Growing Micro Greens

Micro Greens are a mix of sprouts from a variety of greens  and herbs that range in flavor from sweet to spicy.  Researchers have found that micro greens have 40% more nutrients than fully developed greens.  These nutrient rich greens are extremely easy to grow and can grown indoors all year long.  They make a great addition to any sandwich, soup or salad.microgreens1

I planted some micro greens a few weeks ago and decided to use plastic take out containers that have a lid.  I liked this method because I get to reuse a recyclable material.  The lid on the container is an added bonus as well cause it creates a mini greenhouse.  Last year when I  originally posted this blog I used regular terra-cotta pot, it works just as well.

Fill the container with seed starting mix. I prefer a bagged Organic potting mix formulated especially for seeds,  Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix.

Pre- moisten the soil.  I always find it easier to have the soil moist rather than dry.  When seeds are sown in dry soil and you water seeds can float to the surface.  Directly sow seeds in the soil in rows.  Cover seeds with soil.  Be careful not to over water, this may cause damping off, a fungal disease causing seedlings to break down after germination.  Only water when soil is thoroughly dry.

Close container to create a greenhouse like habitat.  If too much condensation builds vent or open lid during the day.

Seedlings stretching toward the light

Seedlings stretching toward the light

Place in south facing window…If you need more light I would highly recommend adding an artificial light source   I also recommend turning your seed trays to avoid phototropism.  

Harvest greens in 2-3 weeks.

Attracting Birds to your Winter Garden

birdsWinter time can be challenging for birds.  Finding food, shelter and water becomes difficult once the temperatures dip below freezing.

Here are simple tips to keep the birds in your backyard this winter.

Fill bird feeders with food that has a higher fat content than the feed they consume in the spring/summer.  Black oil sunflower seeds has 2x the amount of fat when compared to striped sunflower seeds.  It also feeds a wide range of birds.  Suet packs are another alternative food source that are high in saturated fats.

If you are placing feeders throughout your garden, be sure that they are placed away from any harsh winds with a bit of cover, but in an open enough area for birds to look out for predators. Use these guidelines for both hanging feeders as well as ground feeders.  Make sure you keep feeders filled all winter long.  If they come back to an empty feeder this will deter the flock and other potential birds that may be looking for food.

Birds need water in the winter time too. Make sure you have a open water source that is not frozen, invest in a de-icer for your bird bath.

Don’t forget to give them a home.  Shelter is key. Place bird house in a sheltered location, this will help to keep them safe from any natural predators that may be around. If you have housing already in your garden make sure you clean it out from any previous tenants.

For more on this topic click here:  Garden Minute for video of my quick tips on keeping the birds happy this winter.



Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.

Planting Seeds Indoors


Planning on growing vegetables this spring from seed?  It is not too late to start indoors.  Here are 10 easy tips to get you started.

1. Find the perfect location. Make sure you have a bright sunny location to place your seedlings once they are planted. A South facing window is ideal with plenty of ambient light. If you are placing trays on a windowsill make sure you fully rotate trays 180 degrees to avoid your seedling becoming too leggy.

2. Containers and trays. I recommend using a tray with a liner for starting seeds. The liners are divided into 4 or 6 cells about an inch wide. You can easily find seed starting kits at your local garden center. They usually include the tray with the liner and a clear plastic cover that acts like a mini greenhouse. This allows heat and humidity to build within the trays to help with germination.

3. Add an artificial light source to extend daylight. I recommend a grow light kit, by Hydrofarm that contains a 60 or 150 watt bulb with a clamp lamp for easy attachment. They are easy to install and extremely affordable for a small windowsill garden.

4. Soil. Choose a premium bagged seed starting mix. Espoma Organic seed starting mix is a sterile potting mix fortified with Mycorrhizae to promote strong root growth which is essential when germinating seeds.

5. Select your vegetables. There are many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies to grow. Choose the vegetables you know you and your family will enjoy eating.

6. Sow your seeds. Fill your seed trays with potting medium and moisten the soil. Carefully begin sowing seeds directly into the soil. Depending upon what vegetable or flower seeds you are using you can sow 3 to 4 seeds per cell. Lightly cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting medium and with a mister bottle water in seedlings.

7. Heat things up. As we have mentioned earlier keeping a clear plastic cover on the tray provides a warm cozy environment that encourages germination. You can also place trays on a heat mat that increase the ambient soil temperature by 10 – 20 degrees. Seedling heat mats are affordable and can be easily found at your local garden center. Once your seeds germinate remove from heated mat.

8. Feed your seed. When the seedlings begin to produce their primary cotyledons begin fertilizing. Use a high quality liquid fish / seaweed emulsion. Use half the recommended rate mixed with water and feed once per week.

9. Keep the air moving. Make sure your seedlings are in a well ventilated area. If the air is too stagnate add a small circulating fan to gently move the air around your seedlings.

10. Harden off. When you are ready to bring your seedlings outdoors you want make sure you harden off the tender new plants. Gradually introduce natural sunlight and temperature changes by moving the seedlings outdoors on an overcast day or a shaded porch for a few hours at a time. Increase the amount of light light each day and then transplant into the ground when the last threat of frost has passed.

Hope you find these quick and easy tips helpful and encourages you start your seeds today.
Let me know what seedlings are you planning to grow this spring.

Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.

Terrarium Demonstration By Tina Sottolano Of Gardens On The Go

How to make a Terrarium in 5 easy steps.
Terrariums are on of the easiest indoor gardening activities to create and care for, very little light and water are needed.

1. Choose a container. Glass jars are great for terrariums, they hold the moisture and humidity, and easy to find around the house.

2. Select plants for your terrarium. Choose 1-1 1/2” plants with varying colors and textures to provide visual interest when creating your design. Here are a few of my favorites; Fern varieties, Selaginella moss, Fittonia,’ nerve plant’, Hypoestes, ‘polka dot’ plant, Strawberry Begonia. They love the moist humid conditions of a terrarium.

3. Add potting medium. Place a 1/4” layer of horticultural charcoal at the bottom of jar. Next add a 1/4”  layer of river gravel and a 1/4” layer of African Violet soil.

4. Arrange and plant. When planting start in the middle of the jar and then work around the sides, this makes it easy to maneuver in the jar. Loosen root ball and flatten, push back still and place, then fill in.

5. Top dress with moss and water. Create your own mini woodland landscape by adding a few twigs, decorative stone, or pinecone. You can even add a mini animal or garden fairy. Once you have watered your terrarium close the top, if the jar has a lid. You should begin to dee condensation build within the jar. Place jar in indirect light and enjoy. The condensation and humidity build up provides enough moisture for the terrarium to sustain it self for months.

For a closer look on how to create a terrarium click on the video above.

Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.

Top 10 Easy To Grow Low Light Plants


Aglaonema, ‘Chinese Evergreen’

Some of the most colorful and interesting plants grow in low light.  Here are 10 easy and beautiful low light plants:

1. ZZ plant 12- 18” tall

2.  Pothos -trailing habit with long runners, yellow/green leave

3. Spathiphylum, ‘Peace Lily’ 18-36” tall, white flower spike, keep plant evenly moist

4. Dracaena has variegated foliage

5. Maranta, Prayer Plant, 6-8” tall

6. Aglaonema, ‘Chinese Evergreen’, 18″ tall grown in varied colors with variegated leaves.

7. Pepperomia 4-10” tall

8. Arrowhead Vine was a bush like habit in pale green to white foliage


Phalaenopsis, ‘Moth Orchid’

9. Phalaenopsis, ‘Moth Orchid’  12” and 18-24” tall

10. Rex Begonia  4-8” tall

If you think your house is too dark, give one of these plants a try!  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturalist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.

Propagating Succulents

succulentsSucculents are the hottest trend In gardening but can be expensive.  It takes very little time to grow plants from your existing plants by propagation.  Here are some tips when propagating succulents.

In a pot or tray filled with cacti/succulent soil, be sure to pre-moisten soil, cut a leaf from the main plant and lay in the soil.  Be sure to cover the ends of cutting.  I like to lay them In pattern to maximize the space…plus they look pretty too.

Place pot or tray in a south facing window and water only when dry, check every 10 days or so.

In a few weeks you’ll see roots growing and rosettes forming.
It’s that easy!

February Gardening ‘To Do’ List

black and white watering can

Before the spring season officially arrives get started in the garden with these projects:

1. Start seeds for cool season crops. Now is the perfect time to plant seeds for lettuces, cabbage, broccoli and early fruiting tomatoes. You can even start planting flowering verbena, stock and pansies. Be sure to check the seed packets to check germination times.

2. Start fertilizing houseplants.  Schedule weekly fertilizing for your houseplants. Use an all purpose 20-20-20 formula. Remember to mist leaves 2-3x per week. And rotate 1/4 turn.

3. Prune fruit trees and spray with horticultural oil.

4. Sharpen tools and take inventory of your tool shed.

5. Cut branches to force flowering indoors. Branches like magnolia, forsythia, and quince are great to force flowering so you can enjoy a taste of spring.

6. Force bulbs to flower indoors. Tulips and daffodils will bloom in mid March if planted now.  Crocus and grape hyacinths will bloom in early March.