All posts by Lisa Dermer

Five Inspiring Reasons to Grow Your Own Transplants

greenhouse-seedlings

Why grow your own transplants from seed?

1. The transplants you grow at home are often healthier, sturdier seedlings than any you could buy. (Seedlings should be short and sturdy, not long and spindly.) That means they’ll suffer less transplant shock, which often means better production.

2. You can time them so they’ll be just the right age when you’re ready to transplant (seedlings you buy are often over-old). This makes for a better start on life and healthier plants overall.

3. You’ll know the full life of your plants, and avoid introducing unknown pesticides or other chemicals into your garden.

4. When you grow your own transplants, you’ll usually end up with your more plants than you need, so you can share or trade with friends or neighbors.

5. Our favorite reason is that sowing your own lets you choose from a much, much larger number of varieties. While the situation is improving, there are still often only a handful of varieties commercially available as plants. The majority of our gardening diversity is only available to gardeners who grow from seed!

At the farm at Southern Exposure, March is when we sow our first round of nightshade crops. We’ll sow another round in late spring: where summers are hot, it’s best to sow a second, later batch for harvest in late summer and early fall. The same plants you put out in spring will be scraggly come September.

We sow peppers first, timing them to be 8-weeks-old at transplanting. Next we sow tomatoes and eggplants, timing the tomatoes to be 6-weeks-old at transplanting. The eggplants go in the ground a couple weeks after the tomatoes.

If you don’t have a greenhouse or cold frame to gow your seedlings, you can grow them inside your house. We recommend growing seedlings under grow lights indoors.

Winter Storage: Garlic & Perennial Onion Bulbs

Lisa Dermer & Ira Wallace

Perennial onion bulbs (shallots, potato onions, and other multiplying onions) and garlic bulbs store very well over the winter provided that they are well-cured, dry, well-ventilated, and not packed over 4 inches deep. See our earlier post on HARVEST AND CURING to learn how to harvest and cure your garlic and perennial onions for optimal storage quality.

Storage Conditions

Ideal conditions are a temperature between either 32-40°F or 50-70°F with 60-70% humidity. Commercially grown garlic is stored in the dark at about 32°F and 65% humidity. Depending on the species and variety, the bulbs may last six months or even longer. Garlic will sprout prematurely if kept between 40-50°F (the temperature of many refrigerators). You can use an unheated room in your house, a root cellar, your garage, etc.

Maintain good air circulation.

Most varieties store reasonably well in a cool room if hung from the ceiling in mesh bags, or spread on shelves in a layer less than 4 inches deep.

Don’t Just Forget About ‘Em!

Inspect stored perennial onions and garlic once a month or more often. Remove bulbs which have sprouted or spoiled or else the whole batch may spoil.

To Plant or Eat?

The larger multiplier onion bulbs should be eaten or planted in the fall because they have a tendency to sprout easily. Large perennial onion bulbs may also be grown in pots or flats in your home during the winter, and used as a source of greens all winter long. Keep the smaller bulbs for kitchen use. Well-cured and -stored bulbs may keep all the way through to the following year’s harvests.

For seed garlic, ideally select large, well-formed bulbs with good wrappers. If your bulbs aren’t high quality — e.g., the wrappers don’t fully cover the differentiated cloves, you can still plant otherwise well-formed cloves.
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Winter Gardening Tasks

By Ira Wallace

It’s mid-January but maybe you’re just itchin’ to do a little gardening despite the cold, dark weather. Here are five easy gardening tasks to scratch your gardening itch.

1) First, if you want to work outside and you did your homework by preparing a bed or two last fall, now is a good time to plant those small potato onions that you put aside in October or November when you planted most of them. (If you’re wondering what the heck is a potato onion, check out Yellow Potato Onions.) Plant on a dry sunny day when the ground isn’t too wet.

2) Starting bulbing onions and bunching onions from seed is another traditional January task. For bulbing onions be sure to pick the right day-length for your area. Use flats filled with good quality organic potting mix or well-screened compost. Either broadcast or sow 1/2″ apart. For bulbing onions transplant when the plants are less than a pencil’s width.

lettuce-seedlings

3) A third January job is starting lettuce in flats. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson started “a thimble-full” of seed every week. For a more modest family size garden, sow a pinch of seed every couple of weeks.

4) Here on our Virginia farm (zone 7 now but we used to be 6b) we start our first broccoli and cabbage in January. For these early sowings we like Calabrese and Green Goliath broccoli and Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage. We plan to set out the seedlings in 6-8 weeks.

5) Rhubarb and globe artichokes are two perennials that you can grow as annuals if you start them now. Six weeks after sowing, vernalize the young plants by keep them below 50°F for another six weeks.