Hardening Off Seeds

Cabbage starters Once you have successfully grown your seeds indoors you need to move them outdoors for the growing season.

Seedlings are very tender and delicate in the early stages of growth.  They need to be moved outside gradually to become adjusted to a brighter light source and fluctuating temperatures, this is called ’hardening off.’

Hardening off is not as scary as it may sound. Transitioning your seedlings can be done in a few easy steps.

1.Take your seedlings outside to a protected location. Once the temperatures reach the mid 60’s to 70 degrees move seedling trays to a covered patio or any sheltered location for one hour. Increase the time one hour per day.

2.Be sure to keep them away from any direct light and harsh winds in the beginning.  I usually like to do this on a cloudy or overcast warm spring day.  By the end of the week they will have been exposed to 7 hours of light.  Continue moving them out to a more direct light source gradually.

3. Don’t let seedlings dry out.  Make sure you keep your trays evenly moist.  The gradual introduction to light and air, from ambient wind or breeze, will dry plants out faster than if they we’re in a controlled environment.

Your seedlings are like your little babies.  After all you did cultivate them from seed.  Treat them tenderly and give them a fighting chance once you send them out to the big world called your garden.


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.


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.


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!


Forcing Bulbs Indoors

DSC_9471Spring can’t come fast enough for myself and my friends who love to garden. Forcing bulbs indoors during the winter is the perfect excuse to get our hands dirty and do some gardening. Here are a few things to remember if you are planning to force flowering bulbs.

Fooling mother nature is not as hard as you think. To force spring bulbs in January and February you have to plan in the autumn. If you have purchased already bulbs you may notice that the package is labeled “prechilled”. if they are not chill bulbs for approximately 10-15 weeks at 35-45 degrees depending on the type of bulbs. Place bulbs in a cold dry place, like an unheated basement or even a refrigerator. Once they are planted blooming occurs in 10-12 weeks. Amaryllis and paperwhites don’t need to be prechilled, they prefer cooler temps to set roots and flower in 6-8 weeks.

1. Plan ahead. Purchase bulbs in fall from a local nursery or garden center. Look for bulbs that are “prechilled” to save yourself some time.

2. Planting. When bulbs are ready to plant use an all-purpose potting mix and a pot that is twice as wide as it is deep with drainage hole. Fill pot half way with soil. Place bulbs in pot. The number of bulbs you plant is determined by the width of the pot. Leave space between each bulb to allow room for growth. Lightly cover top of bulbs with potting soil leaving the tips of the bulbs above the soil. Water in bulbs.

3. Re-locate once bulbs have been chilled and begin to show green tips place in a warm sunny location.

4. Check watering occasionally keeping in mind that bulbs do not like heavy wet soil. Make sure soil dries between waterings.

DSC_9455Growing bulbs in water.

If you are planting in water add stones to help stabilize the bulbs when they set roots. If you are using a bulb forcing jar you don’t need stones. Leave the neck of the bulb above water,.

Remember when forcing bulbs to schedule the time you want the bulbs to bloom. For January bloom time be sure to chill bulbs in September. For February and March bloom time chill bulbs in October and early November.


Spring Into Gardening with Containers

Container gardening is one of the quickest ways to jump start the growing season.  Once the snow has melted and the northerly winds of winter shift slightly to the south, spring is not far behind.  Ahead is the rebirth of all that is green and glorious in the garden.  Bulbs are bursting with color and Pansies and Primrose are filling the air with their sweet scent of the season.

Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Pansies are not exclusive to the garden flower bed anymore, nor are they the only cool weather annuals either.  This spring try combining flowering bulbs together in pots for instant color.  Wow your friends with some unique design know-how by grouping different cool weather annuals and perennials in individual pots know as mono cultured pots.

A mono – cultured pot is a single plant in a single pot.  These pots can be grouped together on the patio or entry way of the home to create layers of color and texture much like your garden beds.  Start with three pots in small, medium and large, you can add more if your space allows.  I always design in threes or odd numbers to create layers of texture and color to add visual interest.  When planting any type of container garden begin with a centerpiece or tallest plant in the arrangement.  Consider perennial Columbine with its delicate flowers and soft color palette.  Another alternative is the little known annual bulb Ranunculus,  the flower has looks like a cabbage rose and continues to bloom throughout the spring.  The colors range from bright orange, to the softest yellow and the hottest red.  If you are looking for architectural interest consider adding an obelisk or trellis to the large pot, or bunches of cut curly willow or pussy willow branches, these can add new dimension to your display.

Continue next with the medium sized container planted with bright colored Osteospermum, commonly known as African Daisy.  The watercolored flowers last through the summer since certain varieties have been bred to withstand the heat of the summer.  The ‘Symphony’ series is a great example. The ‘Lemon Symphony’ variety is a soft pale yellow that is the perfect compliment to any color palette you choose.  If you want to add a little fragrance to the garden add Stock, an annual with medium size flower stalks and a delicious spicy fragrance.  Nemesia, another fragrant spring annual, adds delicate texture to any container combination.

Complete the arrangement with the third, small container filled with low growing annuals or perennials.  Pansies are the perennial favorites with there wide range of colors and faces. Primroses are great for early spring planting,  they tolerate the coolest of temps and can be planted later in the garden. For a softer texture try a pot of Alyssum, an annual that blooms throughout the early summer.  Alyssum adds brightness with its white color  and sweet fragrance flowing over the container.  Even Petunias, Million Bells and lush green English Ivy can make their seasonal debut in the month of April and possibly late March if we are lucky!

Once you have your pots planted begin arranging them according to size.  Place the largest and tallest pot towards the back, then place the medium size pot off to one side toward the front and the smallest place on the opposite side toward the front as well.  Think of a triangular pattern, or whatever is visually pleasing to your eye.

Remember spring containers should not remain empty waiting to be filled with summer annuals.  Try some of these new ideas to bring your containers to life this spring season.