Archive for the ‘Seeds & Bulbs’ Category

Planting bulbs in the fall is not an instant gratification project. But once they bloom in the spring, all the work is worthwhile.

These beautiful fall days are perfect for being outside and I have a great reason to justify spending the day in the yard: it’s time to plant the promise of spring. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus need to be planted now before the ground freezes.

While I love to see the color of spring bulbs after the bleakness of winter, digging the holes to plant bulbs is always a chore to me, probably because I tend to put bulbs in places I don’t otherwise dig. Small hand held bulb planters are good for loose soil and smaller bulbs that do not get planted deeply.  However, for larger sized, deeply planted bulbs, consider a full sized bulb planter like the Radius Ergonomic Garden Pro Bulb Auger to make digging less of a chore.

A friend of mine also has wonderful results “digging” holes for bulbs using a cordless drill with a bulb auger, which looks like a large drill bit.  In fact, she also uses this auger with the drill to make holes for planting other things year round, like tomato plants and annuals. (She’s offered to let me try it, and I just might!)

To get the best display from your spring bulbs fertilize with Espoma Bulb-Tone when planting your bulbs. Bulb-Tone is an organic fertilizer that boosts the growth of roots and blooms. If you have some left over after planting your fall bulbs, it can be applied in the spring to fertilize older, established bulbs too.

The crisp air of autumn is here, but it’s time to plant the signs of spring. (As if we needed an excuse to dig in the dirt this weekend!)

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Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) - detail ...


Annual flowers complete their life cycle in one growing season. They sprout in the spring, grow foliage, then produce flowers and finally seeds. Once they have produced seed, usually at the end of the season, the plants begin to die. You can prolong the flowering and life cycle by deadheading flowers. The plant will continue to bloom until it is allowed to produce seeds that mature. After a certain number of seeds are produced, the plant will cease blooming. If you have great performers that you want to re-seed themselves, then don’t deadhead everything. Towards the end of the season, leave some flowers to produce and scatter seed for next year.


Biennial plants complete their life cycle over two growing seasons. The first season they produce only foliage, no flowers. The second growing season they form flowers and produce seeds; then, the mother plant dies. Common biennial flowers include Canterbury bells, Forget-Me-Nots, Foxglove and Hollyhocks. Biennials should be planted every year, so that there are always year old plants to produce flowers.


Perennial plants have a life span of more than two years, some may live for decades. Tender perennials die back in the winter, and produce all new growth, and flowers and seeds, every season.  Perennials are a great investment. You will plant once, and enjoy them year after year. Many of them will become fuller and fuller until you can divide them and have even more plants!

An interesting note, many of the plants we grow as annuals are really perennials when grown in their native climates. Examples include petunias, geraniums, tomatoes, and peppers. If not killed by cold winters, they would live for many seasons.

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State fruit - Tomato

Say it any way you want, there are so many varieties of tomatoes to choose from, it can be paralyzing to try to choose what to plant.Here are 4 things to consider when buying tomato seeds or seedlings.

Disease Resistance

There are varieties that are resistant to certain diseases. Many hybrids are developed specifically for that trait. If you have struggled with disease problems, or know of one common in your region, by all means choose a resistant variety. If you aren’t sure, or are just starting out, you might want to plant a couple of different cultivars, and see if the disease resistant one outperforms the others.

Try: Celebrity

Days to Harvest

If you want to have the first ripe tomato on the block, or you live in a region with short summers, choose varieties that mature the fastest. Some tomatoes are ready to begin harvesting 60 days after transplanting, while others need 85 days or more to mature.

Try Early Girl for early harvesting

Growing Habit

Choose plants with growing habits that match your needs. If you are growing in containers, there are tomatoes that grow on compact, bushes suitable for small spaces. Try Patio Hybrid Tomato

Determinate varieties have a bush-like growing habit. They require less tying and staking, but they produce all of their fruit in a short span of time and then they are done. Try Rutgers and Roma

Indeterminate varieties have a vine-like growing habit. They are more sprawling, and they will continue to grow and produce tomatoes until killed by frost.

Do you want slicing tomatoes? Canning tomatoes? Salad tomatoes? Read the package to see what size fruit it will produce, and whether it’s what you have in mind.

Hybrid or Open-Pollinated

Plant breeders create hybrid plants by cross-breeding two different varieties. Hybrid plants may be more productive and and are often bred to resist disease or cultural problems.

Seeds from open pollinated and heirloom varieties can be saved and planted next year. Hybrids can not. They will not produce the same quality of plant, and so new seed must be purchased each season. Many gardeners have favorite cultivars that have been passed along from other gardeners and past generations.

Of course, if you have some favorite varieties, go ahead and plant them, even if they aren’t the most logical choices.  Plant what you love, and you’ll be a happy gardener!

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Sunflower seedlings, just three days after ger...

If you have been starting seeds indoors for any length of time, you may have had experience with “damping off”. This fungal infection causes the seedlings to shrivel at the soil line and die, usually very suddenly. There’s not much you can do to save them at that point, but you can take some measures to prevent damping off, and give you stronger healthier seedlings in general.

  • Use sterile planting medium.
  • Resist the temptation to use garden soil, or re-use potting soil. You may be introducing pathogens at the plant’s most vulnerable time.
  • Give your seedlings plenty of light, direct sun if possible.
  • Provide ventilation. A fan will help, but at least make sure your seeds are in an area where air flows freely.
  • Thin crowded seedlings. This will strengthen them in general since they won’t be fighting for available resources, and allow better air circulation as well.
  • Don’t over-water. Water from the bottom, and keep the growing medium moist, not soaking.

If you had a problem with damping off, don’t despair. Throw out the diseased seedlings and planting mix and start again. This is one good reason to use individual “plugs” rather than a large seed bed. It would make it easier to remove just the infected plugs without disturbing healthy growth. In any case, you’ve got plenty of time, and looking at the list above, you can probably figure out where you need to improve conditions.

Happy seed starting!

Jiffy  Carefree Greenhouse

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English: In the seed shop district of Wuhan (a...

1. Don’t plant too early. Some seeds sprout and grow quickly, and they can get leggy and weak if they have to wait too long to go outside. So, how do you know when to plant? Read the seed packet. It will tell you whether indoor sowing is recommended, and if it is, it will say how many weeks before the last frost date you should plant.  Here is a great resource from the Old Farmer’s Almanac for determining planting dates:  2012 Best Planting Dates.  Just enter your city or zip code for personalized results.

2. Label your flats. I know, you think you’ll remember, or recognize what comes up, but 6 weeks from now, I assure you there will be some confusion. Use a Sharpie on Popsicle sticks or tape to mark what went in where. Sometimes I tape a piece of the seed packet to the tray.

3. Cover your seeds. Many seed trays come with a clear plastic top. If you don’t have that, use  plastic wrap. Covering your trays after planting helps keep moisture in, and it keeps the seeds a little warmer too. Mist or water very gently when needed.

4. Fight Disease. Once most seeds have sprouted, uncover the flat to let air circulate. Seedlings with too little air circulation are susceptible to damping off, a fungal disease that strikes quickly and rots stems at the soil line. It happens will little warning, and can wipe out your baby crop over night, so make sure you’ve got some air flow. It’s not a bad idea to run a fan gently in the room, just to keep the air moving. Thinning seedlings and watering properly will also help prevent damping-off disease.

5. Don’t crowd seedlings. Thin them ruthlessly, so they don’t have to compete for water and nutrients.  It’s better to have one strong plant than 3 weak ones.

6. Add light. To grow straight, strong stems, your seedlings need 12-16 hours of daylight. That’s impossible at this time of year, without adding artificial light. There are lots of economical grow lights, and it will make a tremendous difference in the quality of your little plants.

7. Water gently. Preferably from the bottom, or mist the soil surface. This one can be a little tricky. Over-watering is another invitation to damping-off disease, but tiny plants can also dry out quickly if they aren’t watered. Check daily and add enough water to keep the soil moist, not water-logged.

8. Harden Off. Tender seedlings won’t tolerate an abrupt change to outdoor sunlight and wind. Put them out in a shady, sheltered spot, for a few hours, then bring them in. Slowly increase exposure over a week. That gives your little plants time to acclimate to sunlight, and grow stronger to withstand an all-day breeze. Then, if the weather forecast co-operates, move them to their permanent home.

Need Seeds? Check out our huge selection

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RadishIt’s mid-January. The vegetable garden seems like a far-off dream.

But if you want to grow broccoli, beets, carrots, peas and other cool season crops, the time is NOW. These early season crops can tolerate cold soil and cool air temperatures; in fact, they will grow and produce best before the weather gets too warm.

That means you need to:

  • List what you are planning to grow
  • Look up the last frost date for your area
  • Read the seed packets to find out when and where to plant.

Some vegetables can be started indoors to give them a head start, and then transplanted. These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other Brassicas, as well as lettuce and leeks. Their seeds can also be planted outside a little later. Other crops should be direct sown into the garden. This group includes peas, carrots, beets, and spinach. Spinach and peas can go in as soon as you can work the soil.

Here’s a partial list of cool-season crops: Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Chard, Chinese Cabbage, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard, Onion, Parsnip, Pea, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Spinach, and Turnip. Shop for Vegetable Seeds.

So, once you’ve identified your last frost date, you can work back and see what your first priorities need to be. Buy your seeds now, so the planting dates don’t sneak up on you.
Then make your plan. What’s going directly into the garden, and when? What will you start from seed indoors? Do you have trays, planting media, a grow light?

It’s mid-January, and it’s time to garden –so have some fun!

Share with us. What are your early season favorites? Are you trying anything new this year?

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English: Heirloom Tomatoes

It seems like planting seeds has gotten complicated recently  

Should you only plant organic seeds? Arent’ all seeds organic? What about heirlooms? Are hybrids bad? Or good? Let’s try to define some of these terms, although, even that can be complicated.

Organic Seeds Seeds are living things, so in that sense yes, they are all organic.

But in this case the term “organic” defines how they were produced. The USDA defines organic seeds this way:  USDA organic seeds are seeds that are grown without the aid of synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. Pretty simple.

Heirloom Seeds– Here things get a little fuzzier.
One school of thought uses the age of that particular species. So some say the variety has to have been grown for the last 100 years to be considered an heirloom; others say 50 years. Still another camp uses 1945 as the defining date, since the end of WWII is when hybrids started being widely grown and sold.

Another school of thought defines heirloom the same way you’d describe a piece of jewelry or furniture- a treasured cultivar that has been grown by a family and handed down from one generation of gardeners to the next many times.
Oftentimes, the value of an heirloom is that over time it has adapted to its local environment, developing resistance to pests, and thriving in the weather extremes of that particular climate.

The one common definition of an heirloom seed is that it must be open pollinated, and reliably reproduce itself from seed year after year, maintaining its same characteristics. Seeds from an heirloom plant can be saved and planted the following year, and counted on to grow and produce as in the previous years.

Hybrids are developed by combining specific characteristics of multiple varieties to produce a plant that meets certain qualifications. It may bred to be disease resistant, produce bigger yields, fruits of uniform size, or long-lasting  fruits.

Hybrid varieties cannot be planted from last year’s seed. The seed may not sprout at all, and if it does, it probably will not give you the same plant you originally grew. It may not produce flowers or fruit, or look anything like its parent. That’s why hybrid seeds have to be purchased every year.

What’s the advantage? Reliability for one. If you want a tomato resistant to a certain disease, buy that variety. Looking for big tomatoes, hard to bruise berries, or early crops? There are hybrids developed to address all of those concerns- for one season. Next year, if you were happy with the result, you’ll buy the same seed again.

Browse our BIG seed collection

So that’s the scoop. There is a seed for every style of gardener, and a seed that will meet almost any demand. (I have not found a plant that will weed it’s own flowerbed, YET).  So don’t get bogged down. Try something new, try something you already love, and every year you’ll learn a little more.

What are you planting new this year? Share with us here…..

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