Thursday, April 27, 2017

Soil Preparation


     OK garden friends, other than the weather...what is most important for having a successful garden? I know you probably have lots of guesses but the one thing we set much emphasis on is the soil, or as some people refer to as DIRT.  It doesn't really matter what you call it, but what does matter is what you do with it.  Think of building soil like you would with building a house... if you don't build it on a firm foundation, then it will crumble. But when it comes to gardening we want the soil to be well drained and not firm or compact.
 
     Whether you are starting seeds indoors or planting directly in your garden, when the timing is just right, it will be worth the preparation as this will be the foundation your plants will live in all seasons no matter what they have to "weather" through.
 
 


  
     If you decide to start plants such as peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers for example, then we recommend a soiless, pre-mixed growing medium. This is a "soiless" mix made up of peat, perlite (improves drainage) and vermiculite (aids in water retention) along with some nutrients. These mixes are ideal as they are sterile, insect and weed free.



     Getting the garden soil prepared is one of the most important chores of gardening.  Prior to planting even as early back as the fall season and once your previous garden has been harvested, you will want to make any amendments that are needed. Soil tests are a great way at helping to take the guess work out of what your soil may require.


      


     You can attempt to perform your own soil test by 
purchasing a soil test kit as seen pictured to the right.  Your local soil analysis lab is also ideal for determining accuracy for soil amendments. All they require for this test is to take soil from random areas of your garden (about 1 1/2 cups) and place it in a sterile bag. You will receive a printed report shortly after dropping this off and will indicate what could be low or high as well as suggestions to solve any issues.  This is especially important if you are starting a garden for the first time or have had issues the previous year  and don't know what the cause was.
     

  
      Don't let this deter you from gardening as it is simple to get started and so rewarding. Adding organic matter either in the form of compost or well rotted manure prior to planting will definitely benefit it. Organic matter helps to loosen soil, allow for better water and air movement, attracts beneficial soil organisms such as worms and bacteria (yes there is a good kind), as well as naturally supplying slow releases of essential nutrients. 

       Raised garden beds are ideal if you are just starting 
out or perhaps want to downsize. Raised beds have many benefits such as better drainage, deep tilth for growing root crops such as carrots, beets or potatoes and also warms up faster allowing for earlier gardening.  Which takes us to another very important component of either indoor or 
outdoor gardening.


     Just like people, seeds enjoy just the right temperature.  Some are a little more "high maintenance" with their preferred temperature, again just like people.  I am guilty of that for all that know me well!  If growing indoors, temperatures that will enable the most successful germination for plants such as peppers is 18-22 C. Ideal individual germination temperatures can be found on the back of each seed package or our online growing guide. Regular air temperature alone is not sufficient enough for some plants, however there are heat mats available to help reach this temperature and then can be removed once seeds have germinated. Unfortunately we can't use heat mats in our outdoor garden but you can use a bio-mulch to heat up the soil prior to planting, especially if you want to plant early. Bio mulch also acts as a weed barrier and will reduce water evaporation keeping the moisture at the roots.  Once the soil warms up enough to plant crops suited for certain temperatures, let the fun begin!  Spinach can go directly in the ground as early as possible and only requires a soil temperature of 4 C(40 F).  Peppers on the other hand prefer soil and night time temperatures at least 15 C-25C (60-80 F). 
   




  Along with the importance of soil temperature comes soil moisture.  Of course too much or too little of anything is never good and the same holds true for soil moisture. Seed must be kept consistently moist after planting. This can safely be done with the newest tools available to accurately check whether its too wet or too dry and is suited for outdoor or indoor use.



  
      We use clear plastic domes over our seed trays when seeding indoors, this prevents them from drying out by building up enough humidity for natural condensation to occur. These domes are removed once the seedlings germinate.  A little moisture is all that's needed at least until they reach a more mature stage. If you do need to water at the young stage, use of a spray bottle or a low flow watering can is ideal for a light mist.
      It is not possible to use these domes on our crops if directly seeded outdoors, however you can use row covers for added warmth as well as protection from insects and diseases.  It is not recommended to seed when soil is too heavy and wet or when you know cool and damp weather may last for more then a few days.  Too much moisture will rot the seeds and too dry will also hinder their germination success. We can't let perfect weather conditions determine whether we grow a garden or not. Plants will do well in all types of conditions as long as proper growing instructions are practiced. 
     
     Seeds come in all different sizes and are required to be planted at proper depths.  If seeds get planted too deeply or if the soil is too compact for seeds to emerge, they may never see the light of day. For tiny seedlings we recommend to sow them on top of the soil, and then followed with a light watering to have them settle. This is especially important when you think you may have heavy rains in the near future. Make sure that you check the growing instructions that are conveniently printed on the back of each seed package for proper planting depth. This useful information recommends other tips for growing your seedlings successfully.  You can also refer to our online growing guide as well. If you are new to the gardening "yard", this year we have added a "Beginner Garden Collection" with easy to use instructions.    
   

     As with any new plant that is introduced to the garden no matter what you choose to growtop quality soil, water, temperature, Veseys Seeds and sunny days all will make your garden season a success.  Hope all of your days are sunny as you "get growing!"

Monday, April 24, 2017

spring garlic and onion sets

                          Introducing Spring Garlic and Onion Sets....
                                              A.K.A Allium Family
      Yes Gardeners, you will soon see these bulbs in stock if you haven't already. The Veseys sets of both onions and garlic have arrived and hopefully soon we will be able to get the ground ready to plant them.
     Other than both these vegetables forming a bulb they also have the equal amount of great flavour in common.  Garlic and Onions are used in so many dishes such as soups, salads, sandwiches and stirfrys to name a few. These flavour enhancers provide lots of health benefits too.  If you go back in history, you would read of how they were used for medicinal purposes before conventional medicine was discovered. Don't let their strong aromas deter you from consuming them as long as its not before a first date!

     Spring Garlic should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.  This is so that bulbs can set out roots early to enable a successful harvest at the right time. Practicing crop rotation is especially important when growing garlic.  This will reduce any soilborne issues that could affect your bulbs.
     As you will see, each bulb consists of several cloves. These cloves are what forms the bulb all enclosed with an outer layer known as a tunic. These layers of skin protect the bulbs as they are growing. Break through the tunic layer and divide all the cloves.  These cloves are not to be consumed until they have been planted and allowed to grow a new bulb.  This same rule applies for fall garlic as well. 


     When breaking individual cloves apart from the bulb take care in making sure all cloves base remains attached. Plant the flat root end down, 3" apart, 2" deep with 12-18" row spacing. Garlic grows best in a sunny spot with a soil pH of 6.0-6.5. Prior to planting, apply some natural compost as this is the best type of fertilizer for garlic whether its spring or fall. If possible, work the compost in at least a few days to enable a build up of organic matter which makes for ideal growing conditions. Due to its tall and upright growth habit of garlic, weed competition can be a challenge.  After planting,it is beneficial to mulch between the rows, this will also help preserve moisture. Once mid season arrives, plants will benefit from a side dressing of nitrogen such as compost tea, bloodmeal or manure.
      Harvest in late summer or when 75% of the leaves have turned brown. It is recommended to lift bulbs during dry weather and cure for 10-14 days in a warm, dark and dry area. After curing clean roots, cut off dead foliage and then store them in a dry cool place for 6-8 months.

     Growing onion sets is generally the same procedure as growing spring garlic. They come in a variety of types of red, yellow and white. To plant onion sets, simply press sets into the soil about 2" apart. Fertilizer applications of compost prior to planting can also be made similar to what you would apply when growing garlic.  You don't need to mulch onions but they will benefit from water if necessary where seasons are hot and dry.  


     When onion tops begin to topple over, turn brown and wither or as we refer to them as "striking" it is time to harvest.  Tip the bulbs over to shake off some soil as this will help them dry quicker.  Pull onions up on a dry day and place in a warm, dry location out of direct sun for up to 3 weeks.  After this curing process store in a cool, dry location, the drier the better they will store.

     Onions make a great companion plant next to carrots.  The aroma from the onions deter the carrot fly that does damage to the carrot roots as they are forming. You can check out our Veseys website for more detailed growing instructions of both garlic and onions .The benefits these two veggies provide are endless!  Enjoy, experiment and have fun!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pretty Petunias

Veseys PETUNIAS...In every colour of the Rainbow

 
     PETUNIAS...one of our most popular types of flower seed, and is it any wonder why?  Petunias have been around for a long time.  I have fond memories planting them either with my nanny or my mom around the yard at our family farm, and that wasn't just yesterday. Petunias have evolved greatly over the years and are now available anywhere from Multiflora to Climbing types, we are so fortunate to have these choices. There are multitudes of single colours, combos and fuseable varieties to choose from as well. You may be wondering what we are referring to when we use the term fuseable. Each fuseable pellet consists of two different types of seed varieties enclosed. Each combination will be a perfect planting every time and takes the guess work out of mixing your own colours. Pictured below is one of our fuseable varieties that we have listed known as Silk and Satin.  This is a perfect mix of pink easy wave Petunia and Snowtopia Bacopa. The ever popular trailing petunias known as the waves are the best ones on the market. Waves require no pinching or pruning and still have a season long bloom, although throughout the growing season, some pinching will produce bushier baskets. Petunias are so versatile as they can be grown as a groundcover, or make a stunning display in hanging baskets, pots and window boxes.



     Start Petunia seed indoors 8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Petunia seed is quite tiny and can easily be lost.  Over the past number of years, Petunia seed has become available in pelleted form (this simply just means a clay outer coating that surrounds the seed and makes them easier to handle). This also benefits the gardener with precise planting. If you would rather not start your Petunias indoors or have limited space for growing, we do offer beautiful varieties of these as starter plants as well.  You can check out our website for starter plants information as well as ordering details. This will still enable you to choose your own creativity.  Pictured below is a sample of one of our starter combo kits with petunias or choose Petunias as a single colour in a collection to have fun with and use your own imagination:
  



     Aside from the Petunia seed being so tiny, Petunias are quite easy to start indoors. Please check out our new instagram video demonstrating tips and ideas for starting your own. If you live in an area with a similar zone as ours, (5-6), then now is a great time to get them started if you haven't already. As mentioned, Petunia seed is so tiny and now comes in a pelleted form.  When sowing these seeds, start 8 weeks before last frost. Sprinkle the tiny seed onto soil surface and gently press them in but do not cover with growing mix. It is best to provide light and constant warmth of 21-24 C at this stage. Use a bottom heat source for best results.


Once the plants have successfully germinated, remove bottom heat but continue to provide at least 8 hours of light to prevent leggy and stretched seedlings. Use care when watering at the base of the plant and not overhead. Once the seedlings have at least the second set of true leaves, it is recommended to start applying fertilizer every 10 days.  Petunia seedlings can be successfully transplanted to a larger pot if needed prior to transplanting outdoors. These plants can slowly be introduced to the outdoors known as what we would call "hardening off". Once plants have adapted to being outside and the risk of frost has passed, you can safely plant, hang or display them in a permanent location.

   


    When transplanting outdoors, Petunias will perform best and enjoy a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun.  They also grow best in soil that is fertile and drains well. For wave type petunias, be sure to allow at least 12-18 inch spacing between plants if planting in your landscape, or 1 to 3 plants per 10" container. If you choose to grow Tidal Wave petunias, 12 inch spacing will force the plants to grow 2 feet tall, or wider spacing to allow more of a ground cover.


      It is just as beneficial to remain feeding with fertilizer every 10-14 days through-out the season or at least until there is good establishment. Don't be afraid to pinch back or snip long spindly areas as this will help the plant to maintain a more healthy, bushy and well branched form. If you find your containers are starting to look a little sad :( then you may want to do a little rejuvinating later in the season.  You can check out our Rejuvinating Containers Video to learn easy tips to make them beautiful once again.
     I have always found that if you have a hanging basket or container of Petunias, and unfavourable weather conditions are forecasted such as wind or rain, it is always best to set them down on the ground or set them in a sheltered location.  Petunias are very resilient and will bounce back to their wave form
     You can always find just the right Petunia colour and form that will be the perfect fit for your home whether its large or small spaces. Get out and enjoy the displays in your neighborhood, parks or even just sitting back and relaxing in your own yard, I hope!
Happy Flower Gardening! :)   

Friday, April 7, 2017

Cold and Dampened Spirits



     Has all the late snow fall, rain and cool temperatures have you down and questioning whether you should bother with a garden this year?  For me this all sounds very relative and like Deja Vu.  If you recall or press the rewind button to last year, this weather is quite the norm for this time of year, like it or not, especially if you live in the Maritimes. It seems that we are very guilty of getting caught up in saying "I wish the sun would come out and that things would dry up and get warmer."  Does this statement sound familiar to you? It certainly resonates with me. It amazes me somehow, with the resilience of our garden plants, they do manage to grow and we celebrate with a harvest each year.

      Even though the weather is different from year to year, it doesn't seem to matter what the weather is, as we always get our gardens to grow and have a harvest in the fall. I have learned the "power of positive thinking" or "mind over matter" gets us through the dark and damp days. Depending on the weather it may be a good year for certain things and maybe not so good for others, but we always manage to enjoy fresh veggies as well as having a rewarding experience growing them.  It is worth all the fuss of "weather talk" in the spring just for that first fresh taste.


     When the weather is cool and damp like it routinely is this time of year at least here on PEI, it will soon be ideal growing conditions for early, temperature vegetables such as spinach, leaf lettuces and Cole crops such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.  


     Many gardeners are very keen to get their garden in as soon as possible just to say that it's done.  This is a great idea if you can do that successfully and if the weather is co-operating. However, if the weather is cool and damp then that means the soil will be cool and damp too, like the saying goes...the early bird DOESN'T always get the worm! This is still the ideal time to continue your focus on growing microgreens or sprouts indoors if you have the craving for that fresh veggie flavour. Gardeners can also be growing peppers, onions, leeks and other types of vegetables that need to be started indoors in order to reach maturity. Even though this type of gardening has to be done indoors, it may satisfy the desire of getting your garden started too early. Please check out our website for many tips on what to start indoors as well as successful ways of growing them after they germinate.



     I have always found that practicing patience is one of the key successes to a good garden, especially when it comes to growing veggies. Often times I have heard that a garden that is planted in June (some people think starting a garden at this time as being late), generally will catch up to a garden that was planted in May. I know its hard to refrain from planting once the weather seems like it has turned in our favour, however it is quite typical and normal for it to be cool again before the really nice weather decides to stay. Why is this we ask?...It's all because the soil is much warmer, days are longer and possibly not as many damp mornings or cool nights. 

     If a garden is started too early, it is quite possible that the reason why some seeds may not germinate could be due to rot or other issues such as seed maggot damage. These issues generally are reported during early plantings or cool, damp spring seasons. Gardeners who plant too early will likely spend more hours weeding as well.  When you think of it, this makes a lot of sense because the plants are much slower to grow during unfavourable conditions and we all know weeds will thrive. Once it turns warmer, plants grow faster and will impede the growth of weed competition as well. 



     Of course there are some types of veggies that grow best when planted early and also can be planted a second time for a later harvest as the season progresses such as radish or spinach. We have been very fortunate over the last number of years to utilize equipment that will enable us an earlier start or extend the season into late fall - early winter. If you are one of those "extra keen" gardeners that wants to get it growing on, it can be done with row covers, raised garden beds, growing in containers or even a mini greenhouse.  Whatever you find successful from year to year, keep with it and most of all don't forget that gardening has so many rewards!

     
                                     My hope for all fellow gardeners is that...
 

     
Your Rainy days; Will become
                                                                             
                                                                                                             Sunny Days!