Garden adventures and advice…

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Seed Starting….Easy Peas…ie

For those of us that like to grow-our-own, that time is once again here. The ability to walk around the garden at the end of the day collecting dinner or cutting flowers for the table is truly an exciting experience; every time I take that walk, I am overwhemed at what I have created.
Here’s a few things to consider if you plan to grow from seed (and if you don’t, give it a try – it’s easy!)
Use the best quality seed you can afford. If you have seed but are unsure of how old it is or where it originated, don’t use it. Buy new.
Good lighting is essential. Seeds need light to germinate. And heat.
If planting indoors, use a good soilless potting mixture. This provides the needed air circulation, good drainage and typically these mixtures contain no diseases or pests. Garden soil is too heavy for young seedlings – and may contain pathogens that little plants can’t fight.
Use the seeding guidlines on the package. It will tell you how far in advance of the usual last frost date to plant – if you’re planting indoors, and explain how and when to seed if planting outdoors. Some plants prefer the cooler weather, some need the summer heat. When in question for any part of seed starting – follow the seed package instructions and information – the seed growers know what they’re doing! (Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.)
What’s best to start indoors?
      – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, cauliflower, perennials and  herbs
Best for either starting ahead or directly in the ground?
     – greens, kale, chard, cucumbers, squash, melons, sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds
Best for sowing directly in the ground?
     – peas, carrots, beans, corn, radishes, parsnips, onions, turnips, morning glory, scarlet runner, sweet pea.

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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.


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.