is more prominent in the Southern States where hot humid weather is aiding in the spread of the bacteria. Other countries are not as transparent about any problems they are experiencing.
I am not going into the biology/chemistry on what it is, because that information is readily available on the web.
Although cantaloupe type melons and tomatoes (see below) can be also affected , watermelons are the desired host to this type of bacteria.
Nearly all seed companies now sell watermelon seeds only after a liability waiver has been signed.
Procedures for you to avoid an outbreak:
Seeds - 1/ Save and use your own seeds
2/ Use "wet seed saving techniques, with fermentation" (watch: youtube - Juran Watermelon Harvester Deseeding System) to see how commercially collected seeds could be contaminated from each other in "dry collection" methods
3/ Collect or purchase seeds from dry and cooler regions
4/ Vernalize seeds
5/ Have seeds tested, (large quantities - costly)
6/ Collect and keep seeds in separate "smaller" packaging
7/ Do Not introduce "newly purchased" seeds to main fields in the first year
8/ Incinerate any seeds from which you have had a previous problem
9/ Store seeds in a cooler and drier area
10/ Displace all air from seed packaging containers when sealing
11/ Do Not keep seeds from infected produce! Inspect each melon.
12/ Make sure your seeds are completely dry before storing
Greenhousing - 1/ Do Not overhead water
2/ avoid touching plants (spreading bacteria)
3/ avoid over watering (too much water)
4/ add 7.5 m/l or 1/4 fluid oz hydrogen peroxide to a gallon of water for watering
5/ use warm water
6/ do not water after 2 pm.
7/ disinfect all containers and tools with diluted bleach (1 - 50 mix)
8/ cull and incinerate any questionable plants
9/ introduce more ventilation over plants
10/ constantly inspect plants
11/ last resort - spray with a diluted copper-hydroxide solution
Planting and growing: 1/ Do Not overhead water
2/ avoid light-skinned fruit varieties - dark green are less susceptible
3/ generally - dipold varieties are more susceptible than tripolds which are more susceptible than o/p's
4/ keep the plants well weeded (take weeds away from garden area)
5/ keep a constant vigil for infections - cull and incinerate immediately
6/ avoid overcrowding (thin if necessary)
7/ plant on mounds
8/ avoid or remove wind breaks - hedges or tall crops ie: corn, sunflowers
9/ avoid contacting plants with tools or cultivators
10/ Do Not weed after watering, or after a rain or heavy dew
1/ last resort (again) - spray with diluted copper-hydroxide
So far, Melon Bacterial Fruit Blotch has not been a major problem in Canada, but it is starting to affect us, with the availability of winter watermelons and accessibility of seeds from the south. Hopefully, this will not be the demise of imported winter watermelons. Probably, now is a good time to start keeping o/p watermelon seeds, because the Canadian Government may shut down the problem at the border. Or if the United States has a shortage, they may feed their own people first, before shipping to us.
BFB - Bacterial Fruit Spot/Blotch (Tomatoes)
This "disease" is nearly always called late blight, and although it is essentially the same as melon BFB, it's cause is somewhat different.
Melon BFB is usually caused from hot muggy humid weather.
Tomato BFB most often incubates in cool, wet, overcast weather or cool damp foggy conditions for an extended period of time, or overhead watering before a cool spell, after fruit has developed and starts to ripen. (3-5 days without sun and heat.)
Cause: 1/ water sits on the leaves or in the divot of the fruit around the stem, or the fruit on the ground is wet for an extended period of time - then: 2/ a fungal bacteria forms in the water and enters into the fruit through the tiny cracks around the stem (see figures 3,5,6,7 below) or through the leaves - then 3/ the sap from the fruit retracts into the stem - at night or cooler weather 4/ sap then is transmitted to the other fruit from the stem and they decay from the inside (see pictures 2,8,9 below) (picture 4 is where an infected tomato from another plant touched the fruit) 5/ the bacteria will ultimately destroy the entire plant and 6/ possibly the neighbouring plants with air borne spores
(Hardest Hit Plants:) - caged and staked tomatoes - why? the fruit hangs right-side up and catch the water, - tomatoes sprawling on the ground tend to be on their side - hybrids generally are infected more - why? - (I'm not sure) - thinner skin, larger stems carrying more bacteria, larger stem cavity - larger tomatoes (larger cavity) (less affected - pear, cherry, roma) - non pruned tomatoes - plants grown in too much shade - overhead watering
2014 was a devastating year in Eastern Ontario for most tomato growers, - a summer without sun or heat. Many of my fellow market gardeners and home gardeners lost their crops.
Control: In cool damp wet weather prune heavily and be vigilant - if you find 1 infected fruit on a plant - get it off the plant immediately - if you find 2 infected fruits on a plant - pull and discard the plant
There are sprays you can purchase, but if you see the problem it's probably too late. If you are getting the cool damp conditions, you can use a mist of diluted anti-bacterial dish soap/hydrogen-per-oxide as a preventative measure. A good option is inserting a copper wire through the stem of the plant or spraying with a diluted copper sulphate solution. Some say, that they have had success by sprinkling the copper sulphate on the ground around the plants. These methods will not save heavily infected plants, but will stop the bfb from spreading to other plants nearby.
Some gardeners say that the bacteria is persistent and you won't be able to grow tomatoes anywhere in the vicinity for years. Probably true if you live where winters are mild, but here in Ontario the bacteria will not survive from one year to the next. (If you experienced the problem inside your greenhouse - ouch - That's a different story.) And, the fungus can survive the winter on stored potatoes.
Keeping seed: Will bacteria ridden seed even grow? Could it transfer the problem to next year's crop? Personally I don't know, because I will never try it.