Tag Archives: seedlings

8 Common Mistakes When Starting Seeds

Starting seeds indoors is one of the best parts of gardening. You can finally get your hands in the soil after a winter break. A gardener’s shelf full of tiny seedlings is a sure sign that’s spring is on its way! Unfortunately as with everything in gardening growing transplants from seeds has its challenges. If you want to have awesome seedlings this year be sure to avoid these common mistakes.

Not providing supplemental light.

Unfortunately, setting your seedlings by a window probably isn’t going to give them enough light to become strong and healthy seedlings. Odds are they’ll become tall and spindly, reaching towards the light. You’ll have to provide them with some form of supplemental light. You don’t need to buy actual grow lights, simple garage or shop lights will do. You want the lights to be as close as possible to the tops of the plants without burning them. Setting up your lights so you can easily adjust their height as the plants grow is a great idea.

Not addressing a variety’s specific needs.

While many seeds are pretty simple to grow, just push it some dirt and water, others require a bit more care. Some seeds need to be soaked overnight before planting, some need light to germinate, while still others need to scarified. Always check package directions and do research as needed. 

Not hardening off your seedlings.

As your seedlings are accustomed to a climate controlled life indoors, they could succumb to shock if you decide to set them out without first acclimating them to their new environment. Start by setting them outside for just a few hours per day slowly adding time over the course of two weeks. This will allow them to adjust the intense sunlight, temperature, and wind. You can take this a step further by transplanting your seedlings on an overcast day so they don’t have to struggle with intense light on top of the shock of transplant.

Over or under-watering.

Seedlings should always be kept moist but they’ll rot if they’re just sitting in water. Whatever you plant your seedlings in should a hole or holes in the bottom and a tray underneath to catch any excess water. You also need to ensure that they don’t dry out completely which can happen surprisingly quickly as seedlings grow larger.

Not putting them somewhere noticeable.

Unless you’re a full-time market gardener it’s easy to forget about and neglect your seedlings. Setting up your shelf somewhere you walk by often will help you remember to care for them and make it easy for you to spot problems as soon as they arise. 

Not keeping them warm enough.

While some plants like spinach and lettuce germinate and grow well in cool weather, others like tomatoes and peppers like things pretty warm. If you notice that your seeds are taking a long time to germinate, are slow growing, or you live in a cool or drafty home you may want to invest in a heat mat. These can be placed underneath seedling trays and will help the soil stay at an optimum temperature. 

Using garden soil instead of a proper potting medium.

You don’t necessarily have to buy a potting mix but you do need something other than plain old garden soil. Potting mixes always include something like peat moss to hold some moisture but are also light so that they drain well. You can find many DIY recipes for potting soil on the internet. If you’re purchasing soil and want it to be organic look for something that’s OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified.

Starting them too early and/or not potting them up.

If you start your plants too early they can outgrow your pots before your ready to plant them out. In this case, you’ll need to pot them up. If you don’t do this they can become root bound which may stunt their growth and weaken them.  

If you’ve struggled with growing your own transplants in the past being careful to avoid these common mistakes can help you have a productive garden this year. 

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How to Make Money From Your Backyard Garden

Thankfully gardening is a relatively cheap hobby. In fact it can save you money, hello free produce, flowers, and herbs! Plus there’s no need to pay for a gym membership when you’ve got loads of weeding to do, am I right? That being said it’s absolutely a big commitment of time and effort. If you want your garden to do more for you can learn to market some of your backyard garden products.

This is not a guide to starting a farm and earning a full-time income. That, is way more involved than one post could ever hope to be. However using a couple of these ideas you can earn a little extra cash. Maybe you can use to buy seeds next year or that wheel hoe you’ve always wanted.

Start extra seeds.

If you start your own plants from seed during the spring try starting a few extra to offer for sale to local gardeners. Plant starts are really expensive even at the big box stores and unless you have a big greenhouse in your area it’s often hard to find much variety. If you have the best heirloom tomato starts in town let people know! Talk to friends and neighbors or post a few flyers.

Small co-ops/health food stores.

While your backyard garden may never be big enough to sell wholesale to your local grocery store you may find a nearby health food store or food co-op that will take some produce off your hands. These stores generally require a less consistent product and supply and may be willing to work with your restrictions. It never hurts to ask.

Set up a roadside stand.

Roadside stands can be as simple as a table and some baskets. If you’ve got kids this may be a great opportunity in lieu of a lemonade stand. If you’re not on a road with a high volume of traffic you may want to set up elsewhere. Some businesses allow people to set up a table with produce in their parking lot, just ask around.

For both options it’s good to check on things like zoning laws and local “peddler’s laws” before setting up shop.

Rent a booth at your local farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets can be one of the best places to sell produce and other garden products because that’s what people are going there to buy. However there’s several things worth noting about farmer’s markets before you count on them to increase your payday. First most farmer’s markets have a fee and many now require sellers to carry liability insurance, a cost your gardening side business may not be able to afford. On top of that you need to consider the cost of fuel to get you to and from the market.

Second at larger farmer’s markets you’ll be competing with growers who spend their lives doing this. Customers are more likely to spend their dollars at booths with beautiful displays and loads of produce. At larger markets you’ll need something special to stand out. Check out your local farmer’s market before renting a booth for the season.

Third because farmer’s markets are better for everyone involved if there’s reliable vendors, markets generally require commitment for the entire season. You’ll have to dedicate a lot of time to the market itself plus set-up and tear-down, travel, and market prep.

Attend local sales.

If farmer’s markets don’t work out you may find some local sale events that will work well for your products. You may find some church, craft, or local artisan sales that will accept your products and are easier to handle than committing to a farmer’s market.

Try opening an Etsy shop.

Blue Clarage Dent Corn

While you may not be able to sell fresh produce online there’s plenty of garden products you can. Think about things that keep well like seeds, popcorn or flint/dent corn, potatoes, onions, garlic, dried herbs or flours. Herbs especially can be grown and dried for teas or you can grow plants like Dyer’s Coreopsis which can be sold to fiber artists.

If you’re not a fan of Etsy you could try your hand at making your own website or using a site like Facebook’s sale groups, Ebay, or Craigslist.

Sell garden amendments.

If you’ve been an avid gardener for years chances are you know how to make a few of your own garden amendments. Whether it’s compost tea kits, worm castings from your awesome vermicompost set up, bio-char, or bags of compost try selling some of your homemade garden improvements.

**Additional Tips**

  • Wherever and whatever you decide to sell be sure to check on any regulations before offering your product. Things like local food laws, zoning regulations, and organic standards are all important to look into.
  • Build a network. Especially for a small producer the best way to make sales is to get to know your neighbors. You may find people that have always wanted a place to buy really hot peppers or realize you have a neighbor that loves kohlrabi. People won’t buy from you if they don’t know you’re selling!
  • Keep it fun. Unless you intend become a full-time farmer this side gig isn’t meant to be stressful. If it takes all the joy out of gardening it may be wise to scale back.

For most people gardening is either a hobby or a profession but there’s no rule that says your backyard garden can’t make you money. If it’s something you love and are working hard at anyway selling your garden products can be a great way to bring in extra cash.

How do you make money from your garden? Did we miss any great ideas? Let us know.

Transplanting Tomato Seedlings

Most of you have probably already transplanted your tomato seedlings, but here at SESE we do it a bit later than most. Why? Because we want the vast array of tomatoes we grow for the tastings at our late August open house and at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival in September to be ready for picking just at the right time for those events. We’re growing more than 70 varieties for you to come and taste!

Just a tiny selection of the tomatoes going in our tasting patch
Just a tiny selection of the tomatoes going in our tasting patch

Here’s the technique we use for quick and successful transplanting of tomato seedlings:

After hardening them off for a couple weeks in our cold frames, we’re ready to take them out to the garden. For us, this means lots of careful labelling and mapping to keep all those varieties clearly separated!

Step 1: We start by spreading hay thickly over the whole area where the plants will go. This serves to keep the ground cool, hold moisture in, and choke out weeds, and in the long term it adds organic matter to improve the soil. If you try this, make sure you get hay that hasn’t been treated with herbicides or pesticides. You’ll also want to get hay that’s been sitting for a year or so, giving all the seeds a chance to have sprouted and died, or you’ll be growing grains alongside your tomatoes.

Step 2: Make a nest in the hay at each place where you want a tomato to go. Space them about 4 feet apart and make each nest about a foot in diameter, pushing the hay away until you can see the ground.

tomato planting nest

Step 3: Dig a hole at the bottom of the nest, toss in a double handful of compost, and mix the compost with the soil you have loosened.

removing tomato seedling from flat

Step 4: Gently pull the seedling out of its container and lay it on its side at the bottom of the hole you’ve dug, all the way at one edge of the nest space. This way you can cover not just the root ball, but also a good portion of the stem with soil. You want to bury a third to a half of the plant. Tomatoes will grow roots along any portion of the stem which is underground, and this method gives you a much sturdier root structure. Be careful that the sideways portion of the stem is supported by soil so it doesn’t break.

tomato seedling planted

Step 5. Cover the root ball and stem portion with soil and press it down firmly. Good soil to root contact is essential to get the plant sucking up water and nutrients right away. Then pull the hay back into place all around the stem of the plant, tucking it in cozily. Finally, give it a good watering and watch your baby grow!

Tomato seedling tucked in

If you do come to the Heritage Harvest Festival, here are a few of our top picks to look out for:

  • Rutgers 250 This is a brand new variety which brings added durability to a flavourful old heirloom and we plan to add it to our 2017 catalog.
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry This one is always a favourite at tastings, an intensely sweet wild cherry tomato originating in Mexico.
  • Garden Peach A delightful novelty tomato disguised as a peach.