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Making Seed Tape


If you are like me and save seeds from your garden every year or you like to direct sow cool season vegetables like carrots and radishes, you can’t wait to get in the garden and plant them.  For anyone who has done this knows that seed cultivation by directly sowing them into the ground can be a tedious and tricky process, especially when the seeds are very tiny and lightweight.  Making seed tape is a way for you to plant seeds without worrying about waste. They are so easy to make from biodegradable materials that you already have in your home.  Seeds are evenly spaced and glued to strips of paper using newspaper, paper towels or toilet paper and glued using flour and water.

To make seed tape you will need:

Toilet paper, newspaper or paper towels

White flour

Tweezers

Ruler

Small brush or Q-tips.

  1. Mix about two tablespoons of white flour with one tablespoon of water to make a thick paste. You may have to adjust amounts.  Thicker glue will dry faster.  The paste should not be too watery.  You don’t want seed to absorb too much water.  The glue will hold the seed in place.
  2. Using a ruler cut one inch strips of newspaper, TP or paper towels.
  3. Place seed on the one inch strips in the middle.  Space seed according to the distance on package. You can spread the glue on the paper using a tiny brush then using the tweezers place one to two seeds per space.
  4. When you are done place a top layer of paper on top and glue together.
  5. Wait for glue to dry overnight before storing in a dry container.  Add rice to keep inside or container dry from humidity  and or condensation.  Don’t for get to label your seed tape.

When you are ready to plant take your seed tape to the garden and lay in the ground.  Lightly cover the tape with soil and water in.  Once your seeds germinate you will notice there is no need for tedious thinning and wasting of seeds.

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In the Garden: Made in the Shade

Tina talks about the best plants to use for shady ground cover.

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In The Garden: Camden Children’s Garden

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

It’s summertime in the garden, filled with flowers and vegetables.

Days are spent weeding, deadheading, harvesting and of course relaxing in the garden oasis you’ve created. If this daily routine is becoming a little too boring it may be time to get out and explore some of the display gardens in and around your area.

One of my favorite summer activities, especially late summer is to take a road trip to local gardens. Public gardens are a great resource for education and inspiration. It gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of plants and how they are used in the landscape. With so many great gardens to choose from I thought the Camden Children’s Garden is an ideal choice.

Located in Camden, New Jersey, the gardens are situated on 4 acres of land.

Valerie Frick, the director of education, tells me the gardens were started in June 1999. “It was born out of the Camden City Garden club, which is a community garden that has been in existence since 1985.”

The primary focus of the gardens and the children’s garden movement was to have a place where kids can run and play throughout nature. Frick says there are no rules in the garden, “It is important to have a fun place for children to do things that children like to do, climb, run, jump, play, explore and discover.”

The children’s garden movement wants to ensure that at a young age the children become familiar with horticulture. By encouraging them to walk on the grass and touch the plants they can feel free to explore and learn. Frick also states, “What children learn when they are young gets carried over to when they become adults.”

Some of the display gardens you will see are inspirations from a group of local landscape designers and gardeners. They even included ideas from the children in Camden County. Frick tells me they went into the Camden County school district and asked the children what would they want to see in a perfect garden. One very memorable request from a child was to walk on water, another was to have dinosaurs in the garden. Both are reflected in the interactive water fountain garden and dinosaur garden where they can learn about dinosaur bones found in New Jersey.

Other requests came from teachers wanting to bring story books to life. It was also important that the gardens reflect the important programs in the schools like educating children on how to grow vegetables in an indoor space. Frick says, they wanted to tie in the work they do in the community with the work they do in the gardens. They are a non-profit organization and operate on grants to keep the gardens going.

The Camden Children’s Gardens is an amusement park dedicated to the thrill of growing plants and vegetables. They even have their own garden themed merry-go-round. For more information go to www.camdenchildrensgarden.org.

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In the Garden: Garden Art and Sculpture

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

In recent years gardens have become an extension of our homes.

In essence, the yard patio and deck have become outdoor rooms and people are spending more time perfecting and decorating these areas. Adding garden decor is another creative way to boost interest in your garden, enhancing what you already have.

Adding various architectural elements like garden benches, sculptures and containers, along with easy-to-add elements that include solar lights, can help define the space.

Garden furniture, specifically benches, are not a new concept. It can help define the garden space and provide a destination for anyone visiting your garden. Find an area in the garden with a wide open view to enjoy or place the bench along a pathway under a pergola giving visitors to your garden a destination. Garden benching can reflect your personality, depending upon the material and style you choose. Add a pop of color with a brightly colored bench. Natural materials like stone are great to add in a garden bed doubling as a piece of sculpture as well. Whether you have a formal garden with straight lines or a curvilinear garden there is a garden bench waiting for you to take a seat on.

Garden statues and containers are another way to boost visual interest in the garden. Sculptures can give the element of surprise when used in garden bed. Place them where you may not have an abundance of plant material or tucked under taller perennials and lower growing shrubs.

Containers, on the other hand, are multi functional. Nowadays you can find large glazed pottery. These urns are modern and formal and can be placed in the garden as a focal point. The beauty of theses giant pots are you don’t have to fill them with plant material. If you use smaller potted containers in the garden along the patio or pathway always cluster in groups of three in varying sizes making the display more visually appealing.

Quick and easy elements to add to the garden include whimsical garden stakes that are colored solar lights perfect for guiding you on a nightly garden stroll. More traditional solar lights can outline garden beds and pathways as well as accenting a piece of garden art you want to highlight. When adding anything to your garden always remember to have fun. The outdoors is a space to feel relaxed, it is your very own sanctuary.

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Butterfly gardens needed to bring back declining insect population

For many people, gardeners and nature lovers alike butterflies have been an important part of the outdoor environment we live in.

These mystical creatures fluttering through our gardens have captured the attention of collectors for centuries, spending endless hours studying the growth cycles, flight patterns as well as the patterns on their wings.

In many cultures butterflies have a great deal of symbolism of hope and love as well as rebirth. In recent years the numbers of native butterflies have been decreasing, especially the Monarch butterflies. I wanted to know how home gardeners can help increase the population in our gardens.

I recently caught up with John Dailey of SkyRiver Butterflies at his traveling butterfly exhibit to talk butterfly cultivation. I even had the opportunity to help release a few for the exhibit.

Sky River Butterflies it the largest traveling butterfly exhibit in the world, with about 1,500 to 2,000 butterflies in the exhibit. The main objective is to educate people on their life cycle and how to cultivate more butterflies in our won gardens.

“People have to understand that butterflies are very short-lived creatures. It takes 40 to 60 days from egg to adulthood. Typically they will live from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks.” They are dependent on their life cycle to reproduce. The opportunities for butterflies to reproduce are decreasing due to the amount of toxins being used in the agriculture industry. The host plants where they need to lay their eggs are not as available as they once were.

The key to bringing back butterflies like the Monarch is the right host plants, according to Dailey. The host plant is the plant to attract the larvae or caterpillars to the garden. For Monarch butterflies it is Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Asclepias incarnata is a herbaceous perennial native to North America found in wet swampy areas. It can survive in a backyard garden as long as the soil doesn’t dry out. The Swallowtail butterflies have a long list of host plants depending upon the species. The Swallowtail caterpillars need pipevine plants.

“Each butterfly has a specific host plant. You want to surround those plants with high nectar plants,” he said. High nectar plants produce sugars that adult butterflies feed from. Studies have been done on to what exactly butterflies are attracted in terms of types of plants and colors. One plant in particular is Gomphrena, commonly known as Globe Amaranth. It is a wild flower that produces lots of nectar that attracts all butterflies. Plants like Dahlias are another great nectar plant. You want to look for plants with flowers that have a short neck, making feeding easier for the butterfly.

“Monarch populations used to be measured in billions, now it is measured in millions,” stressed Dailey. By adding a few simple native plants to our gardens we can help restore those numbers.

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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.

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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.

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Planting Seeds Indoors

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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.

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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.

 

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January Gardening “To Do” List

headGardening doesn’t stop in January. Here is what I’m doing this month in my garden.

1. Organizing seeds for the spring growing season. Discard any old or outdated seeds. Seeds become less viable with age. Sort through current seed catalogs for fresh seeds.

2. Attract birds to your winter garden. There are plenty of birds that stick around during the winter so keep feeders filled with plenty of black oil sunflower seeds.

3. Makes plans for spring, literally. Make a sketch of your garden, nothing too fancy. A simple drawing or outline of your garden can help you visualize where your garden is and where you are going to take it in the future.

4. Keep a journal of your successes and failures. Having a journal is a great way to document your plantings and how well they are growing along with container garden recipes. It is also a great way to keep a log of weather conditions from year to year. Write down the day, the weather conditions for that day as well as the high and low temperature.

5. Take inventory of your tool shed. Be sure tools are cleaned properly, sharpened and ready to go when you need them.

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