Tips about Starting Seeds

There’s only 4 weeks left until Memorial Day! And yet they are forecasting snow showers for Monday and Tuesday!

My tomato seedlings are up and 3″ tall already. Pepper’s are up, too. I’m lucky to have a heated bench at the greenhouse. That speeds germination along . It makes such a difference. But a heating mat at home would do as well. Johnny’s Select Seeds and Seeds of Change both carry heating mats in their catalogs. You’ll want to keep that in mind for next year. Though who knows we may have a late cold spring.

If you started tomatoes and peppers right now, they should be big enough by the 2nd week of June. Which the way we’re going this year may be just the right time to put them out. If you put tomatoes and pepers out and they get chilled , it can stall their growth. Wait till the nights stay above 50 degrees. Unless you have protection that will keep the soil’s heat in.

For the past 16 years I have only used “soilless” potting mix for starting seeds and potting up my seedlings. so I’ve never had to worry about “damping off”, a disease that causes the stems of brand new seedlings to collapse and the plant to die. If you use garden soil or potting mix with real soil in it, (unless its been totally sterilized) you will be taking the chance that the “damping off ” disease organism is there in the soil and may infect your seedlings.

Once your seeds have germinated they need as much sunlight as you can give them in the house. Other wise they will get long and weak stems.

Don’t keep your seedlings too moist. Let the very top of your soil look a little dry before you water again.

If you notice little black “flies” coming off your soil around your seedlings (or any other houseplant for that matter), they you are keeping your soil too wet. Those are fungus gnats. If the infestation gets too severe it will stunt your seedlings because the larvae of the fungus gnat is a grub in the soil that may chew on your seedlings roots.

With 4 weeks to go till Memorial Day, it’s time to start seeds like annual coreopsis, cleome, zinnia, marigolds 4 O’Clocks, nasturtium and annual phlox.

During last weeks warm spell it was probably tempting to buy some annuals at the garden centers. If you did, keep those plants away from the frost. It’s forecasted to go down to 34 degrees Monday night.

Bye for now. Happy growing! Judy

The Year of the Potato

2008 has been declared International Year of the Potato by the United Nations. It almost sounds like a humorous punch line should follow that statement. However, it’s true, the once lowly potato has finally received the recognition it deserves.

Contrary to popular belief, potatoes originated in the Americas, not in Ireland. Native South American Indians were raising the delicious tuber for centuries before the Europeans discovered how versatile they are.

They were actually brought to Europe by the Spanish explorers during the mid-1500’s. The Spaniards were looking for gold, but, I would argue that this single discovery is more valuable to the human race than any amount of gold could be. After all you can’t eat gold. It looks like the United Nations agrees with me. 😉

It wasn’t until the 1770’s that potatoes gained widespread acceptance. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of the new crop, he even served french fries at state diners during his term as president,

Historically, we all remember being taught about the most infamous event involving potatoes. It was the Potato Famine that occurred in Europe from 1845 to 1848 causing over 1 million deaths from starvation. Many countries were involved, not just Ireland. Although, the Emerald Isle was hit the hardest.

Potatoes are now grown all over the world. They rank #4 after corn, wheat and rice in terms of worldwide production. China is now the largest producer of potatoes harvesting about 77 million tons. Russia is second with 43, India 27, and USA rounding out 4th with 22 million tons.

As far as who are the biggest lovers of potatoes… the folks in Europe eat about 216 lbs of potatoes per person per year. Here on the North American continent we average about 128 lbs. for each man, woman and child. Not many are eaten in Africa yet. South Americans don’t eat many either, which strikes me as a little odd, since this is where potatoes got their start so many centuries ago.

Up in northern Michigan, the good and gentle townfolk of Posen, have been celebrating the potato for decades with their annual Posen Potato Festival. This festival draws people from all over the state and beyond. It looks like once again, Michigan is way ahead of the rest of the world!

Seed Potatoes

Our bag of seed potatoes is just waiting for the ground to dry out.

Bob

Weevil Threatens Crop

I heard the news this afternoon on the radio (WRCJ). The price of spaghetti will soon be at an all time high.

That inexpensive pasta, loved by children and adults alike, apparently will be costing much more in the future. The price will be so high that many families will no longer be able to afford to serve it on a regular basis.

The Swiss Spaghetti Weevil, an insect that has not been a problem in the past, is, because of global warming, threatening the Swiss spaghetti crop this season. Switzerland is the world’s major grower of spaghetti.

Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

The weevil is very difficult to control even with strong insecticides under the best of circumstances.

Readers of this blog have nothing to worry about. Tomorrow I will be discussing growing organic spaghetti trees in your own back yard.

Bob