Succession Planting

Probably, one of the most common occurrences in the garden is the lack of practicing succession planting (IMHO). Succession planting (SP) is the periodic replanting of a particular veggie in order to have a continual harvest throughout the growing season. Sounds great, right?

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Of, course, not every garden plot can support this activity and not every gardener has enough time to pull off SP. However, knowing about succession planting and considering how it may apply to your situation, could enhance how you grow certain of your favorite crops.

One of the veggies that I have a lot of success with are bush beans. As a general rule, I’ll plant bush beans every 15 – 20 days following each previous planting. In central MO, 5 to 7 plantings are possible.

If you love fresh basil, like I do, I recommend SP in order to have a fresh and high-quality supply of leaves all season long. Unlike bush beans, you will most likely need 2 to 3 plants for your early spring crop and a similar second planting in mid to late summer to insure a good crop through the Fall months.

Two additional favorites for SP are green onions (aka, scallions or spring onions) and radish. Both are easy to cultivate and don’t require a lot of garden space to satisfy the appetite of for 1 to 3 individuals. Radish can be resown every two weeks whereas bunching onions may do best with sowings every three to 4 weeks.

Other crops that lend themselves to SP are lettuce, spinach and bok choy (aka, pak choi). These favorites can also be planted each 2 to 3 weeks throughout the summer. However, if you are in a hot climate, with a lot of sun light exposure, these plants may begin to bolt rapidly. Some modern hybrids have been developed to tolerate such climate conditions and are less apt to bolt. Unfortunately, my experience has been hit and miss with these newer plant materials, so I’m unable to make a recommendation for their use.

Obviously, there are several additional species which can be considered for SP, however, our objective is to get you excited about utilizing succession planting for some of your favorite veggies while determining what works best in your garden’s location. If you enjoyed this post, or not, please give us your feedback (see below).

Seed Primer

SEED QUALITY

Seed quality at planting time pertains to a seed’s ability to germinate, develop a normal root and shoot and emerge through the seed bed without deleterious effects to the developing seedling. Here’s the bottom line, planting high quality seed will typically result in good stand establishment in your garden plot.

While you are in the process of purchasing planting seed, make sure that seed was harvested and processed in the season immediately preceding the season you are planning for. Also, check the packet for the seed’s anticipated germination rate. The germination information allows for the gardener to estimate the seeding rate. However, when seed germination is reported as <75%, it’s an indication that overall quality and vigor of the seed has dropped. In other words, 75% of the seed may germinate (by definition) but will the seed have enough food reserves to permit the seedling to emerge through the seedbed? If you are saving your own seed from last season, be sure to perform a seed germination test before planting.

SEED GERMINATION and SEEDLING EMERGENCE

There are basically two sequential events that take place once seed are placed in a moist seedbed. The first event is seed hydration. When the exterior surface of the seed comes in contact with soil moisture, water is attracted to the seed surface as well as to other water molecules. In a sense, the seed becomes encapsulated in a water like shell. After being fully hydrated (approx. 1 – 3 days) the seed will begin to absorb soil moisture into the seed’s interior. The seed then begins to swell, food reserves found within the endosperm (food storage tissue) become available to the developing seedling and many physiological processes (metabolic activity) are activated. Shortly thereafter, rapid development and elongation of the seedling’s shoot and root occur. In the garden, we typically experience germination and emergence taking between 4 to 14 days depending on the type seed and plant species.

To clarify an important point, please allow me to elaborate. The seed’s endosperm and embryonic plant are formed within the ovary (female flower) following pollination and fertilization of the female flower. Pretty cool, huh?

MONOCOTS and DICOTS

In the plant kingdom, there are two basic plant types in regard to how seed food reserves are stored, the number of embryonic leaves present, seedling emergence and the eventual root system. Of course, this post will address each type in reference to typical garden vegetables. Just so you know, there an estimated 60,000 species of monocots!!

Examples of Monocots (monocotyledons) are rye, wheat and corn. The seed of these type plants store food reserves within the seed’s endosperm and cotyledon. During the emergence phase, the coleoptile (diagram) moves straight upward and penetrates the soil above. Soon afterward, the epicotyl (diagram) emerges from the coleoptile and gives rise to the plants first true leaves. Meanwhile, the root (radicle) begins to grow downward giving rise to a fibrous root system.

Examples of Dicots (dicotyledons) are bean, soybean and spinach. A dicot seed typically stores food reserves within the cotyledons. During the emergence phase, the stem (hypocotyl) is seen coming up through the seed bed in an arched position. It is preparing to lift the attached cotyledons and upper stem (diagram) through the seed bed. Although the cotyledons are short-lived, they will also produce photosynthate. The root grows downward giving rise to a branched and tap root system.

SEED STORAGE

Should you have the desire to save seed from one year to the next, know that it is easily accomplished. Most vegetable seed will retain good vitality when stored under dry (low humidity) and moderate temperature (60F – 70F) conditions. I store my seed at home in a kitchen cupboard. Since my home is kept between 65F to 73F, all year longw, seed saving is doable. Even so, I don’t attempt to save seed once it has reached two years past it harvest or purchase date.

One last point, seed are alive! Even in a seed’s so-called dry state, they continue to respire at very low rates. Poor storage conditions will hasten respiration leading to a decline in the seed’s overall quality.

Let us know what your comments or questions you may have for The Garden Dreamer…

Perennials are a Must

During my later years as a gardener, I’ve come to enjoy cultivating perennials. Perhaps my perennial list is not extensive, however, I believe you’ll enjoy adding one or two of these to your garden. Keep in mind, that your planting zone or hardiness zone may call for a somewhat different all-star lineup of select perennials based on the severity of your area’s winter temps. These days, my gardening activities take place in Central Missouri (Hardiness Zone 6) so what I can get away with as a perennial may not work for gardeners in Zones 2, 3, 4, or 5 (Zone 1 is near the Canadian border).

Please keep in mind that the following is general information on each perennial. For more detailed guidance on seed rates, fertility, etc., it will be necessary to consult with local publications and/or garden books. Our goal is simply to point you in the direction of what is possible.

Asparagus

One commonly grown perennial, which can tolerate most U.S. hardiness zones (Zones 2 – 8), is asparagus. This is an excellent veggie to grow as the benefits of cooking freshly harvested spears for dinner will amaze you. Establishing a bed of asparagus may seem daunting but well worth the effort. You can purchase seed or elect to plant rootstocks (aka, crowns). Your rate of success will likely be higher by establishing your bed with crowns.

One thing to consider is, Asparagus takes a couple of years to establish before it can be harvested. However, once it’s established, it remains productive for sime 15 – 20 years. With such a long commitment, make sure to do your homework and select the best variety for your location.

Chives

This is perhaps the easiest plant to grow in your garden or in pots. As well, and unless you have big plans for using this herb, a few bunches tucked away in your garden is all you need. From my experience, chives typically last for 8 to 10 years.

You can seed chives or divide an existing clump to get your own plants started without difficulty. If a neighbor has some chives, which you really like, then ask if you can divide a few clumps for your garden. This ensures that you’ll end up with what they have! I like to also start chives from seed if I’m interested in making sure of the purity of my new crop. For example, we grow both green chives and garlic chives in our garden. The green chives were started from seed and the garlic chives were dug from an existing bed. Both are doing well and provide us with an excellent garnish.

Rhubarb

Before I get started, I need to inform the reader that my only reason for growing rhubarb is because I love rhubarb and rhubarb/strawberry pie. As far as growing rhubarb, it is perhaps the easiest to propagate by using rootstalks from an existing plant. Every few years, during late winter, you can dig up plants and select the healthiest rootstalks for planting in a new location. You can certainly try to grow rhubarb from seed however not everyone is successful.

Rhubarb is super easy to cultivate so success is pretty certain. However, please keep in mind that the foliage of one plant may take up 4′ to 6′ across. Usually, a family of three will have 2 to 3 plants in their garden.

CAUTION: When you harvest rhubarb only use the stalks for cooking. The leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

Rhubarb

Jerusalem Artichoke

Here’s one I haven’t grown yet. Many say that this veggie can be cooked like a potato so I’m anxious to validate this. Because our community garden (St. Joseph Street Community Garden) has a mission to feed others, I’m always interested in producing a bountiful harvest from the majority of our veggies. It seems that the Jerusalem Artichoke (JA) may fit this bill. However, don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for early red potatoes. The JA is related to the sunflower however its bounty comes from underground tubers. The tubers can be eaten raw or cooked.

To secure tubers, check with friends to request that they save a few tubers from their next harvest. Of course, you can always search the internet for a reputable source. Once you’ve established JA in your garden you can select some choice tubers from your harvest to plant next spring. Of course, if you leave any tubers in the ground, they will likely grow (duh, JA is a perennial) and provide you with another great harvest in the following season.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Berries and Fruit

Fall is also an opportunity to establish a new bed of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, we are establishing two separate beds of strawberries (summer and everbearing types). This past Fall, we planted a 15 ft. row of an erect-thornless-everbearing blackberry. They are doing fine and will be a great addition to our garden! On the fruit side of things, we planted two peach trees and plan to plant two apple and two pear trees in Spring 2022. All are dwarf varieties. However, and because our community garden is relatively small, the tress will be planted around the perimeter of our vegetable beds.

Although perennials will typically occupy the same spot in your garden for 3 to many years, it is always wise to rotate them when the time comes. With strawberries, we plan to maintain each bed in the same spot for 5 years. in year 4, we will plant a new bed of strawberries with purchased plants from a reputable nursery.

I hope this post was useful and has encouraged you to add a few perennials to your garden. Should you have any comments or questions, please contact me at:

thegardenalchemist@thegardendreamer.com

Grow Lights

Hi! Johnny L. Dose here with another contribution to The Garden Dreamer.
Just a few words on artificial lighting. We all have plants that we would like to keep over the
winter. You may have some investment in perennials. On the other hand, you might like to get a jump on seedlings and transplants to have ready for the spring, instead of buying them from the garden center. For this goal, you will need artificial lighting (fuh-duh). There are a lot of options out there, and LED is a term to become familiar with [LED = Light Emitting Diode = energy efficient].
So, I’m going to advance the ball on two products this winter that I think will do the job.
Btw: I’m not paid to plug any particular brand. These two units are just where I have come to on this topic. You don’t have to adopt my choices to have success.

1: Bloomspect 2000W LED Glow Light, Full Spectrum LED plant growing lamps for indoor plants Veg and Flower Hydroponics. This unit has two independent on/off switches that allow you to choose between blue light (short waves) and red light (long waves). Short waves (blue light) are good for vegetative growth. Long waves (red light) are good for inducing flowering.

This unit, I think, gives you some range on what you can grow. 2000W for an hour is 2 KWH. At $0.16/ KWH, that’s 26 cents an hour to grow something. Sixteen (16) hours per day is $4.16/day and for 45 days is $187.20 in lighting cost alone. The cost could be less than that, if only using one spectrum at a time, or if you go with the 1000W model. The cost could be more than that depending on the cost of electricity in your area. Or free, if you install solar panels. I digress.

2: Craftersmark LED full spectrum grow light with tripod stand, timer, auto on/off and 9 dimmable levels. This unit has four lamps on a stand, which I think will be good for the
garage or spare room where you can group all your potted plants together around the tripod. The box says 40W, which I assume to mean 10W per head. It’s not a lot of power. Heads can be used individually. The light puts a pink glow everywhere, which might be annoying to some. I did go to Amazon to get these units, where you will find more detail.

There are many more products out there to try depending on your goals and space. You certainly can get smaller, simpler, tabletop units to start seeds. You can also integrate some lighting in your cold frame or greenhouse. In the 70’s and 80’s, my dad would just use florescent glow bulbs in his shop lights. He was a big fan of geraniums. I don’t know the power requirements off-hand of these lamps. I also don’t know if the special grow bulbs are easy to find. I will investigate this option and report back.

I will also be starting some basil and spinach seeds this weekend. I think these plants will grow well now. They’re easy to start. Well, the basil is. They should pay for themselves with satisfaction and bragging rights with your in-laws/ friends/ neighbors, but not the cat. He’s seen it all before.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with grow lights. I’ll stop now and save some material for my next post as well as gather some data to report back.


All the Best,
Johnny L. Dose

Worm Poop

Did you know that worm castings (worm poop) is rich 100% organic humus which contain microbiological colonies that help fight soil-borne plant diseases and repel insects. If this is news to you then you might want to read the following report issued by University of California – Agriculture and Natural Resources – UCCE Master Gardener Program: http://ucanr.org/sites/mgfresno/

Worm-castings are water-soluble allowing plants to quickly and easily absorb essential nutrients and trace minerals. When the manure passes through the worm’s digestive tract, it forms a coating around the grain which allows for the nutrients to “time release” into the soil. Nutrients are readily available to plant material over a greater length of time and will not burn even the most delicate plants.

Analysis of earthworm castings reveals that they are rich in iron, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK rating: 5/5/3 %). They are much richer in nutrients than bulk compost, therefore application rates are much lower. Chemical fertilizers are a one-shot wonder. The plant uses what is immediately available – the rest leaches out into the soil beyond the plants reach.

Improved Growth: Extensive University testing has been performed by Ohio State, Cornell University, UC Davis and the Australian SIRO to prove the worth of worm castings. The tests have shown improved flower size, bloom quantity, quality and color. Fruit and vegetables tests have resulted in yield improvements from 57% to over 200% as well as improvement in taste and appearance.

A worm castings tea can be made from the castings resulting in a 100% organic spray that improves nutrient absorption. It will NOT burn your plants. This easily absorbed water soluble mixture can be sprayed directly onto plants for immediate absorption or applied once a month while watering.

Putting Worm Castings to Use

Worm Tea – Soak 1 part worm castings in 3 parts water for 24 hours or more – mixing several times. Apply 8 ounces of worm tea per plant every 30 days, or, as a foliar spray, add 4 ounces of worm tea to 1 gallon of water and apply every 30 to 60 days.

*This section on worm poop is entirely taken from an article furnished by University of California – Agriculture and Natural Resources. This blog’s author, although interested in utilizing worm castings to increase vegetable production, does not have direct experience testing the efficacy of worm tea in his garden.

Herbal Awareness

Hi! Johnny L. Dose here with another contribution to The Garden Dreamer.

Just a few words about herbs today. First, apart from growing herbs, using fresh herbs in cooking is an art and science and a tasty treat, especially for your guests or your special friend/ partner/ fiancé/ spouse. By the way, there’s a difference between fresh or dried out. Fresh has more water than dried out, duh, but that will make a difference in how much plant material that you add to the recipe. I’ll let you discover what those differences are.

Second, herbs provide a lot of bang for the buck. Herbs don’t take up much space in the garden, some are perennial (plant once, live all year until they don’t), and are simple to grow, i.e. not prone to pests.

Third, herbs pay for themselves. You only need to go to Walmart, Food Lion, Price Chopper, or Piggly Wiggly and check out what a $4.50 packet gets you. Compare the economics of herbs to the other end of the spectrum, e.g., sweet corn. Incidentally, most if not all of the corn you see in the country is feed corn and not what you butter up on the fourth of July. I digress.

So, let’s pick three herbs that we can start now in our home. Sure, you can buy transplants, but why let Bonnie’s Plants have all the fun. They are: Rosemary, Winter Savory and Sweet Basil.

Rosemary: [perennial/in mild climates] is good on chicken and certain cuts of beef, specifically eye-of-the-round. Rosemary seeds are very small. The way to sow them, in my opinion, is to save a food container from a store-bought salad or Chinese food dish. These containers have sufficient depth and have a lid that is free of holes. Fill the bottom of the container with fluffy potting soil (should be wet, but not soaking wet). Lift and drop the container on the counter once or twice to “pack” the soil down, and that’s all. You don’t want the soil packed down from the top. Sprinkle the seeds as evenly as possible across the surface area of the soil. Very lightly push the soil down to improve the soil:seed contact. Put the lid on. If needed, cover any holes in the lid with tape. Put the tray in a kitchen cabinet that doesn’t get much traffic and wait. How long, you ask? I don’t know, but I’ll do mine tonight and report back what I found. Might be a month.

Winter Savory: [perennial] is different from Summer Savory. Good on pork and chicken. Actually, really good on pork. Also, Winter Savory is not commonly found at all garden centers. Pinetree sells the seeds. Plant Winter Savory the same way as described above for Rosemary.

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Winter Savory

Basil (Sweet/ Italian): [annual] is good with anything tomato based, e.g. spaghetti sauce. In fact, a basil pureé with sliced tomato and mozzarella cheese is a nice hors d’oeuvres. I can’t recommend a specific meat dish for fresh basil. The seeds are larger and simple to grow. Same basic strategy for sowing the seeds as above. Since larger, you will want to sprinkle some extra soil on top of the seed to get good coverage and then lightly pack down. Now, these seeds will germinate quickly and will need to be thinned. Also, they will be much faster to come up than the perennials. I will also start some seeds tonight and report back. We will be growing these indoors now. Stayed tuned for future posts on this story.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with herbs.

I’ll stop now and save some material for my next post.

All the Best,

Johnny L. Dose

Seed Selection

Hi! Johnny L. Dose here with another contribution to The Garden Dreamer.

Just a few words on seed selection today. First, seeds are not viable forever. If they are more than two or three years old, toss ‘em in the compost pile or on top of a worm tub. Maybe some will sprout that you can use. Me, I prefer to get new seeds. You should be using up your old orders anyway and not overbuying…. um…..like me.

Second, now is the time to shop for seeds. Parks Seed has a beautiful catalog. I like looking at all the pictures and descriptions. Seeds are packed for airtightness. Gurney’ s has a good selection and combo packs that can make it simple to plan the garden. Also, they’re not pricy. Pinetree, also has good varieties and some hard-to-find seeds, e.g. Winter Savory (herb).

Third, as hinted above, now is the time to plan the garden. What are you going to do that’s new? What are you going to drop? What are you going to keep as standard crops? Sometimes, it’s fun to get out graph paper and draw some plots out. It’s also fun to do a kids jigsaw puzzle, finger paint, and burn crayons in the garage.

Fourth, there are many Off-Season Activities (OSAs), e.g. trade shows, Ag Extension seminars, soil sampling and testing, liming, equipment maintenance, winter garden, 2021 harvest data, expenses to review, and benefits to report. Soul enrichment is a benefit.

So, there is actually some planting that can be done in January, e.g. indoor seeds flats or float beds. Crops like onions, strawberries and herbs like Rosemary and Winter Savory are slow to get going; therefore, could be started now. 

Last, if you have a Winter garden, hoop house, or cold frame, then you already have a 
List O’ Shizz to address. The main point is that the garden season doesn’t begin or end with last or first frost dates. There’s plenty of planning, compiling, building, fixing that can get done and all without mosquitoes, flies ,or COVID masks {region and IQ dependent}.

In closing with comments on fingerlings (new potatoes only not so round), now is the time to get your order in. I like Ronniger Potato farms https://www.ronnigersorganics.com/ . The French fingerlings tend to sell out. Now, you can do Yukon gold potatoes, but then you also buy a five pound bag for $5.59. Fingerlings are worth the trouble. They can be very tasty, and are in my opinion, worth growing. At least get on the website and goof out on all the different kinds of potatoes that you can grow. Just like all the different kinds of popcorn you can grow.

Now is also a good time to go online and look for a Vegetable Planner for your area. This information is essentially a calendar of when to germinate, days until harvest, etc.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with seeds.

I’ll stop now and save some material for my next post. 

All the Best,

Johnny L. Dose

TGD Blog  03 JAN 22

Fall Planting is Good for the Soul

This piece isn’t going to address everything under the sun (or is it? 😜) as it will be more in line with a general discussion. Many gardens get started with a bang only to be abandoned after the summer months. There’s actually a lot more that can take place to produce more delicious veggies prior to the quiet days of winter.

Should you be dead set on not having a Fall garden perhaps you might consider turning your plot, at the end of summer, then seed a blend of 2 or 3 cover crops for a Fall and Winter cover. Cover crops lessen weed growth and, when incorporated into the garden soil, contribute to improve soil texture and organic matter content. This Fall, we are using a 50/50 blend of annual rye grass and Australian peas.

If you are eager to work in the garden during the Fall months, then consider the following:

Leafy Greens: There are a myriad of delicious leafy greens such as spinach, salad mixes, red leaf salad, romaine, etc. Talk with other gardeners in your area to see what works best.

Cole crops: With some good timing (late summer), set out starts of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc., in a spot that receives nice sun but not in a place where plants will be abused by high temps.

Sugar pod peas: These are delicious to eat straight from the plant and make excellent additions to soup, salads and stir fry. Remember to provide a trellis of some sort for these guys as many varieties can reach 5 to 6 ft. in height. Check around for the suited varieties or heirlooms for your area.

Bush beans: Don’t hesitate to gamble on a late crop of 50D to 60D maturing bush beans and experiment with green, reddish and yellow wax types. When you arrive at the last succession planting of beans you might want to consider placing a small plastic tunnel over the crop following thinning and perhaps a side dress of fertilizer. Even if the last planted beans crop doesn’t make it, just shrug it off as a short-lived cover crop.

Berries and Fruit: Fall is also an opportunity to establish a new bed of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, we are establishing two separate beds of strawberries (summer and everbearing types). This past Fall, we planted a 15 ft. row of an erect-thornless-everbearing blackberry. They are doing fine and will be a great addition to our garden! On the fruit side of things, we planted two peach trees and plan to plant two apple and two pear trees in Spring 2022. All are dwarf varieties. However, and because our community garden is relatively small, the tress will be planted around the perimeter of our vegetable beds.

There’s so much more that can be written about his topic as I have only scratched the surface on Fall planting. But, like I said earlier, my idea for this post is to perhaps encourage gardeners to initiate or perhaps expand their gardening efforts with Fall planted crops. In another post, we will address the One-Story Greenhouse and cold frames which aid in extending the garden season in most growing zones.

Don’t be shy and let us know what you think about this post…

Flowers are Always a Good Idea

Although our main objective is to grow and harvest a bounty of quality produce, we always take time to plant annual and perennial flowers. I believe that a splash of color serves as an excellent complement to the rest of the garden. Other benefits include providing a source of nectar and pollen for bees, companion planting, insect deterrent and bringing a freshly cut bouquet to a loved one.

A Splash of Garden Color

A brilliant display of color is always a welcome addition to any garden plot. I recently noticed that a neighbor would spend a few minutes observing the flower bed located at the front of our community garden. Of course, I walked over to introduce myself and to gauge his interest in becoming a Garden Member. Simply put, he told me that he stops by frequently to admire the garden and especially the flowers. Before he left, he expressed interest in becoming a fellow garden member.

I think that some gardeners, although they like flowers, they don’t want to give up garden space to non-edibles. This obviously makes sense, but I would add that there is always space for a few marigolds. Also, a nice splash of color can be introduced as a rotational crop.

As for attracting beneficial insects, which prey on several type of aphid species, it is a good choice to introduce the likes of alyssum, zinnia and calendula. These are annual flowers which can be sown by seed or plant starts. To prolong the productivity of zinnia and calendula, practice dead heading. Once flowering commences, remain vigilant about removing spent (dead) flowers. As for alyssum, they don’t require dead heading. As well, this annual will reseed itself in most growing areas in the U.S.