gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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Sprouting Brussels Sprouts

I’m going to be perfectly honest, as much as it pains me. Last year, for the first time ever, I decided to grow Brussels sprouts. In pots. About 6 plants per pot.

I can almost hear the collective chuckle from those of you that are familiar with or know how to grow Brussels.

Here’s a picture of one of my plants this year:

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It’s a good 3 feet high and almost as wide. So…imagine 6 of these in a pot. They didn’t survive beyond about 4 inches and didn’t even come close to sprouting sprouts. It was quite an aha moment for me when I toured the Royal Botanical Gardens last fall and saw how these interesting veggies should be grown.

Brussels like the cooler weather, so start them early, indoors, if you can. Six weeks or so before the last frost for your area. Plant the seedlings 12 to 24 inches apart (and not in pots) outdoors when the frost risk is over and give them plenty of water, fertilizer and sunshine. I had mine in the ground the first of June and am harvesting now.

Our summer here was extremely hot and dry (unusual for this area), so not the best climate for Brussels, but I certainly had more success this time and will definitely grow them again next year. The excess heat tends to stop the sprouts from forming a compact ball, l so I did end up with some unformed, loose leaves.

They mature from the bottom up along the stalk and as they reach about 1 inch in diameter are ready to harvest. Or you can wait and cut the entire stalk.

These actually look big and showy in the garden and are fun to grow.

However, I haven’t completely given up on my pot theory, but maybe I’ll try just one in a pot next year…

Brussels sprouts on one of my plants, and a full stalk from another cut down.


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Grow Up! (Veggies, that is)

We’ve been experiencing one of the hottest and driest summers in years. It’s what I call a “good old-fashioned summer”. The way summer is meant to be. And while I’m watering a tad more than I like to, the heat sure is keeping it’s end of the bargain and the veggies are growing better than ever.

One way to make use of small space, or to just provide more room to grow other plants is by “growing up”. I’ve made simple bamboo trellis’ for both cucumbers and squash to help keep the fruit off the ground and save the space for other veggies (like the sweet potatoes, which are growing like crazy!)

These trellis’ are made up of three or four, 6-foot bamboo poles, from the dollar store, wound with a strong string, or light twine. The twine allows for the gentle tendrils of the plants to grab on and reach for the top. I’ve had great success “growing up” both cucumbers and squash.

Or consider creating an A-Frame. This year, it’s doing exactly what I want it to. The squash are all growing up the side of the frame (plastic frame with bird netting), and the sunflowers can be seen over the top of the A-frame and are just about to pop. The tomatoes are growing like weeds at the other end of the bed.

As much as I don’t want this summer to end….I am looking forward to harvest time, it’s going to be the best ever!

 

 

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Spaghetti Squash starting to grow


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How To Prevent Damping Off in Seedlings (now that garden season is in the air!)

 

Nothing is quite as frustrating for home gardeners as the joy of seeing newly planted seeds begin to sprout and flourish one day and then discovering them collapsed and wilted the following day.  Damping off is a fungal or fungal-like disease that makes seemingly healthy seedlings suddenly topple and die or, at times, never emerge at all. Although damping off is usually fatal, it is preventable. With a little attention to detail combined with good planting practices, your young seedlings will continue to grow into the healthy plants you want them to be.

The Cause

A number of pathogens live in soil, just waiting for the right conditions to occur before they step forward. The common pathogens that cause damping off are Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Fusarium and Phytophthora. They all develop and thrive in poor soil and less than ideal environmental conditions.

Soil Conditions

Use a good-quality, soilless potting mix to start your seeds. Fresh potting soils are typically free from harmful organisms, and the nature of the mixes provide good drainage, another important factor in reducing the risk of damping off. Soggy soil encourages fungal or fungal-like growth. Keep opened bags of soil away from floors and other unclean surfaces that could transfer contaminants into the clean planting medium. When planting, place seeds at the soil depth indicated on their seed packet. Planting seeds deeper than required in any soil may slow their germination process and ultimately damage the seeds.

Humidity

Good air circulation and room ventilation are other factors in reducing the humidity buildup that promotes pathogen growth; do not crowd pots or flats, or the seeds when placing them in those containers. As they begin to grow, thin seedlings — or remove some seedlings — according to the seed package directions to keep air adequately flowing around them, which reduces the amount of moisture on the plants. In order to thin seedlings, snip or gently pull out crowded seedlings, leaving the seed package direction’s required spacing between those that stay in the containers.

Temperature and Water

Cool soil temperatures before the seeds begin to germinate promotes the risk of damping off. Help ensure healthy seed germination by keeping the soil at a consistent temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the seeds’ entire early growth period. Keep the seeds and shoots evenly moist but not waterlogged until the risk of frost passes and weather conditions are favorable to move the growing seedlings into an outdoor garden.

Other Considerations

Many pathogens, including those that cause damping off, are transferred to new plantings via garden tools. Before working with plants and soil, or after contact with any disease, rinse your tools with a weak solution that is one part bleach to nine parts water. Leave the solution on the tools for at least 15 minutes, rinse it off and air-dry the tools. Planting seeds in new pots and flats as often as possible prevents contamination. If, however, using new pots and flats is not an option, sterilize the old containers along with your tools. Wear eye protection and gloves when cleaning pots and tools.


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New Raised Beds

Finally got around to building a couple of large raised beds yesterday to start growing veggies next year. Right now, most veggies are grown here in pots and overall do quite well. Tomatoes, peppers and snow peas are coming along nicely and I’ve created a “wall” of pole beans by placing 3 large pots side by side, complete with tall bamboo poles for the vines to twine along. The plants are thriving right now, and with any luck, there will be beans a plenty over the next few weeks. The squash and cucumbers are doing well and before long will fill up the corner with their twisty vines. (Squash is my favorite!)

The raised beds will allow for easy maintenance gardening, good drainage and don’t take up the entire planting area, so there’s still plenty of room for the other flowers and shrubs. The height also will help keep hungry critters out and will allow for planting just a little earlier in the season next year as the soil warms up – usually quicker than the ground does. Weed control becomes less of an issue – because the plants are close together in a raised bed, as they grow they shadow the soil, preventing those annoying weeds from sprouting – they need sun, and without it, won’t grow.

And raised beds just keep the area neat and tidy looking.

We’re composting like crazy to add nutrients into the beds before the winter – and will have it all ready to go once the snow is gone next spring and the green begins to reappear.

I’m already looking forward to the start of the January delivery of seed catalogs.