The Novice Gardener: How will I know when to transplant? – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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So, the hard part is over, right? Getting my seeds to germinate and keeping them alive long enough to admire them was a rush… but now what do I do? They’re going to keep getting bigger, and even I know that the small peat pots they’re in aren’t going to do the trick forever. Well, this is where transplanting comes in.

If you live in the northeast like me, it’s a very real possibility to see snow in the middle/end of April, so I won’t be doing any planting outside until mid-May. The best way to help your growing seedlings is to transplant them into bigger pots, as well as begin to feed them small amounts of fertilizer.

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A quick way to determine if your seedlings are ready for transplant and feeding is to count the amount of leaves. Seedlings sprout one set of leaves after bursting up through the soil, but they’ll also sprout a second set of leaves shortly after. These are their first sets of ‘true leaves’. By the time you have 2-3 sets of true leaves, your seedlings are strong enough for a move to a bigger peat/cow pot, and for a little bit of added nutrient now that they’ve taken all they can from the seed starting mix.

I spoke to Jaci about how to know when to transplant what, into what size container, and here’s what she had to say.

Amie: So, give me a little bit of a rundown on transplanting… what to transplant, and when?
Jaci: For the most part, you’re starting things indoors to give them a head start before they go outside. Sometimes things need to be started so far in advance that they outgrow the pot you started them in… hence transplanting. If you’re starting your seeds in seedling flats, you’ll want to transplant your seedlings into 3″-4″ peat or cow pots. The longer amount of time that the seedling will be in it’s ‘final pot’ (the last container before being transplanted into the ground), the bigger pot you’ll need. The general rule of thumb is that you disturb the roots of your seedlings as little as possible.

A: What type of soil should I be transplanting into? I know that I can’t use just the seedling mix again.
J: I suggest transplanting into a potting mix that contains more nutrients. You can also mix in worm castings as a supplement; this is something I do with my own transplants.

A: Are there some seeds that should not be transplanted?
J: Yes. Some plants have such delicate root systems that they can’t realistically be transplanted into another container, like radishes or carrots. These things need to be sown directly into the soil.

A: What about fertilizer? When should I start feeding my seedlings?
J: By the third set of ‘true leaves’, you’ll want to start feeding your seedlings with a greatly diluted fertilizer. You don’t want to burn the seedlings, so be careful how much you use. I suggest using fish emulsion or seaweed fertilizer. You should fertilize about once a week with the diluted mixture. Keep an eye on your seedlings to make sure they stay green and healthy. If they start to change color or look unhappy, they may be missing a key nutrient.

After speaking with Jaci, I went home to transplant my peppers and parsley into their new temporary homes. I moistened my seed starting mix with a little bit of water and mixed it all together with my hands before pressing it gently into some Cow Pots.

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After making a little space with my finger, I gently pulled the seedlings from their original container and pressed them carefully into the holes I’d prepared before pressing the soil around the base.

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After giving them a light feeding, I set my seedlings back under their grow lights once more.

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Here’s how they’re looking now, about a week or two after transplanting. I also started some aspabroc, which you can see next to the parsley!

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How are your seedlings looking? Feel free to share photos of your seedlings on our Facebook page!

Inoculant: When and How to Use it – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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Here’s something you may or may not know about your soil: it can contain BILLIONS of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms; all within just a single teaspoon. Most of these microorganisms are things that you want in your soil… they can form beneficial relationships with the plants you’re trying to grow!

So, what is inoculant? It’s a specific type of beneficial microorganism that attaches and lives on the roots of legumes, such as peas and beans. Legumes have the unique ability to form a symbiotic relationship with certain types of naturally occurring rhizobium soil bacteria. In return for the plant feeding the rhizobia carbon from photosynthesis and giving it a home, the bacteria can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plant can use. After colonizing the roots, the rhizobia soil bacteria encourages the formation of protrusions on the roots, called ‘nitrogen nodules’, where the transformed nitrogen is stored and used by the plant. Meanwhile, the plant provides food in the form carbohydrates to the bacteria.

Why and when would you use inoculantMost soils do not contain large amounts of this specific bacteria, if any, and by using inoculant when you plant your seeds it increases the health and yields of pea and beans crops. It is especially good to introduce these beneficial microorganisms to your garden if you have never grown peas or beans in an area before, or if it has been a few seasons since you last grew these crops in the soil.

How should you use inoculantThere are two ways to use inoculant; in each method, the inoculant needs to be as close possible to the root area of the crop.

For the first method, lightly moisten the seed and mix the inoculant around with the seed. Some people use a sticking agent, like molasses or honey, to help the inoculant adhere to the seed better.

First, mix in your sticking agent with a bit of water.

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Then, add your beans or peas and coat well with the sticking agent and water mixture.

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Add a substantial amount of inoculant to the mix. You want to make sure that your seed is well coated. There isn’t really a situation where you can use too much inoculant, so make sure you really coat all the seed.

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Keep the inoculated seed out of the sun and use within a few hours.

For the second method, make a furrow for your seeds in the soil, then shake the inoculant into it generously. Next, sow your seed into the furrow and water well. You can’t use too much inoculant, especially if you haven’t planted any pea or beans before in the soil. Just make sure you don’t use too little. Make sure to water immediately after planting.

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What’s Wrong with My Seedlings? – Pinetree Garden Seeds

When gardening, it’s a known fact that you will have successes as well as failures. The failures can be caused by some sort of outside force that you have no control over (cat digging up your seedlings, a tray of tiny green shoots getting knocked off the table by accident, etc.), but it can also be caused by the things you do have control over. Over watering, under watering, not enough light, and more. These mistakes are very common, and not something to feel bad about!

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Here are some of the more common issues that gardeners run into, and what may have caused them.

1. Seeds fail to germinate

Possible causes:

  • Temperature of the soil is too hot or too cold. Most seeds like a soil temperature of around 65°-75°. In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster the seed will germinate.

  • Seeds rotting in the soil means it was too wet. Your soil should be moist, but not soaked.

  • Planting depth of the seeds – plant too deeply, and light is unable to reach the seed. Plant too shallow, and too much light can damage the seed. Most seed packets wil instruct you on how deep to plant your seed!

  • Growing medium was allowed to dry out. Your soil should remain moistened but not drenched, and not bone dry.

  • ‘Damping off’ disease, which can affect the seeds before they germinate. Damping off occurs when a pathogen that thrives on too-wet conditions is able to grow and kill the seeds before they can emerge.

  • Improper light (some seeds require light or darkness to germinate)

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A healthy tray of seedlings!

2. Seedlings fall over or start to decay at soil level

This is a sign of damping off disease (fungus organisms that attacks seeds and young seedlings, ultimately killing them). Some causes of damping off are:

  • Cold, wet soil
  • Poor soil drainage
  • Poor air circulation
  • Excessive moisture, over watering.If the soil remains consistently wet, it can rot the roots and prevent the seedling from taking in water. It may look like your seed needs water, but in actuality it needs anything but! Make sure to test the moisture of your soil by feeling with your fingers. Soil should be moist but not soaked.
  • Unsterilized soil mix, or reusing soil from previous seed starting
  • Dirty growing containers
  • Stress from low light

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3. Leaves start to curl under, growth appears stunted or dwarfed

Causes:

  • Too much light. Seedlings need a ‘rest’ period, which is why it is suggested to only provide 14-16 hours of light.
  • Over or under fertilization. Too little nutrients can stunt growth, too much much nutrition can damage the roots and prevent the seedling from taking in water.
  • Low temperatures. Most seeds like a soil temperature of around 65°-75°.
  • Excessive moisture and over watering. If the soil remains consistently wet, it can rot the roots and prevent the seed from taking in water. It may look like your seed needs water, but in actuality it needs anything but! Make sure to test the moisture of your soil by feeling with your fingers. Soil should be moist but not soaked.

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4. Seedlings have pale, discolored leaves; or leggy, spindly growth

Possible causes:

  • Insufficient lighting, or light source too far from your seedlings

  • Fertilizer burn from adding too much fertilizer, which can damage plants root system

  • Excessive watering

  • Nutrient deficiency – check the growing medium you are using to find out if nutrients are supplied in the mix. Some have tiny amounts to just get seedlings going, which means you then have to supply the rest until planted out in the garden.

  • Overcrowding of seedlings. Be sure to thin your seedlings to prevent this.

  • Temperatures too high.  Most seeds like a soil temperature of around 65°-75°.

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5. When transplanting you see poorly developed root systems

Possible causes:

  • Poor drainage

  • Low soil fertility

  • Damage from fertilizer salts, a.k.a. ‘fertilizer burn’, by adding too much fertilizer

  • Low soil temperatures. Most seeds like a soil temperature of around 65°-75°.

  • Compacted soil (lack of air space in growing medium), which can arise from over watering and poor drainage.

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6. Moss or mold is growing on your medium

Possible Causes:

  • Lack of air circulation. Set a fan up to move air around your plants

  • Excessive moisture. If the soil remains consistently wet, it can rot the roots and prevent the seed from taking in water. It may look like your seed needs water, but in actuality it needs anything but! Make sure to test the moisture of your soil by feeling with your fingers. Soil should be moist but not soaked.

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Here’s a short message of encouragement from our master gardener, Jaci!:

“As a gardener, I know how it can be discouraging it can be when some seedlings fail or don’t look perfect. Try not to dwell on it too long; just take the opportunity to gain some knowledge on the possible underlying causes so you can be successful in the seasons ahead. I have been gardening for nearly 20 years, and each year still brings new learning experiences for me.”

Some quick tips for making sure your seedlings flourish!

  • Once your seedlings have 2-3 sets of leaves, the most important thing to do at this point is to supplement them with nutrients! Most seed starting mixes very little nutrition, if any at all. We suggest using ¼ to ½ strength liquid fish/seaweed fertilizer every other watering for your seedlings to be at their happiest!
  • Using a soilless seed starting mix to start seeds is very important. Soilless seed starting mix is light, fluffy, and perfect for your seedlings to grow strong, sturdy roots! Garden soil or potting soil is often far too heavy and lacking in drainage, making it hard on the delicate root systems of the young seedlings.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for seed starting? Share in the comments section!

The Novice Gardener: a new blog series – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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Since the inception of this blog a few years ago, we have covered a multitude of topics regarding gardening; catering to beginner and advanced gardeners alike. This summer, we’re taking on one of our biggest projects yet… building a garden and gardener from the bottom up!

We’ll be covering everything from plotting out your first garden, testing the soil, when to start seedlings, how to transplant, feeding the soil, and much more; all from the perspective of someone who has never gardened before.

The posts will be told from the personal viewpoint of Pinetree blogger, Amie, with education and guidance from our trial gardens manager, Jaci! If you’ve dreamt of having a garden to pluck fresh produce from but have never had the courage to start one… this series is for you. Amie may be well versed in all things photography, social media, and blogging… but caring for a garden full of living plants is far beyond what she’s ever accomplished before!

The movement to grow your own food is strong, and we want all of our new gardening customers to start their gardens off on the right foot! Growing your own produce is the absolute best way to ensure that your food is grown right… without pesticides, herbicides, or any other chemicals that you wouldn’t want you or your family to consume.

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One of the earliest things I remember about summer is snagging a fistful of fresh green beans from my mother’s garden and stuffing them into my mouth. The crisp, juicy snap of a fresh-picked green bean is an experience like no other… and I now know that the ability to recreate that feeling for myself and my own family is within my grasp!

When I approached the trial gardens manager, Jaci, at the beginning of this season about implementing a sort of ‘first time gardener’ blog series for customers who’d never gardened before, she was more than excited. We sat down and did an interview that allowed me to ask questions about where to start with gardening. I’ve always seen having a garden as this huge undertaking; one that I didn’t have the talent nor time for… but speaking with Jaci has abolished all thoughts like this!

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AMIE: So, what I want to do is just talk about gardening in a relatively broad manner, like how I should start the process.

JACI: Okay!

AMIE: I started by picking out the vegetables that I knew I would eat, and wanted to grow. Peas, beans, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, carrots, as well as the Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry.

JACI: Perfect! You’ll want to have at least two of the ground cherry, as they need a second plant to pollinate properly.

AMIE: Oh, good! I didn’t know that. So, what I’m looking for is to do a smaller garden… almost like a sample garden. I don’t want to do more than I can handle.

JACI: That’s perfect. You’ll be able to dip your toes into gardening without getting overwhelmed. It sounds like you’ll want two garden beds.

AMIE: Should I be adapting the square foot gardening method to squeeze in all the plants that I want, or should I be doing rows…?

JACI: It sounds like using a version of the square foot gardening method would be more appropriate, so you can do all the plants you want with the limited space. If I was doing something like this at my house, I’d adapt the square foot method.

AMIE: What do you think the time dedication is going to be for a project like this?

JACI: I would say that you could probably get your two garden beds prepared in a Saturday. Early spring is the most time consuming part of gardening, as you’re germinating and transplanting your seedlings, making sure they’re fed and watered, etc. After your plants are in the garden beds, your time will dedicated to watering and weeding, which isn’t a lot of time… keeping up with the weeding (doing a little bit every day) will keep it from getting out of control. You can also mulch to control weeds and help your soil retain moisture. With the amount that you’re taking on, I’d say that you won’t spending more than a couple hours a week.

AMIE: That’s something that I think puts a lot of people off gardening… they think it’s a huge time dedication. But you’re saying that as long as you’re maintaining your garden instead of doing damage control, the time commitment shouldn’t be more than a few hours a week.

JACI: Right!

AMIE: What are some things that you think someone who’s never gardened before should know right off the bat?

JACI: Soil quality, testing, and amending. You want to make sure that your soil is of the appropriate quality, and that you’re incorporating the appropriate amount of nutrients. You also need to make sure that your spot for your garden beds is exposed to the right amount of sunlight. The last thing is making sure that you have the ability to water your gardens easily. Depending on Mother Nature for watering can result in an unsatisfactory gardening season. I had a season where my watering system broke down, and I had to depend on Mother Nature for water… let’s just say it wasn’t my best season.

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After speaking with Jaci, I set about starting my first sets of veggies… peppers and parsley. She uses seedling flats to start her seeds, but where I only need 1 or 2 plants for my garden, she suggested I start them in fiber strip packs instead. She warned me that I should make sure I don’t put too much soil in each container, as seedlings like to germinate without too much obstruction. Jaci instructed me to use seed starting mix, which is light and fluffy and allows the roots of the seedlings to grow easily. Moisten the seed starting mix before filling your peat pots/seedling flat.

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Our catalog should say how long each seed takes to germinate, or poke up through the soil. If you’ve passed the suggested amount of time and haven’t seen anything come up, you may want to start over.

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Peppers don’t require anything before being planted in the soil, but parsley seed requires being soaked at least 12 hours before being planted. Here’s a link to a blog post about soaking seed! Follow the instructions on the seed packet as to how deep your seeds should be planted, and whether they should be covered with additional soil or not. I covered both sets of seeds lightly after planting 1/4″ down, and gave them a light spray of water before covering them with a plastic dome, setting them on a heat mat, and setting up a plant light above the tray.

Unfortunately, my first attempt at seed starting yielded only failure. My peppers got over watered and drowned, and my parsley dried out without enough water! I’ve since learned to check my seedlings EVERY DAY, to make sure they’re getting enough air/getting enough water.

Here’s an example of what happens when you over water; the result being something called ‘damping off’:

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I’ve since restarted my peppers and parsley, and will update on them soon!

Succession Planting – Pinetree Garden Seeds

Are you in need of a massive supply of a veggie that you consume constantly? Do you love salad fresh from the garden, or to have fresh greens in your smoothies? Well, succession planting may be just the thing to keep your fridge stocked and your body happy! Succession planting maximizes your gardens yields and creates a consistent supply of greens for salads/juicing/smoothies, as well as other popular veggies!

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Our trial gardens manager Jaci suggests these veggies for 7 day intervals – starting a small amount at a time:

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The following veggies are perfect for 10- 14 day intervals:

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 The following veggies are perfect for 14-21 day intervals:

The following veggies are perfect for 21-28 day intervals:

You can even start earlier if you have indoor growing space or a green house.

For example, with spinach, chard, beets, or lettuce, Jaci says she would start 4-6  weeks (Early April for those of us in Maine) before the last frost date in small plug trays, and transplant out after the second set of leaves appear. At that time, or within a day or two of it, she would sow seed of the same crops for a succession of these crops directly in the garden. Then she would follow the above succession times and continue seeding these crops in for most of the season, especially when harvesting for baby salad greens.

You can use these same methods for broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Start the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your last frost date, and when you plant them outside, sow additional seed directly in the garden. This way you are ensured two solid harvests from your broccoli. Then with another seeding of these crops in early July (for fall harvest), this would make three harvests a season.

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Melons and squash can be started indoors 4-5 weeks before your last frost date, then direct seed an additional crop within a few days of transplanting the first crop.

Trial by Seed – Week of 3/21/16 – Pinetree Garden Seeds

This week we’re trialing some new flower varieties, as well as transplanting pepper and eggplant seedlings. A few of the new flowers we’re looking into picking up are Fireweed, Plume poppy, ‘Ivory Towers’ Joe pye weed, American Mountain Mint, as well as a couple new dahlias, rudbeckias, and coreopsis. We’re also trialing a goji berry variety, a new echinacea, and some ornamental grass!

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We’re growing out a few of our own pepper and eggplant varieties for photos, including our Hot Pepper Mix, Kaleidoscope Mix, and the ‘Bride’ eggplant.

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Some new pepper varieties that we’re trialing are ‘Iko- Iko’, ‘Padron’,  ‘Yellow Cayenne’,  ‘Corbaci’, and ‘Red Belgium’.

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Below you’ll see some updates on our cactus/succulent trials! The seedlings are much more visible now.

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Our Jicama is doing very well! As you can see, where the paper towel germinated seedling was once lagging behind, it seems to have picked up the pace and is now looking hardy and healthy!
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