Veggie Seeds in Richmond

Here it is, seed starting time again! Love this time of year. Trying to plan out what I want to plant, what to try, what not to plant, where everything goes… We always overgrow everything here anyway, usually give away a bunch. But its time to start with basic timing facts.

If you are starting indoors this year, then you should have some basics down:

On the packet of seeds, there is a germination or emergence time, and a harvest time in days. In the description of the plant, most will tell how far in advance to start, like Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Onions, and Peppers take the longest. Our last average killing frost is around April 15th. Notice I said, Average..  Me? I’m in the ground on the 15th, no matter what. I’m not afraid to cover a couple of times for frost, I eat first in my neighborhood. So back to the packet info. There’s also a Planting Chart for zone info. We are Zone 7a here in Richmond, Sunset Zone 32. Parts of Oregon are 7a, but different Sunset Zone. That’s just a mathematical equation for length of day, angle, intensity which sometimes comes into play for planting times and longevity of the season. That’s why I also do “succession” planting on the really fast harvesting veggies like Radishes, Green Beans, etc. Some I am picking thru Thanksgiving. That’s why I bought a freezer last year.

So starting indoors will be in about a week for me of Tomatoes and Peppers, maybe a few Eggplants. I have my racks set up already which is very simple. I have a 2 gang flourescent fixture and a 4 gang on 2 racks. I don’t use grow lights. All you need is different bulbs in them, like a soft white and a cool light, or any combination, just as long as they are different. Why? Because any two different tubes will give the same spectrum of light as a Grow Light, but way cheaper. My racks are on wheels so I can roll them out later in March on warmish days to harden them off before transplanting, which I have several ways of doing.

Here is the scenario:

Have your light fixture in place over your seed starting tray at about 2″ from the top. If you are us

ing the store bought starter trays, make sure to keep a slight gap in the lid or you may get a fuzzy black fungus growing in there. Use only a seed starting mix. Not potting mix. You don’t want any fertilizer to start, makes them lanky. As the seeds germinate, there will be only 2 leaves for a bit, they are not “true” leaves. They are looking for intense light to convert sugars to the roots. After the 3rd or 4th leaf appears, now the plant is looking for food. Some folks topdress with a potting mix at this time, or use a water-soluble fertilizer with an N-P-K of like 18-18-21 or so. Others just sprinkle a bit of 10-10-10. For the Organic approach, Fish Emulsion works great.  You still want the light at about 2″ from the top of the plant. If it’s too far, the plants get tall and lanky, then collapse. Dont forget to keep the soil moist, it does dry out quickly under light.

Simple huh? So while the seedlings are getting ready for transplanting in about 8 weeks, you should be prepping the bed. I usually compost layer my garden through the Fall, toss a bit of lime on it, and maybe a thin layer of manure and let it “cook” over the Winter. In early March, I will till all the goodies in, rake it out smooth, 10-10-10, water, and cover with clear plastic until early April… See my “Solarization Made Simple” entry. You’ll see why. But we’ll get to that later.

RE: “Thinking Outside the Box” article

Well, it’s about time someone in the real estate business published an article on how important the “Outside” of a home adds to the sellability of a home. I have been preaching this for years to most of my panicky clients. Most people these days aren’t looking for a newly remodeled interior. There is a huge difference in your taste from a potential “certain neighborhood” type of buyer. Things they are going to change themselves after buying, to suit them. However, the outside of a well maintained, simply crafted, maintenance free exterior, sells the home faster. So many folks now, are wanting the outside to already be done, a place to go out and relax after work. They want their friends who come the first time to have that, “WOW”, attitude when they first pull up in the driveway. Then the interior tour of, “This is what we are going to do in here”. I don’t get many people asking for my services, to replant in a newly acquired home, but a ton who want to balance or totally refurbish it, because they just don’t get what the previous owner was trying, (or not trying) to do. Ever watch “Malcolm in the Middle”? Ever see the front yard? Would you even stop, if a for sale sign was in the yard? Don’t think so. But if it was a soothing, inviting, maintained front yard, you would. Then going inside, your mindset on the entry is already in the ,”OK, let’s see what we would do in here” attitude, no matter what it looked like. You’re gonna tear out a wall somewhere anyway, or add a something right here…

Most of my calls, are for late season, put the fire out calls. This is dying, whats this thing, I don’t understand how this water garden works, can I eat this… I actually have to turn down people because it gets so busy, and I don’t like that.

That’s why I am glad that article hit the Richmond Times Dispatch this week. I am starting early this year, like now. I have even gotten into balcony gardens for apartment and townhouse folks. Small, compact, vertical gardens that they thought impossible.  Years ago, when I was in full go with my water garden business, realtors were giving me as a gift to their clients, both selling and buying. $80.00 well spent for two hours of actual fun. We discussed live goods both interior and exterior, irrigation system timing, water feature systems, garden beds and potted plants. Everything from maintenance of current to what they might want to add later, and when. Feeding, pruning, Maintenance. As they learn, after a few visits, they don’t need me anymore, I am happy, because they get it. I don’t do the work, I put their exterior life into perspective. If they want to add a patio, build a raised veggie garden, create an edible landscape, or just want to know how and when, we go through it all. Some of these people still just want to give me a holler seasonally, just to make sure.

It just makes good sense, to educate people these days, considering the media has to set general timing to fertilize, for example. We are in Richmond, Va., zone 7A, we don’t fall under most commercials, some things die when it’s fed at the wrong time here..

I am certified thru the Univ. of Ga. as a Horticultural Specialist, member of the Va. Lakes and Watershed Management Assoc., Chesapeake Bay Club at Solomons Island, Maryland, and VNLA. I participate in the Maymont Educational Branch when invited, and have taught “Grandparent Gardening” lectures for Gray Matters continuing adult education forums through Boomer Magazine. I love talking gardening “Outside the Box”.

Realtors should get in tune with the “after market” of the sale of a home, not forget the client. I would bet that there is a huge percentage of new buyers, that drastically changed something inside the home, that the seller spent money on to impress. Seller should have fixed the exterior, instead, and asked for more.

Garden Regulating?

Really? I can’t grow, what?

So here I’m thinking all is safe around me as long as I can garden. I can grow, fix, adjust, sweat, pick, enjoy, trade……. Wait, I can’t trade certain veggies, Mr. Guv’ment man? Whats that? I can’t grow tomatoes or green beans? Why are you in my backyard anyway? Just make sure you don’t go over there…

That article is popping up again about the Government saying that there are certain vegetables that you can’t grow, and that you can’t trade with a neighbor, because your backyard garden space is not USDA approved or inspected.. I mean come on, really? But, they are taking position, to regulate the growing of Mary Jane instead of banning it. About time, but for the lack if anything else to do, now they are telling me, “No more Black Krims, or Yard Long Asian beans in the back yard”. I can see it now, all those who can garden, will have the prettiest Pot growing in the yard, but no veggies. Well there are veggies back there, ya just can’t see ’em un till you fire up a bowl… I guess that means that Michelle Obama wont be gardening on the White House lawn anymore, well not veggies….

I can see it now, helicopters flying over, g-men rappelling down, yanking out the garden, slinging tomatoes everywhere…. But there’s the pot, undisturbed…. Excuse me, but just when did we flip over to Bizzarro World? Really…

See, they want to regulate your garden, and maybe even tax it, I read that too, because you won’t spend the money for veggies. They want you, to be controlled on how much produce you can grow of certain types of vegetables, in your own back yard. This isn’t about power-hungry HOA’s, this is the Federal Government folks. Absurdity at its best.

Well, I’m gardening. I have a lot of people to feed. I already feel like I’m sneaking around because I’m starting seeds indoors already. Yep, I’ll be out there in a couple of months, putting the babies in the bed, sweating, getting dirty, watering, and keeping a lookout for any helicopters.


It’s Time.

January…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It’s time to get ready. We all are ready. But for what? How did we do last year? How will I do this year? We are all sort of ready.

  Lets start by looking at last years notes. Oh, no notes? We need notes. Mother nature keeps notes, why don’t you? No pics either? I bet you do. Look at outdoor gatherings like cook outs, birthdays, etc. Pic backgrounds can tell a lot of stories. Receipts of when you bought certain plants or seed packets. Were you early or late last year? See where this is going? You NEED notes. Start a journal this year using notes and pics.

   Things to note. Weather, dates, temps, whats blooming at the present, whats not, what worked, what didn’t.  Add climate actions as well as daylight hrs. available. NOAA has great “length of day” charts narrowed down to your zip code. What and when bugs and funguses emerge. Prolific growth spurts, first buds or blooms. What went good with what, and what didn’t. Start noting phenological events such as when Forsythia bloomed, Oak tree leaves start, Roses shoot out, Caterpillars arrive, heavy Mole activity, Gnat storms, etc. This will actually help you stay involved with your gardening and help keep your application rates and timing of certain products to get the maximum results, instead of maximum doses. It will also reduce the labor involved, thus making projects a joy, not a groaning task.  Don’t forget your Frost Zone Data. Here in Richmond, Va. we are Zone 7a. Last average frost is around Apr 15th, first frost is around Oct 15th. Plan accordingly.

   Seed starting can be a yearly ritual to enjoy…Or loath.. We all get the “fever” about now. We are gaining daylight hours, we were extremely busy with the Holidays since about Nov 1st. We have nothing to do now but….look out the window and think of fresh green beans and squash. It’s easy to get involved too early, or is it? Keep in mind that the box stores always are a season ahead. Patio furniture is in, gas logs are clearance items now, and its still snowing. That doesn’t mean you can start your seeds indoors now. Look at the germination rates on what you are going to grow. Now add about one month for the transplant date. Most will put you well before mid April, and the poor little guys will be getting root bound and start ailing in the starter sets. Now your confidence is shot, and you vow never to do this again. Stupid seeds! Timing is the best thing to shoot for, and, the best thing to put in that notebook we talked of earlier. Everything is out there on the market to make you successful. Grow lights, terrariums, seed starting mixes, moisture meters, and Garden Coaches. You can have a great salad this summer, with that fresh corn and watermelon.

   Garden sizing has been the hub of great debates from many a people. My take is this. “I have never seen Mother Nature shop at a box store”. She can drop a seed in the crack of a sidewalk, and grow the most delicious tomato there, no human tending it, no added chemicals. Why can’t you? I have seen plentiful container gardens growing on patios, small plots 5ft x 10ft next to a crowded deck, and great herbs in hanging baskets on a balcony. I have seen Cantaloupes growing throughout an Azalea bed. There is no excuse anymore not to at least try, and keep notes. Mother Nature keeps notes in the form of Phenology. Forsythia blooms when the soil temp is 58 degrees at 4 inches deep for at least 5 days straight. Crabgrass needs that same scenario for 7 days to germinate. Therefore, you would put down your Pre-emergent at that time to get the most out of it you could. See? Record keeping… Nothing happens until something else happens, so do something. Get dirty!