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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Buying & Preparing Starting Mix for Starting Vegetable Seeds: Seed Cell Flats & Trays and Method for Watering Your Vegetable Seed Starts

1. Buying & Preparing Starting Mix for Starting Vegetable Seeds

2. Seed Cell Flats & Trays 
(What They Are and How to Use Them)

3. Method for Watering Your Vegetable Seed Starts 
(Bottom Water!)

Starting with this video, I will be making videos that cover every step of vegetable gardening for 2015. I am in Maryland Zone 7, so we are entering winter. Come January 2015, I will be starting a lot of seeds indoors. If you want to join my new YouTube channel, it will take you along every step of the way from starting seeds indoors through planting, feeding, fighting diseases, pruning and harvesting. It will be a one stop vegetable gardening channel. Here is a link to my new channel: The Rusted Garden

You can save yourself a lot of money by starting your own plants indoors. This is true for vegetables, herbs and flowers. The process is pretty simple once you know how. I recommend you buy seed starting mix. Don't spend a lot of money. Most mixes are pretty much the same.

They are mostly made of peat moss. They might have a little lime tossed in it to keep the pH neutral. It may have some vermiculite or perlite added into the mix. That is usually the white specks you see in it. You may come across starting mix that has fertilizer in it. You don't really need that to start. Don't pay extra for it. Just a basic starting mix is all you need.

Seed staring mix is light, sterile and it holds water really well. That is what you want to germinate seeds and grow vegetable transplants.

You will needs a tray or flat and seed starting cells. You can find them online or buy them at many stores that sell garden supplies. I recommend you bottom water. It will save you time, create less splash and concerns for disease and fungus. You water your seed starts when the seed starting mix dries on the top. This video will explain all three things very well. Enjoy!

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Get Ready for Planting Peas in Late Winter/ Early Spring: Indoors, Ground and Containers!

Get Ready for Planting Peas in Late Winter/ Early Spring: 
Indoors, Ground and Containers!

Peas are one of the best garden vegetables to grow. They are true cool weather vegetables. Many varieties can actually take a frost and freeze and you can grow them twice in your garden, in many areas. They are truly early spring and late summer crops. And nothing beats a fresh picked pea for sweetness. Did I mention you can also eat the leaves and make salad crops from them? Oh and they will self pollinate if you want to give them a shot indoors. The indoor temperatures might be tricky but they don't need insects for pollination

Pea Leaves in Salads

I once believed you needed to start peas in the ground because they didn't transplant well. That is a myth. You can start them in seed cells. Just transplant them to outdoor containers or the ground fairly quickly once they break the surface of the cell, get an inch tall and get acclimated to the outdoors. You just don't want their roots out growing the cells. You might do this in the early spring to speed up germination and to have more successful germination. Cold ground and rain can lead to seeds succumbing to molds and fungus in the earth beds.

Seed Starting Peas Indoors

Growing Peas from Transplants: It Works!

Transplant peas work. I actually moved my seeds started in cells to cups and started some seeds directly in cups. You might notice the roots got a bit over grown in the video. You want to get them in 5 gallon containers or the ground before the roots start circling in the bottom of the cups. They are a bit forgiving so you don't have to be perfect. It works!

I found growing late winter/early spring peas works well in containers. I also put them in the ground. A 5 gallon bucket can hold 3,4,5,6,7 or 8 pea plants. It really depends on the variety and on your preference. Container soil should be loose and fresh. You don't need to overdue fertilizing as peas can fix their own nitrogen but a little added phosphorous and potassium won't hurt. The nitrogen number doesn't have to be high. Just plant them about 1 inch deep and drop in a tomato cage for a trellis. You can even make a trellis from poles.

Planting Peas in Containers

The idea is figuring out how many pods you can get per container based on the characteristics of that pea variety. For example, say your variety will give you 100 pods if grown as a single plant in a 5 gallon container. If you grow 2 plants, in the same container, they compete a bit for moisture and resources and each plant only gives 90 pods. The total of 180 pods, per container, is more than 1 plant would have given you. If you put in 5 plants you might get smaller plants and only 60 pods per plant but that is 300 pods per container. Just something to keep in mind.

Harvesting Container Peas and Plant Numbers

There are basically 3 types of peas you see in your local stores. They are sugar pod, snap or sugar snap and standard peas. Or how I like to define them... flat edible pods with tiny peas for stir-fry or salads, edible pods with full size peas and peas that have to be shelled. All varieties can be enjoyed fresh from the vine. You have not tasted a pea until you have grown them yourself. The sugar content is amazing.

An Attempt to Explain 3 Types of Peas

Peas don't need a lot of fertilizing. I like giving my container plants a 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer. Peas will fix their own nitrogen if they share the soil with rhizobium bacteria. The problem with container soil it is often void of good micro-organisms so you really need to feed them or inoculate them with rhizobium bacteria. As I mentioned your peas need to be trellised up a cage or sticks and string. They have hollow stems and are very fragile. They will break, if left dangling over the edge of a container.

What Does Inoculating Peas Mean

Trellising and Fertilizing Container Peas

The key to growing first crop peas in the ground is about 45 degree nights and minimal rain. They love the cool weather but germinate best in 45+ degree weather with soil that is not overly saturated. That can be tough in some gardens come late winter. You could plant acclimated transplants.

I plant seeds 1 inch deep and 2, 3 or 4 inches apart for the same reasons I mention when planting container peas. You can also plant them 1 inch apart if you think you will have germination issues. It is always better to plant more and thin versus waiting.and only getting a few seeds that germinate.

The most important thing is to protect them from is rabbits. I use a chicken wire cage. And the second most important thing, because you won't have them if the rabbits get them... is a trellis. They need to grow upright. There are many ways to make a trellis.

And remember... even puppies like peas.

A Simple Ground Pea Trellis

Saturday, February 8, 2014

When to First Fertilize Your Tomato Seedlings: Use 1/2 Strength Liquid Fertilizer!

When to First Fertilize Your Tomato Seedlings:
 Use 1/2 Strength Liquid Fertilizer!

Ask 1000 gardeners and you will get 1000 answers with a twist, bend or tweak. Yet, they will all have a general common theme. That is very true with starting seeds, especially tomatoes and even more so with how and when to fertilize them. This is my twist, bend and tweak on the topic. I have grown them for well over 10 years and have been successful. My way is not the only way. It is just one way. And I often vary fertilizers depending on my budget, sales and available resources.

The first thing is to use 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer. You do not need full strength. Some people even use a quarter strength. Your plants do not get rain and they are in small starting mix cells. You don't want to over do it and concentrate fertilizer in the starting mix and damage the plants. More fertilizer is not a better thing. Less at each watering, every other watering or every 10 days is much better.

The video shows you the general size range when I start my first 1/2 strength liquid fertilizing. Factors that come into play, and that is why I give you a range, are fertilizer in the starting mixes and how your plants look.

You want to have all N-P-K (no 0's) represented or nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. You can use organic or inorganic fertilizer to your choice but remember the plants can't tell the difference. I like using inorganic products indoors, for honestly, they have a better ratio of NPK (if you look around) and other nutrients and they don't smell.

I don't look for an exact ratio though I think a 3-6-3 is would be optimal for transplants. It is not easy to find ratios so go with what is available in your area and just make sure it is 1/2 strength. I would go with a higher P or phosphorous number, if you can find it, as root development is really important.

Good Luck in Your Garden

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Friday, February 7, 2014

An Early Planting Contest for Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens

An Early Planting Contest
for Our Tomato and Vegetable Gardens

So yes I can't wait to get planting outdoors. My garden is still frozen as of today. I typically put peas out in March. Tomatoes out in April (and battle frost). Maybe Ill get some potatoes out early too.

This year my peas are going out in February and I am going to put some determinate tomatoes out March 15th. I want red tomatoes by end of May. The challenge is to start something super early!

The contest (for fun) is creating a hot-house cage similar to one on the link. Basically, plastic wrap around a tomato cage. However, with starting this early you will need more than plastic. You will need a heat source. Don't follow my design feel free to create anything that works. Sorry greenhouses don't count.

Maybe Something Like This?

So If you want to do something with your time and join the contest... Pick a plant to plant early in a container or in the ground. Get it out earlier than recommended in frosty weather and see if it will grow, survive and bring early yields. Post some pictures or links of your progress.

I will be doing peas. I am building a hot-house cage with hanging recycled water bottles inside for a night time radiating heat source. This will be all done in a 5 gallon container.

Let's see if we can push the limits.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Start Cilantro Indoors: Keep It Sowing!

 How to Start Cilantro Indoors: Keep It Sowing!

Cilantro is an outstanding garden herb. It loves cool weather and it grows tasty leaves, tasty seeds (coriander) and great flowers for attracting bees and predatory wasps. Although many people suggest not starting cilantro indoors because it won't mature to a full sized plant... I say you will still get leaves even if the transplant doesn't fully mature to a 2 foot plant.

You can start it indoors to get some quick early leaves in the spring. When you plant your transplants also drops some seeds into your vegetable garden beds. I recommend seeding cilantro every 3 weeks for a continued harvest.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Build A Hot-House Tomato Cage: Get in the Garden Faster!

How to Build A Hot-House Tomato Cage: Get in the Garden Faster! 

These cages can be built in 5 minutes. They will allow you to get your tomatoes into the garden a lot earlier. It works. I use a few every year and am the first in the area with red tomatoes. Try it!

They act as a wind break and keep the plant from cooling from winds. And they will collect the solar heat of the day. At night I recommend putting a plate on top, a few hours before the sun sets, so it stores up some heat. It is also important to remove it on sunny days in the morning. The inside of the cages can over heat on sunny days.

I will be doing a new video that adds in a black painted milk jug at the bottom like in the picture. The milk jug is filled with water and it will radiate heat at night to help maintain a bit more warmth. Notice the milk jug in the picture.You can also lay a piece of black plastic on the ground with a hole in the middle for the tomato. The cage can go on the plastic and it will warm the soil. A few tricks.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

60 Seconds or Sow: Make Your Own Indestructible Onion Sets Indoors

60 Seconds or Sow: Make Your Own Indestructible Onion Sets

In 60 seconds or so... I show you just how indestructible onions really are to grow as sets. Any gardener can do this. These onions were over-seeded in the cells. You can watch my other videos to learn the process. The onions in the video have been neglected outside and still have bulbed quite well for making sets. Check it out. You can grow 100's of onions for pennies. The videos show you how to start them and what they will grow too.

I started these in seed cells and just let them grow. If you keep them watered and add liquid fertilizer, you can grow them to this size packed together. Just separate them and you can have 100's of onions in your garden for pennies. Below is what you buy in stores for $4 or $5 dollars a bunch. Look familiar?

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How to Make a Cheap Tomato Garden Container from a Cardboard Box

How to Make a Cheap Tomato Garden Container from a Cardboard Box 

Any cardboard box can be made into a vegetable planting container for under two bucks. If you use a box you have then you can do it for under one buck.

The video shows you how to make the container with a box, 2 trash bags and some basic hardware you can get in the electrical or plumbing isle of stores like Home Depot.

You can grow 1 tomato in a box this size or 2 peppers or 1 cucumber plant. A simple cheap container!

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A Complete Video Guide on How to Start Tomatoes Indoors from Start to Transplanting

A Complete Video Guide on How to Start Tomatoes Indoors from Start to Transplanting:
Almost Time to Start Them!

When to Start Your Tomatoes Indoors:

I recommend you start tomatoes indoors about 8 weeks before they can go outside. So the first question is often:  When do you put them outside? A lot of vegetables go out when frost ends. Tomatoes are a bit different. Yes, frost will kill them and you need to wait but cold ground will keep them from growing. They can even turn a bit purple when nights and the ground stay in the 40's.

You really want to time your 8 weeks or so to the date when your earth bed soil and nights are mostly 50 degrees. You can use water rings or black plastic and other tricks to keep the transplants warm and to warm the ground if you want and get an earlier start.

The 8 weeks also includes about a week period of acclimating your indoor transplants to the outdoor. If you don't slowly introduce them to the sun, they can actually get sunburned. Check out the video below.

Starting Tomatoes Indoors - Lighting:

You will need to make sure your tomatoes germinate under intense full light or they will get "leggy". Legginess occurs when the germinated seeds do not get enough light and the plant grows extra long stems as if it is stretching to get to the light. That can make for thin and weak looking transplants.

You want 10-14 hours of intense artificial light. If you use a windowsill, the windowsill must get at least 8 hours of direct sun. That is a window where the sun can actually be seen from the window for 8 hours. I find that type of window is more rare in a house than not.

Indoor lighting requires easily acquired special bulbs. The bulbs should have a high Lumen number and Kelvin number which is explained in the videos. You want the light bulbs to sit 2-3 inches above the seed tray of germinating seeds or 2-3 inches above the leaves of growing tomato transplants.

You want tomato seedling and transplants to get 10 -14 hours of artificial light. More is always better. It does vary based on plant types. Here are some basics on grow-closets,  tube lighting and grow-boxes. It is not as expensive as you might think nor are they hard to make.

Starting Tomato Seeds Indoors - Starting Mix and Supplies:

It is best to use a sterile seed starting mix or potting mix. They are very similar. They are typically made from a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and perilite. The ratios tend to be mostly peat moss and then random amounts of the other materials. As long as it is sterile it will work. I make my own and have some videos on it. The key is to not use outdoor soil or packaged products with top soils. If you use non-sterile soils you increase the risk of getting a disease called 'Damping Off'. Start with a sterile mix!

Cotton Like Fuzz on Stems Called: 'Damping Off Disease'

If you use a pre-made starting mix they often need to pre-moistened. This helps with water absorption and it can speed up germination. Some mixes come with fertilizers. Here are some videos to help with mixes and supplies.


There is a method I use to pre-pack the seed starting cells and a better way to water. These two things will help with germination and save you time.

Starting Tomatoes Indoors - Planting the Tomato Seeds

Once you have your seed cells set up you can start planting. I always recommend planting more
than 1 seed per cell. You really have to decide how much room you have for tomatoes. In some cases you can grow more than 1 seed per cell and divide them. In other cases, you can thin your cells to hold 1 seedling. It is really up to you. If you are just starting out with starting tomatoes indoors, I would recommend growing 1 seedling per cell.

Starting Tomatoes Indoors - Thinning & Transplanting Seedlings to Cups:

Tomato seeds can take 5-14 days to germinate. They need temperatures at least in the 70's to germinate timely and will germinate faster if warmer. About two weeks after germination you will have to thin the plants to 1 seedling per cell. If you have experience you can actually grow more than 1 seedling in a cell and carefully divide them. As stated, I recommend going with 1 seedling per cell as it reduces the chances of transplant shock when moving them to larger cups.

About 2 weeks after thinning or when the seedling get to 3 or 4 inches tall, they are ready to be transplanted into cups or containers. I recommend watering them from the bottom, once transplanted, with 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer.

Starting Tomatoes Indoors - Watering, Lighting and Fertilizing:

You are going to have to take care of your plants indoors between 6 and 10 weeks. That will require ongoing care to water them, manage lighting and feed them. Generally speaking I suggest 14 hours of light. The general range is 10-14 hours. I highly suggest getting a timer and just setting it for 14 hours on and 10 hours off. It will save you time and worry.

Watering should always be done from the bottom. Just fill the seed stray and whatever water is not taken up in 20-30 minutes, pour out. This method is a time saver and it cuts down on potential disease. You need to water your plants when the top of the starting mix dries out. The top typically dries out first.

After your plants have been growing for about two weeks, to keep it simple, just give the 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer each time you water them. You can use starting mix with fertilizer. I do add fertilizer to my starting mixes I make. Nothing is set in stone. You start the feedings when the first true leaves appear and get some size to them..

Starting tomatoes Indoors - Transplanting Them to the Garden

Remember you have to acclimate them to the outdoors. Slowly introduce them to the sun over a week. Once they are ready for the big leagues, you can put them in to the ground. The soil temperature should be around 50 degrees as should the nights. If you put them out early, they often just sit and don't grow until the temperatures are right.

There are many ways to prepare a planting hole. You should generally loosen the soil to a foot. Put in some balanced fertilizer and add some pulverized eggshell or lime into the bottom of the hole and mix it in. That helps with a disease called blossom end rot. I also suggest adding a teaspoon of Epsom Salts or magnesium sulfate. That general preparation should get your tomato transplants off to a great start!

A tomato will root from its stem. When you plant your tomato transplant in the hole you can cover 1/2 to 1/3 of the bottom stem. This helps to get  the roots deeper into the soil and make for a sturdier plant. There are many ways to plant a tomato. Nothing is exact. You can use what you like from different sources and develop your own method. These are some videos that show you how I do it and you will even notice changes I have made over time.

Good Luck In Your Garden!

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Videos: Growing, Tending & Pruning Tomatoes

Complete Guide to Starting Tomatoes Indoors

How to Grow Large Tomatoes in Containers

Growing Brandywine Tomatoes

How to Build a Hot-House Tomato Cage

How to Transplant Tomato Seedlings into Cups

How Prune, Stake and Remove Suckers

Using Grass Clipping for Mulch and a Soil Barrier

Single, Double and Triple Tomato Stem Pruning

The Baxter's Bush Cherry Container Tomato

Complete Guide to Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

The Kentucky Orange Heirloom Tomato

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