Garden Planning: Fall Bulbs

 Bulb depth planting guide and a couple of our favorite perennial bulbs. 

Bulb depth planting guide and a couple of our favorite perennial bulbs. 

Plant bulbs in cool soil 4-6 weeks prior to a hard frost. A hard frost is a period of at least four consecutive hours of air temperatures that are below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bulbs should be planted immediately after you buy them in a sunny area with well drained nitrogen rich soil (this means avoid a spot that collects a lot of water). 

Plant bulbs at a depth of three times the width of the bulb.
In sandy soil plant bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower. 

Cover with compost rich soil and a little mulch or dried leaves.
Water the bulbs after you plant them and then about once a week until the ground totally freezes. 

We also suggest covering the planted area in chicken wire if you have any squirrel gangs near by. 

We also suggest covering the planted area in chicken wire if you have any squirrel gangs near by. 

Fall Project: Garlic Planting 101

Sometimes garlic is just garlic. And sometimes it is more. This fall, learning more about this wonder crop has been a fantastic distraction from the current political situation. Whenever I find myself despondent after further breaking news, I go where I always go to regroup--the garden.  
While the rest of the garden is dying back, brittle from the winds of autumn and blackened from the first frosts, garlic is just getting started. Plus, this fall it has the added bonus of staving off vampires, or perhaps certain presidential candidates....

Garlic is a reminder that we are stronger together. One small clove planted this fall will turn into a coven come spring. Tightly packed little "witches" of an underground secret society, plotting an uprising.

 Photography & Words By  Amanda Eastvold

Photography & Words By Amanda Eastvold

TIMING
Like most bulbs, garlic is planted in the fall.  Mid-October is the optimal time here in zone 4.  I always know it's time to plant garlic around MEA (if you're from Minnesota you know what I'm talking about). For all things frost related check our post, What the Frost?

PREPARE THY SOIL
Prepare the soil by tilling it, or loosening it with a hoe, shovel or a hand tool.  Add compost if you have it, or purchase organic compost or well-rotted manure.  

Garlic needs well-drained soil, it will rot if the soil is too wet.  

Adding compost and organic matter will help with drainage, but will not help enough if planted where the soil stays saturated.  

Don't forget to rotate your garlic rows if you've grown it in the past season.  You should not plant anything in the allium family  (onions, shallots, leeks or garlic) in an area used for these crops last year.  


PREPARE THY "SEED"
Use only quality "seed garlic."  Garlic "seeds" are just individual cloves of garlic.  Do not use garlic from the grocery store for planting.  High quality "seed garlic" but can be purchased online or at local organic nurseries.  

Each garlic bulb contains 5-8 individual cloves.  Each clove is planted separately and will produce a full bulb or "head" of garlic.

If you are into saving seeds, you will save the biggest garlic heads from your harvest and plant only the healthiest and robust cloves.  They say that this is ideal as garlic "learns" about your unique soil and conditions and adjusts accordingly.

The garlic bulb should be broken apart by hand, don't use tools such as knives as you risk damaging the cloves.  

Leave the peels intact, as it protects the clove in the ground.  I think of it as it's winter coat, so don't plant "naked" garlic.


PLANT
Garlic should be planted in rows 12 inches apart.  

Use string to create your rows or step it off with one "foot" length between each row.  Make a 2-3 inch deep furrow with a hoe or hand tool along the string line.  

Each clove should be planted 6 inches apart in the row. 

Plant the blunt end of the clove down (this is called the growth plate, where the roots emerge downward), pointy end up, approximately 2-3 inches deep.

Cover with soil and tap down firmly.

COVER
Cover all the rows heavily with straw or a mixture of compost and leaves about 6 inches high.  Do not skimp!  I find that leaves tend to blow away so I first lay down a layer of leaves, then straw.
Mulch will compact over winter and keep the garlic from freezing.  The mulch will also hold in moisture, keep cloves from heaving out of the ground during frost/thaw and keep weeds down next spring and summer.

WATER
Although I said garlic does not like to be wet, it does need some moisture to start the rooting process.  I usually water on top of the mulch just after planting it.  You will not see any growth above ground in the fall, but it will be developing roots, so don't forget to water weekly if there is no rainfall before full frost.  

VARIETIES
There are many varieties of garlic out there, and there really is no right or wrong here.  It is best to plant at least 2 varieties in case one variety doesn't do well.  Pests usually don't bother garlic, however, there are various diseases that can effect garlic crops.  

how do you plant garlic?
How to Plant Garlic

Preserving 101: Apple Pie Filling

 Tootie's Apple Sauce Recipe can also be found  here .

Tootie's Apple Sauce Recipe can also be found here.

We loved the idea of saving time during this approaching holiday season by making and preserving apple pie filling while our apples are at their finest. For those who have questioned the final pie product, fear not because we've done the foot work and this filling is absolutely delicious. Use 2 Quarts for one 9 inch pie anytime over the next year, I'm also sure this would be delicious over ice cream or in a crisp.

INGREDIENTS
5 ounces cornstarch
4-1/2 cups white sugar or 50/50 brown sugar+white
3 tablespoons lemon juice
10 cups water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
6 pounds of apples  (1 pound is about 4 apples roughly)

INSTRUCTIONS
1.   Sterilize quart jars either in the dish washer or by hand in hot soapy water.
Place jars on a cookie sheet and in the oven at 250 as your prep your filling. 

2.  In a large pan, mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add salt and water and mix well. Bring to a boil and cook until thick and bubbly, stirring almost constantly. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

3.  Peel, core, and slice apples. Pack the sliced apples into hot canning jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.

4.  Wash lids and rings boiling them in a large pot of water. Keep them at a simmer while you fill the jars.

5.  Fill jars with hot syrup, and gently remove air bubbles with a knife. 

6.  Put lids on and process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes. 

Apple Pie Filling Recipe

Preserving: Herb Garland

SUPPLY LIST
String/ twine for hanging herbs
Two small nails or tacks & a hammer
Clothespins
Scissors
Fresh cut herbs

INSTRUCTIONS
Herbs should be dried immediately after clipping from the garden.
To hang your cut herbs, simply tie ends together or use a clothespin to secure them to twine you have hung away from the sun in a well ventilated dry space. 

Give each herb bundle a little space, leaving about an inch between each set.
Many herbs take just 2-3 weeks to dry. Once dry, leaves will be crispy and are easily crushed between your fingers. Dried herbs can be stored and used for a full year after drying. 
 

*To substitute dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, use 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount listed in the recipe.

Midsummer Gardening Checklist

It's not to late to save your garden or to even start a new one! Follow along with our midsummer to-do list to help pick things up again while encouraging growth and improving fall yields.

Pull Bolted or Spent Plants & Keep Planting!
This one is a hard one for me to do. Maybe that half dead bed of peas will pull a Lazarus and spring back to life pushing out a few more harvests! Not gonna happen, pull and compost the dead plants (if you suspect the plants are diseased avoid composting) add a little good soil and plant something else in the ground.
Those bolted radishes are taking up valuable garden bed real-estate! Remember to rotate crops and plant something different. We particularly like planting more carrots as they won't mind the cooler temperatures later this fall. Included in our late summer plantings are bush beans, they are quick to grow and won't take over your garden if you have limited space. Zone 4 gardeners will also be able to squeeze in a planting of lettuce, spinach, radishes and even beets.

Harvest Garlic + Replace with Dutch Clover
Your soil's nutrients took a beating growing that beautiful garlic, now is the time to plant some dreamy dutch clover. Dutch clover will amend the soil and attract the honey bees who your squash and brussels sprouts desperately need right now. Yeah yeah yeah, dutch clover spreads, but what have you done for a honey bee lately while they've been slaving away feeding our entire planet?

Celery Maintenance
Every year we try and grow something new, this year we are taking a stab at celery. If you planted in early summer chances are your stalks will need an elastic hair binder around each plant to encourage taller stalks. Also build up the soil around the base of the plant with mulch and compost and don't forget to water! These guys are always thirsty, and if you live in a world where you think the rain is enough for your garden, think again! 

Pumpkins + Squash Friends
Monitor for Squash Vine Borer.  Apply Mulch and fertilizer. If trying to grow great big pumpkins consider gently removing all but your largest healthiest baby fruit at this stage so your plant can send all its nutrients and good juju to that particular pumpkin. 

Watermelon & Melon Maintenance
Place cardboard and/or straw between the soil and fruit to prevent rotting. 

Plant a Pollinator Garden Bed
Many garden centers are purging plants and flowers at a discounted price. Fill your garden with many pollinator friendly varieties now to get those female squash flowers pollinated and fruiting. Checkout our pollinator friendly flower guide for more information on what to plant.

Fertilize + Prune (repeat) 
Remove old withered and yellow leaves throughout the garden on plants that are still producing. You can try and keep your herbs going by deadheading but for the freshest flavor we prefer starting over and sowing new seeds every few weeks, Cilantro is a good example of an herb you must keep replanting after it insists on flowering. Apply a compost tea or drench plants in a organic liquid fertilizer, we love TwoMikes every few weeks. 

Onions & Shallots: From Harvest to Storing

When to Pick Pick onions and shallots once all of their leaves have fallen over naturally. Lift carefully from soil and let dry for about a week in a warm dry place. This may be done in your garden bed, but should only been done when the weather is dry and mild. Leave in the ground a few onions or shallots to winter over and come back in the spring.

Drying You’ll know the onions are done drying when they have the papery brittle outer skins, like the store bought onions, but you didn’t grow em! The roots will be dry, and the tops will be completely dried out.

Storing Brush off excess dirt and you are ready to braid! Cut three pieces of twine about 3 feet long and tie them together at one end. Then braid twine and onion tops together, until within 6 inches of the of the twine. Wrap one piece of twine fast around the onions stems, then tie to the other two and hang in a dark, dry, cool place. This same practice can be done with harvested and dried garlic to keep for many months.

Pest Management: What Killed Your Squash Plant

THE PEST: Squash Vine Borer aka Squash Bug aka your worst nightmare if you are trying to grow anything from the Cucurbitaceae family, this includes squash, watermelon, zucchinis or pumpkins. 

 Squash Vine Borers (Melittia satyriniformis) drop eggs onto thick vine type crops that hatch into grubby white caterpillar and will take down your entire plant.

Squash Vine Borers (Melittia satyriniformis) drop eggs onto thick vine type crops that hatch into grubby white caterpillar and will take down your entire plant.

INFESTATION SYMPTOMS: A couple of WTFs are usually one of the early signs a squash bug has been spotted in your growing space. Once referred to around my house as that crazy alien bird beetle that's hovering (yes hovering) over my pumpkin patch. These guys can take down an entire plant within a few days. Infestations are usually spotted too late, but your leafs will start to wilt and the plant will begin to collapse and then die. The vines will also become mushy and rotten.

These guys are really a location based problem. The vine borer can spot Cucurbitaceae from miles away and will keep coming back year after year to your pumpkin patch. Nothing really helps so put your wallet away and plan to pull eggs from your plant daily for about two weeks out of the year sometime between July and August.. So worth it, because who doesn't want to grow their own squash?! If you have been overwhelmed year after year by Vine Borer infestations try planting butternut squash only, rumor has it they are resistant to the vine borer take down. 

 

 

Check the underside of leafs and the base of your plant for brown small poppyseed like eggs. Remove the eggs with your fingernail or a dull knife. Once you've discovered a few eggs check back daily until egg laying has stopped.

The Vine Borer will only lay eggs for about two weeks out of the season.

Good luck! Happy Vine Borer Hunting!!

BUILD YOUR OWN DAMN TOMATO TRELLIS

Our preferred  method of keeping tomatoes off the ground is string trellising. This is a great method for those that want to have multiple different varieties but have limited space availability. It requires a bit of maintenance but it does make for a well organized plant that is easy to work with.

The process involves training the tomato plants to a designated number of “leaders” - usually one to four. For the home garden, four would work quite well. “Leaders” are the main shoot of the plant (leader # 1) and then additional leaders are suckers. 

 Tip - wait until a sucker presents that is close in size to the main leader.  In red, is the original leader and then, in the crotch of a leaf branch, a sucker grew and became the second leader. In this case, all other leaders will be removed. 

Tip - wait until a sucker presents that is close in size to the main leader.  In red, is the original leader and then, in the crotch of a leaf branch, a sucker grew and became the second leader. In this case, all other leaders will be removed. 

To tie them up, regular twine works great and can be bought at any garden center or hardware store. The knot used at the bottom is a bowline know. It forms a loop that won’t tighten even when pulled. Consult the internet to learn about a bowline. Other knots would certainly work too as long as they allow the stem to grow. The twine is then tied to something on the top such as a tall post, or a DIY structure of your choice. 

BAMBOO TRELLIS INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring home at least a dozen bamboo poles 6-7 foot lengths. (depending on how many plants you have)
2. Using a trowel, dig a hole. Drive the bamboo stake into the hole. Make another hole opposite the first, about 4-5 feet away, and drive a stake into it. 
3. The bamboo poles should come together like a teepee. Wrap twine around the two poles where they meet at the top. Repeat this process to create 2 more teepees. Leave about 4 feet between each teepee.
4. Then place the last bamboo pole across the top of the structure in the “V” created where the poles meet, connecting all the teepees together.
5. Tie twine from one pole to the next along each side. Leaving about 12 inches between each line, continue up the teepee structure. You should have about 3 or 4 lines strung up by the end. This reinforces the structure and adds support for the tomato plants as they grow and climb.

* Instructions adapted from the following article.
Many thanks to French Lake Farmer for their growing expertise and help with this post!

How NOT to Kill Your Tomato Plants

 Photography by  Sean O'brien

Photography by Sean O'brien

First off, shout out to the experts on tomato growing French Lake Farmer. These guys were just recently certified organic and are dedicated to growing the most beautiful, best tasting tomatoes in the Midwest. Just ask Cooks of Crocus hill who routinely feature their tomatoes in their seasonal crop shares. If you don't have the growing space to produce the ton of tomatoes you need for canning (seriously it's like 10 lb.), consider picking up a canners bulk case worth of Romas from these guys. Contact them directly over on www.frenchlakefarmer.com.
 

FIVE WAYS NOT TO KILL YOUR TOMATO PLANTS 

1. When the plant is about two feet tall, cut (or snap off) all the leaves below the lowest flowers.
2. Keep a consistent moisture level. Mulching with grass clippings or last years leaves (if you saved them) is a good way to keep even moisture levels in the soil. This will help prevent blossom end rot, one of the most common causes of tomato plant loss.
3. Avoid overwatering and don’t use grass clippings if you’ve sprayed your lawn with a dandelion killer.
4. Keep the leaves dry! Water tomato plants around the stem and again avoid overhead watering.
Most tomato problems in MN have to do with moisture and Tomato Blight loves moisture. 
5. Keep the tomatoes off of the ground! These plants benefit in a number of ways from support, staking, trellising etc.

For more information on detecting and troubleshooting your Tomato growing problems check out post, Speaking Tomato: What is Your Plant Trying to Tell you.

Garden Planning: Edible Flowers

 Illustration by  Ashley Barlow.

Illustration by Ashley Barlow.

Edible flowers, oh how you make our hearts sing!!

This year, we've decided to turn our attention to flowers that are not only beautiful but edible and pollinator friendly.

So while you're busy finalizing and tweaking your garden designs, consider adding some of these delicious flora friends into your garden, container or corner of the world.

Here's the round up of our picks for 2015:

  1. Pansy -  full sun, lots of water, good in containers or boarders. Recipe, Pansy Flower Cookies
  2. Dandelion - full/partial sun, probably already grows like weed in your yard. Recipe Dandelion Jelly
  3. Carnation - full sun, well drained soil. Recipe Grilled Peach & Carnation Salad
  4. Chrysanthemum - full early sun, well drained soil, fall bloomer. Recipe Roast Chicken Noodle Chrysanthemum Soup
  5. Violet -  sun with light shade, well drained soil, don't over water. Recipe Old Fashion Sweet Violet Syrup
  6. Lavender - full sun, dry well drained soil, smells amazing. Recipe Lavender Honey
  7. Chamomile - sun with light shade, well drained soil, can spread, good for container. Recipe Chamomile Tea
  8. Nasturtium - full sun, easy to grow, good for containers, boarders & kids. Recipe Nasturtium Stuffed Flowers
  9. Rose - full sun, loamy soil, many varieties, needs pruning. Recipe Rose Petal Sorbet
  10. Allium - full sun, well drained soil, deer resistant, bulb. Recipe Allium Blossom Vinegar
  11. Borage - a personal favorite, full sun to partial shade, long bloom. Recipe Candied Borage Blossoms
  12. Lilac - full sun, any soil type, shurb, hardy, low maintenance. Recipe Lilac Scones With Rhubarb Curd

Growing Solutions: Pollinator Gardens

 Use the hashtag #feedmorebees to have your favorite pollinator friendly plants added to our guide!

Use the hashtag #feedmorebees to have your favorite pollinator friendly plants added to our guide!

While local legislation and advocacy groups are leading the fight against fungicides and pesticides that cause massive honey bee die offs, your garden or homestead can also be apart of the solution in a big way. The fact is, while more people are turning to beekeeping as apart of the solution, the honeybee is running out of dependable sources of food. When nectar in the field becomes scarce, the worker bees drag the drones out of the hive and do not let them return, causing them to starve to death.

We can help. Plant any of the following flowers this year to feed more bees. These flowers are all suited for zones 1-5. If you are buying plants make sure they aren't just labeled pollinator friendly, but most importantly that they are sold at a 
neonicotinoids-free garden center. For more information on our world's disappearing honeybee, check out this TED talk by local hero to us Dr. Marla Spivak.

Don't be a jerk. 
Help save the honeyBees.
 #feedmorebees

Tennessee Purple Coneflower + Pincushion flower + Pincushion flower + Yarrow

Prickly Poppy + Rosemary + Thyme + Mint

Sweet alyssum + Sunflowers + Bee Balm (Lemon) + Crocus  

 

 

Thank you to our friends at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for the flower photos and for their commitment to providing rare non-GMO heirloom seeds. They make planting Pollinator Gardens easy by selling pollinator seed collections. Give 'em a look-see! 


 

Seed Starting Part 3: Transplanting Seedlings

SEEDLINGS
Ok, let's be real here. 
You read our article, you meant to plant your own seeds but life happened and seed-starting didn't. Or maybe you started the seeds but they didn't make it, despite your best efforts.  Even I suffered a few casualties this year, including these coveted Icelandic Poppies.  Rest in peace poppies. I'm here to say, guilt not! 

Get over yourself and just go buy some of your favorite veggies, herbs and flowers and join us for some planting! It's not cheating, we all do it. 

  These instructions can be applied to planting store bought plants or transplanting the seeds you started weeks ago.

These instructions can be applied to planting store bought plants or transplanting the seeds you started weeks ago.

SUPPLIES
Shovel
Measuring tool
Stakes and string (optional)
Watering can
Compost
Seedlings

GARDEN DESIGN & LAYOUT

If you haven't already, it helps to sketch your garden before planting. This will give you a general feel for what you have room for and how your garden will look. If this is your first time planting a garden, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by this step.  You might think you have "no idea what you're doing," but trust me, you know more than you think you do.  If you've planted a garden in the past, don't forget about rotation.  If you've been growing the same things in your garden, in the same place year after year it's time to change it up.  As different plants take and release different things into the soil, it's important to rotate your vegetables around the garden.  You can really geek out more on crop rotation here!  And of course, don't forget to include space for pathways in your garden as you'll need room to harvest your amazing veggies!

 

TIMING
Many seedlings should not be planted out before the last frost date has passed.  In Zone 4, the average last frost date is May 15th, but wouldn't ya know it, we saw frost warnings all over the state last weekend!  It really does pay to be patient.  Once your seedlings have been sufficiently 'hardened off' (see step 7) and the danger of frost has passed, your baby seedlings are finally ready to go in the ground!  If you're purchasing plants from a garden center and they are outside, it's safe to say they have been hardened off and are ready to plant, but it never hurts to ask.
 

PREPARING THE AREA
If you haven't cleared your garden from last year, remove large plant material from the roots and compost them (except any tomato plants that have been infected by blight, they will infect the compost and should always be removed immediately in the fall).  Any smaller weeds can be pulled or dug up and worked into the soil as this green material serves to add organic matter.  If you have a small area, you can "turn over" the soil with a shovel.  This simply means to dig in your shovel and turn the soil over bit by bit until the entire area has been loosened.  This aerates the soil, mixes nutrients in, and allows new plant roots to take hold.

TO COMPOST OR NOT TO COMPOST?
Adding compost to your garden is not required, but is highly recommended as it helps build up the health of your soil and will benefit your plants in the long run.  Many back yard city plots have terrible soil quality, just ask my friend Chanda!  My backyard soil has taken 12 years to build up to nice loamy garden soil, so don't expect this to happen overnight.  But, adding the right things to your soil now will give you better results this season, guaranteed!  I'm not talking about adding black dirt here--I'm talking compost, compost (broken down organic matter which adds all kinds of yummy microbes to improve your soil quality).  Compost not only adds "food" for your plants, but also improves water retention and drainage.  You can add your own compost if you have it or purchase bag or bulk compost. Once the area has been cleared, the soil turned and amended, you can rake it smooth and prepare for planting!  Yay!

*If you want to start your own compost pile, tune in here for upcoming articles on how to start composting your kitchen and garden waste!  

 I usually add compost before turning the soil over, but you can also add it on top of your existing soil and rake it in (as pictured).

I usually add compost before turning the soil over, but you can also add it on top of your existing soil and rake it in (as pictured).

SPACING & DEPTH

Decide what you have room for by determining which plants need the most space and which plants require :staking, trellises or cages.

This is where a measuring tape or tool comes in handy.  I have this handy stick that has been pre-marked with various spacing requirements (6", 12", 18", 24"...).  Once you have a general idea of what you are going to plant, and where they will go, bring your seedlings over to the area and assess the space in person.  

Each seed packet should give you spacing and depth requirements.  For example, tomatoes like 24-36" of growing space and need to be caged or staked.  Peppers are more upright and only need 12-18".  While broccoli and brussels sprouts require more like 18"-24".  Melons, pumpkins, and squash are sprawlers, so they will need lots of real estate, up to 3-6 feet!  Make sure you reference your seed packet (or good ol' Google) to find out about varieties that you are growing.  

Before digging your holes, lay out the seedlings, starting with one crop.  If you plan to use rows, two stakes with a string in between can serve as a nice straight line, or you can eye ball it.  With your seedlings, lay out and measure between plants, stand back and assess.  If you need to adjust them slightly do so but don't skimp on spacing.  Remember they may seem small now, but they have 3 months of intense growth ahead!  Many plants need room for air circulation and for light to reach the lower leaves, not to mention room to maneuver in for weeding and harvesting.

DIGGING IN
With adequate spacing and a pleasing layout, you can now dig your seedlings in. Move the seedlings off to the side and dig a hole twice the size of your seedling, usually this is one nice shovel full.  This is a good rule of thumb, but please reference your specific varieties for depth requirements. I prefer a spade to a hand shovel, but use whatever feels comfortable. I usually back fill the hole with loosened soil.  If you haven't yet, pinch off any extra sprouts, leaving only the healthiest one.  Very gently work the seedling out of it's container, never pull it by the stem as it can pull out without it's root ball intact. You can gently pinch the bottom of the pot, if its flexible, or tip it on its side and work the entire root ball out.  If you are planting in peat (fiber pots) I still recommend removing the seedling before planting.  

Once the seedling is out of the pot, gently loosen the root ball, breaking up any that are extremely "root bound."  Seedlings that are very leggy can be planted slightly deeper to leave a shorter exposed stem, in fact, tomatoes like to be planted very deep and grow roots along any portion of the buried stem.

 

WATERING IN
I learned this "watering in" technique from some wonderful farmers I worked with a dozen or so years ago and it works beautifully.  Place the seedling in the hole and gently fill the hole half way with water, allowing it to soak the seedling and soil completely.  Then, fill in the hole around the seedling with soil, breaking up any large clumps.  Press the soil down gently around the stem.  Water generously the first few days after planting, and during dry spells.  

*Tip:  Any leaves planted under ground will become roots, so it's ok to plant them down a ways on the stem.]

Ok, there you have it folks, almost everything you need to know about planting your garden.  As always, we are here for YOU! Send us a note and we will try and answer any of your planting questions or share in your success!  Tag us in your garden pics this weekend or use the hashtag #tootieanddotes and we might just send you a Tootie & Dotes market tote. Good luck we hope this is your best year yet! 

What's in Your Tool Belt?

Garden tools are probably the biggest investment you will make in the garden and yet the most intimidating. Like all things green Amanda is here to help break down the gardening tool clutter by showing us what's in her garden tool arsenal. 

DIRT MOVERS + THE BIG GUNS

Wheelbarrow
Moving dirt, compost, and plant material around the yard
Spade
Edging the gardens, digging veggies in, assorted planting
Pitch Fork
Turning compost, mulching with straw, digging root veggies
Rake
Leaves, leaves, leaves


THE SMALL BUT MIGHTY

Work Boots/sun hat/natural bug spray
Bodily protection
Assorted Hand Tools (Hand circle hoe is my favorite):
Perfect for weeding small places, in between rows of greens, herbs, and veggies
Garden Twine and Labels
For strining off rows and labeling edibles
(Purple!) Flower Snips
A sharp one for cutting tender stemmed cut flowers for arrangements

 

Tootie & Dotes Garden Planner!

Claire and I are so proud to introduce our first ever Tootie & Dotes Garden Planner, complete with illustrations by Ashley Mary along with all of our favorite growing tools and tips. This book is a real labor of love that was spawned over a year ago with the desire to give our readers something they can take with them into the garden, either for the journal and record keeping or as your very own Tootie & Dotes gardening pep talk - we believe in you! Grow something, anything.. do it for the bees and our pollinator friends or do it to feed someone you love. Getting your hands dirty has never been this easy or adorable! Thank Yous all around to everyone that helped out on this project, we can't wait to see copies out in your gardens and to hear what you think of it!

Six Essential Gardening Tools

 Original Illustration by  Rachel Rolseth

Original Illustration by Rachel Rolseth

After a few years of gardening, you start to get a feel for the tools that you can't live without, and the gadgets that looked cool at the garden store but you never really use...

To help you decide on what tools might be right for you, we asked the knowledgable ladies at Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply to give us their must have gardening tool picks. For a few of us this might just be the first time you realize that the small shovel thing is really called a 'trowel'. 

 A basic gardening tool kit should include a hoe, gloves, growl, pruner, trowel, watering can and shovel. Original Illustration by  Rachel Rolseth

A basic gardening tool kit should include a hoe, gloves, growl, pruner, trowel, watering can and shovel. Original Illustration by Rachel Rolseth

When deciding on what to buy, a big consideration is how much to spend. You want your tools to be reliable, but that doesn't mean they need to be the BEST EVER the first time you buy them.

Chances are you'll make some adjustments as you go. Luckily Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply has you covered for a range of options. From wood to metal, beginner to expert, they have a wide price range of quality tools to choose from. 

GARDEN TOOL ESSENTIALS | WHAT TO SPEND

Shovel: price range, $15-30
Great for moving earth and digging holes, breaking ground on a new plot, planting shrubs or small trees. 
Trowel: price range, $8 to $15
Great for moving smaller amounts of earth, planting and weeding. A must have multifunctional tool for ever gardener. Some even have measurements on the side for plant depth, a handy lil feature. 
Pruner: $15 to $75
Great for trimming woody perennials, trees, shrubs, thicker stocked plants, etc. Also great multifunctional tool for cutting twine, vines, opening packages, etc.
Pro-tip - Keep em sharp and dry when not in use (otherwise they'll rust easier) 
Hoe (hand hoe or long handle): $15 to $75
Great for turning over soil, quick weeding in a large area or for edging. These come in both long and short handle options so find the one best suited for you. 
Gloves: nitrile, range, $5 to $10
Great for keeping hands (somewhat) clean, protecting against thorns and other unpleasant pokey or itchy things, and for general use around the yard. 
Pro-tip - get a few pairs, keep them dry between use (so they don't smell) and buy leather or canvas ones if you're dealing with roses, thinner gloves won't do it
Watering Can: $10 - $40
Great for gently watering your plants, pots and container gardens. This method can take a little longer than a hose or sprinkler but you have more control over the water flow and can use that extra time observing your plants

For more information, call or stop by Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply. They have everything you need to get started this season, including the most adorable chickens you've ever seen.

Happy Gardening!

Seed Starting Part 2: Instructions

ARE YOU READY TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY? 

  Photography by    Anne Ingman

Photography by Anne Ingman

LET'S REVIEW THE SUPPLY LIST:

Containers: Seed trays or pots and covers
Labels
Squirt bottle or small nozzled watering can
Sunny window (south or southwest facing)
Soil: Seed Starting Mix (do not attempt to use soil from your garden)
Seeds!

CONTAINERS
There are lots of choices here. If you're a first timer, keep it simple and use individual pots. You can use round plastic pots or peat pots (the fiber-looking ones). Peat pots are great for all types of seeds and are planted out directly into the ground so you don't have to worry about disturbing the root system. While some people might steer you towards them, do not use egg cartons. These are too shallow for healthy root growth and wick moisture away from the soil rapidly. Peat pots can come individually or in 6 packs, either work nicely. I suggest placing any pots you use into a seed tray to allow drainage that won’t damage your surface.

If you'd like to plant more seeds per surface area, or you have limited space indoors, you might consider getting seed trays.  These are long, flat, black plastic trays that can be fitted with clear plastic covers. In a seed tray you can plant many more seeds. I find it easier to work with trays because they take up less space, I can keep the soil more evenly moist and I use less soil overall. The only drawback is that you may have to repot the seedlings into bigger pots as they grow.  

If you're using the tray method, a soil blocker can be a good investment. This compacts and shapes the planting medium into nice square cubes, allowing you to plant seeds individually into each block. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about this step. If you are interested in learning more about using a soil blocker, check this out. If you don't have a soil blocker, a small spatula can help you "cut" the soil into cubes or blocks.  

No matter what type of container you choose, make sure they are clean. If you are reusing old plastic pots or seed trays, make sure to clean them with warm soapy water, then disinfect them with a water and bleach solution to get rid of any bacteria that could infect the seed or soil.   

While you don't technically need them, clear plastic seed tray covers trap heat and moisture so the seedlings stay warmer and dry out less quickly.  I recommend these. Saran wrap can also be used, but if you’re purchasing seed trays just go ahead and get the covers too. The plastic covers also serve to keep tiny hands from looking for treasures in the soil (that has happened more times than I can count). Once the seedlings start to emerge you will remove the cover.

SOIL / PLANTING MEDIA
Make sure to get seed starting mix, and DO NOT use soil from your garden! Seed starting mix doesn’t have any actual "soil" in it at all. It is usually a mix of vermiculite and peat, and can contain other organic matter such as worm castings. Buy organic whenever possible. Commercial seed starting mix is sterile and is finer and lighter than regular potting soil and will hold moisture longer.  

LABELS
You can use any method to mark your seeds that works for you.  I use computer sticker labels on seed trays and specify the number of seeds I’ve planted (remember all tomato and pepper varieties look the same so if you’re planting several varieties label them).  Sticker labels will work on individual plastic pots too.  For peat pots, you will need to use popsicle sticks or some other label that goes into the soil.  
wait..why am I doing this again?


INSTRUCTIONS
Step 1: Prepare your Potting Mix
Mix the seed starting mixture with water in a large plastic tub. This gets the “soil” evenly moist and you won’t have to worry about it settling in the pots.  Mixture should be moist and can be shaped easily into a ball, however, it should not be saturated. You should not be able to squeeze excess water out of the ball. If you’ve added too much water, simply add more potting mix and vice versa.  

 

Step 2: Fill Pots or Trays
Fill your pots and/or trays with this mixture. Tap the pots or tray on the table or floor as you fill it to help the mixture settle.  You can press it gently with your hands, but do not pack it super tight, you just don’t want air pockets in the soil. If you are using a tray and don’t have a soil blocker, you can use a tool to “cut” the soil into cubes to hold individual seeds. These cubes will basically be their own self-contained pot. This is a good test to see if your soil is moist enough. The cubes should not crumble when cut.  If they do, dump it back in the bin and add more water.  



Step 3:  Add Seeds
I use a pencil to make a small hole for the seed to go in. They do not have to be very deep; if the pencil is sharpened I poke it down to where the yellow begins. Plant 2-3 seeds per hole.  Just know that once the seeds have germinated and formed their first true leaves, you will pinch off any extra seedlings. Some people find it easiest to pour the seeds onto a small plate first. I usually pour them into my palm and lick my finger and “pick up seeds” on my fingertip. Cover the hole with a tiny pinch of wet soil.   

 

Step 4:  Cover Seeds and Place in a Warm Location
Use a clear plastic cover or saran wrap to cover the seeds to retain heat and moisture. Seeds need warmth to germinate and this will trap the heat and also retain moisture. Usually a south or southwest facing window will provide enough light and warmth if you use a tray cover. Some people put the seed trays on the top of their refrigerators to get them to germinate.  They don’t need light to germinate, just warmth.  Don’t place them on a radiator, that heat is too intense for little seeds.  

Step 5:  Watering
It is very important to check the seeds daily and to water only when they appear "dry" (the soil will be lighter) or if it is dry to touch. Water pots around the edges, and if you have cut your soil into blocks or used a soil blocker, only water in the “trough” between the blocks. Never water directly on top of the seed. This could wash away tiny seeds and can cause mold to grow on the soil and cause the seedling to rot, a condition called “damping off.” Soil should remain moist, but not saturated.  
Be diligent with your checking but don't over water. There should never be standing water in the tray.  If this happens, poke a hole in the tray and let it drain fully, then reduce your watering.  

Step 6:  Seedling care
Once your seeds have germinated (poked their little green heads up) remove the plastic cover and place in a sunny south or southwest facing window.  Now that your seeds are up, they have used all of their internal energy and need the sun to make energy now.  Just like human babies, they need lots of attention and care. Check your seedlings often and if you’re weird, talk to them.  Better yet, sing to them. Seedlings can get get soft, pale and "leggy" (long and spindly) if they are not getting enough light. If this is the case, you may have to move the seeds around in your space to give them more light. (I have successfully grown seeds in a south window without grow lights for many seasons.)  It is also important to turn the trays or pots as the seedlings “reach” toward the light so they grow more evenly.

Step 7: “Hardening Off”

The last and maybe most important thing you need to know about starting seeds indoors is that these tender plants will need to be "hardened off" before transplanting to your garden. Hardening off simply means you give your young plants daily doses of the great outdoors for about a week before planting.  Find a place out of the wind and direct sunlight to put your seedlings and leave them outside for about two hours the first day. You will continue to bring your seedlings into the house at night. Gradually increase the direct sunlight they get by a few hours each day, so they can slowly get used to being outdoors.  (Yes, plants can get sunburned just like us!  Watch out for white spots on the leaves.  If you see them, move your seedlings to a more shaded area or dappled light).  In addition, if heavy rain is expected, keep the seedlings inside as they will be damaged by pounding rain. You will need to be careful to keep them moist as they will dry out more quickly in direct light.  There is nothing worse than tending to your sweet little seedlings only to see them shrivel up and get scorched right at the end due to improper hardening off.  Brassicas can be planted out as early as April if they are ready and have been hardened off, as they can withstand a light frost and cooler temps.  Tender plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should not be transplanted into the garden before the last possible frost date. This step can be the most tedious of all, some gardeners call it the “spring shuffle”.  But don’t fret, it won’t be long before you’re putting these babes into the soil once and for all.  

I hope this helps boost your growing confidence and gives you that “I’VE GOT THIS” feeling. Check back with us to get some more hands on advice on transplanting your seedlings, and of course to get ideas for using your bounty in the kitchen!  

Download + Print Instructions

 I have my grandmother’s book “Growing Your Own Vegetables” Information Bulletin from the US Dept. of Agriculture, 1975 that I still refer to and I will tell you that starting seeds hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years.  Seeds have been doing their thing for millions of years.  The only thing that has changed are the outfits and the haircuts.

I have my grandmother’s book “Growing Your Own Vegetables” Information Bulletin from the US Dept. of Agriculture, 1975 that I still refer to and I will tell you that starting seeds hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years.  Seeds have been doing their thing for millions of years.  The only thing that has changed are the outfits and the haircuts.

 

 

 

Seed Starting Part 1: Why should I start Seeds?

 Photography by   Anne Ingman

Photography by Anne Ingman

It's March here in the Northland, but don't let this warm weather fool you. The temperatures can and WILL fluctuate and nightly freezing is still happening throughout most of the state. (It's actually snowing as I write this). While we northern gardeners are busy dreaming of dirt, gathering supplies and planning our plots, we are mostly just waiting. Waiting and waiting.  Waiting for our seeds to arrive in the mail and waiting for the ground to thaw.

The good news is, you don't have to wait any longer to get your garden on! The end of March and beginning of April is the perfect time to start your seeds indoors. No matter how many times I start seeds, I never tire of this yearly ritual. It pleases me to no end to transform my kitchen into a mini-greenhouse for an afternoon and then watch my little babies growing happily on a sunny shelf.  I just love to get my hands dirty once again and to smell that soil and to... oh, I'm sorry, where was I?!?!   Oh right!  If you’d like to try your hand at starting seeds, or have tried it before with less than stellar results, I'm here to tell you: YOU CAN DO IT.  

It can be a real drag to live in Zone 4 but we love our home state and I won't trash talk her. Here in Minnesota we straddle Zones 3 and 4 according the plant hardiness zone map . This means, our growing season extends from mid May (last frost date) to mid September (first frost date). That means, we need to give tender plants and plants that require a longer growing season a head start.  But let's get right down to it. 

Save Money
It is way more economical to purchase your seeds, a few trays and soil than it is to purchase plants that have been grown in a greenhouse.  You can get an entire seed packet for the same price as a single tomato plant at the market.

Plant Variety
If you look at any seed catalogue, or even the seed stands at coops or nursery's, you have much more choice in what you plant. Cherokee purple tomatoes? Velour green beans? Hansel and Gretel eggplants? Hello?

Organic Veggies
If you're into organic gardening (and I know you ARE), then it makes sense to know that the veggies and herbs you'll be planting have been planted in organic material and come from organic seed.

Don't worry.  You don't have to start all your seeds indoors. Many plants can be direct seeded into the garden. Greens, such as spinach, lettuces, sorrel, and arugula; root veggies such as turnips, radishes, beets, and carrots, (their roots do not like to be disturbed); snap peas; green beans; and herbs can be direct seeded when the ground warms up. 

The veggies we northerners are wise to start indoors are those heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and plants that simply need a head start indoors because they require a longer time to mature. These include the brassica family: brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower. This is not an exhaustive list so if you're unsure, check the back of the seed packet for detailed seeding information.

With that in mind, think about what it is that YOU actually want to grow. My advice: Don't bite off more than you can chew--literally.  I am notorious for planting way more seeds than I have space for!  Think about the things that you would really like to have in your garden.  What do you like to eat? What does your family/ partner/ roommate (if you like them) like to eat?  What things tastes better fresh from the garden? What do you have space for? If you have access to a seed catalogue, page through it and mark the things you’d like to try.

I strive for variety in my garden, so I purchase several varieties of tomatoes and peppers and make notes about which ones my family likes best. My goal is to have a tomato tasting party this year because it is my personal belief that one can never have too many tomatoes. They can be eaten fresh, canned, salsafied, roasted, frozen, and sauced (if you need me in August you know where to find me). We pickle jalapenos every year, so I know I need at least six jalapeno plants. For most people, one or two of these is enough. My boys eat broccoli like it’s candy, so I make sure I have enough of these too. This is very subjective and personal, so I won’t tell you WHAT to plant, but I will tell you HOW.   

Once you have your list, it's time to get some seeds. Most seed vendors can be found online and once you order from them, you will likely be on their mailing list and receive future catalogues.

These online sources are great places to find seeds: 
Botanical Interests
Fedco Seeds
Johnny Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
Seeds of Change
Rare Seeds 

Choose high quality seeds and organic when available. It is possible to reuse seeds from year to year if they are stored properly.  I have had excellent luck reusing seeds over from previous years. Here is a quick reference guide for how long you can expect seeds to last. Again, don't order more than you know you can use, or plan a planting day with friends and share seed packets!  

Now that you have your seeds, get your supplies together and we will see you next week to walk you through each step.
 

SUPPLY LIST
Containers: Seed trays or pots and covers
Labels
Squirt bottle or small nozzled watering can
Sunny window (south or southwest facing)
Soil: Seed Starting Mix (do not attempt to use soil from your garden)

Seeds!

 You can find everything you need to start seeds, including a large variety of seeds at   Eggplant Urban Farm Supply  .

You can find everything you need to start seeds, including a large variety of seeds at  Eggplant Urban Farm Supply.

 

Welcome Amanda Eastvold to Tootie & Dotes! We scooped this babe up after some light stalking per our first introduction at last year's Champagne & Chandeliers event. 
Amanda know's gardening and homesteading (probably better than most of us) and previously worked with Humble Pie Flower Farm making flower arrangements. Get to know her more in our latest round of Lady Briefs

The Forest Floor: Spring Foraging 101

Early spring time is our absolute favorite time of the year to use any excuse to explore what winter has been hiding from us over the last several months. 

As the spring foraging season starts to makes its way up toward the midwest, all kinds of edible magic can be found off the beaten path tucked gently into the forest floor. Many a foodie's obsession, we enjoy not just eating foraged foods, but often the hunt more than the spoils. 

We've highlighted a couple of our favorite spring foraging treasures with tips we've learned over the years. It's important to know that any forager must pick these goods only on public land (check local restrictions) or from a friend's private property. Don't say I didn't warn you. Happy hunting!
 

RAMPS

 Ramps can be identified by 2-3 thin smooth leafs and a burgundy stem.

Ramps can be identified by 2-3 thin smooth leafs and a burgundy stem.

WHEN TO LOOK 
Now (Aprilish) new leaves will emerge from the perennial bulbs around the same time tree buds are really starting to emerge and green up. 

WHERE TO LOOK
They can be found in cool, shady areas with damp, rich soil high in organic matter. They like sandy, wet soils, so a good place to look for them is on slopes with pines, near streams and creeks.

BEST PRACTICES
This part is very important. The whole magic in foraging is the return of plants or mushrooms year after year. Sustainable foraging practices are critical to allowing these critters to return next year and to spread. Leave isolated bunches alone, and take only around 20% of larger patches you find in the ground, leaving the rest for next year. Pack a knife with you because you will want to limit the amount of bulb and roots your remove, cutting just below the soil surface leaving half of the bulb and roots intact.  

 

FIDDLEHEAD FERNS

WHEN TO LOOK
Anytime between May and June in the Northern part of the country

WHERE TO LOOK
Like Morels and Ramps, Fiddleheads or baby ferns can be found off the beaten path in wild wet areas on the edges of rivers, stream banks and swampy areas. They are bright green and can easily be seen amidst the dark soil, twigs, and leaves from which they emerge. They should be found in clumps of about about six. Pick the tender tight little rolls as soon as they are an inch or two above the ground. 

BEST PRACTICES
All ferns have fiddleheads at some point, some more edible than others. Ostrich ferns are the most safe for cooking. Ostrich fern fiddleheads, which are about an inch in diameter, can be identified by the brown papery scale-like covering on the uncoiled fern, as well as the smooth fern stem, and the deep ”U”-shaped groove on the inside of the fern stem. Please make sure and leave at least a few unpicked fiddleheads to avoid devastating and killing the fern completely. 

 

 

MOREL MUSHROOMS

 Pick only the common (yellow or grey) or black Morel. Do plenty of research before you head out so you can be confident you are eating the non-toxic variety. 

Pick only the common (yellow or grey) or black Morel. Do plenty of research before you head out so you can be confident you are eating the non-toxic variety. 

WHEN TO LOOK
This can totally depend on the type of spring you are having and varies geographically. Once the first dandelions start to spread and the lilacs are in bloom you have about a three week window to start foraging. Keep in mind the crop is moving up from the South so as of April 27th southern Minnesota has started picking.

WHERE TO LOOK
First off most hunters guard their hunting spots with their lives. Any serious hunter would never even hint at their hunting locations. (real talk, my uncle Pete claims to have a cave somewhere on his corn field where he collects several pounds each year, have I ever seen this cave? Hell no. A corn field with a Cave?) 

Second off, if you find a good score chances are the mushrooms will return to that same spot each year, veteran foragers will say to collect your shrooms in a mesh bag or basket to allow these spores to drop and spread as you forage. 

Friends will likely find one or two randoms in their backyard, sure. But the best places to look are wild areas, creek or river banks but not areas that have been flooded. Morels have a symbiotic relationship with trees and in many areas that relationship seems to be the strongest with dead Elms. This is Morel hunter nerd for: look for dead Elms and a Morel or two should be near by. 

This is about as much as we can say about the subject before we get angry letters from our husband + the morel hunting community. Do you really need any more excuses to get out and go for a hike (adorable basket in hand)? 

BEST PRACTICES
Picking wild mushrooms requires a good deal of caution, because even a small nibble of the wrong mushroom can be lethal. Check local restrictions on foraging in public parks and wild areas.

LET'S TALK ABOUT TICKS
Foraging season for the above happens to also be the beginning of Tick season. If you have an irrational fear of Ticks (maybe like us) we suggest the following.

  • Wear tall rubber boots with knee high socks.
  • Wear tight thicker pants/leggings to prevent the critters from crawling up your legs. The little devils usually live on the forest floor and make their way up via a pant leg.
  • Dryer sheets, yes toss a few dryer sheets into your boots. 
  • Soothe irrational undiscovered tick fears by taking a hot warm bath and washing your hair when you get home. (really can't most irrational fears be soothed by a little bath salt and hot water?) 
 

Garden Planning: Site Designs

There is certainly not a one size fits all site design for every garden. Maybe you just have a few what you thought were dead spaces between pine trees, or a small plot in the back of your apartment. Don't stress; there is a garden design for you. If you're planning to sow seeds directly into the ground, consider first your hardiness zone and do a couple of soil tests to determine the type of soil you are working with this could effect your site plan.

 

POTAGER (french style kitchen garden)

The Site: Small scale + full sun. Choose an area close to the kitchen since you will often be stepping away while you cook to pull fresh veggies and herbs. Potager gardens are traditionally kept very tidy with cleared mulched or paved lanes for walking and plant cultivation. We encourage laying down Dutch clover for durable soil nourishing walking paths. What the heck is full sun? Full sun means 6-8 hrs. of sunlight exposure each day. 

Plant Suggestions: Plants should be veggies and herbs you use the most often in the kitchen. What do you like to cook with every week? Also consider planting quick or multiple harvest vegetables like lettuces, scallions, radishes, sweet peas, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers and herbs. Save slower growing and larger harvest vegtables like squash and corn for a larger growing area.

  

 

 

CONTAINER GARDEN + COMPANION PLANTING

The Site: Small roof top or patio + full to partial sun. 

Plant Suggestions: We suggest planting small polycultures or companion plants in larger pots and small individual herbs. Basil planted alongside a tomato plant will produce rich tasting fruit, while including some bee balm to attract pollinators. Greens of all varieties love to be planted alongside herbs. We suggest big pots of kale and rosemary and sage, or individual pots of fresh herbs. 


 

 

 

SHADE + ACIDIC GARDEN PATCH

tD_garden_Acidic.jpg

The Site: Acidic soil with shade: perhaps you have a few pine trees dropping pine needles near by adding more acid to your soil. Maybe you thought this area was a dead garden space.
(Most garden plants thrive at a pH between 6 and 7.5, acidic soil has a PH below 7, you can get cheap soil tests at just about any garden center.)

Plant Suggestions: Blueberry bushes or their close sisters serviceberries/Juneberries alongside ostrich ferns (maybe you will get edible fidleheads next year?). Remember they need lots of water. Try planting some onions or leaks and don’t forget the garlic in the fall. Use this area to try to attract your pollinators to benefit the rest of your garden spaces. Try planting coral bells or bleeding hearts. 


 

 

 

KEYHOLE GARDEN

The Site: Works well in most site conditions - full sun, partial sun/partial shade and full shade. The amount of sunlight and shade will dictate the types of edible plants used in the garden bed. This garden bed design is geared towards efficient use of space and as such works well in urban areas where growing space is usually at a premium. Keyhole beds maximize the amount of planting space while minimizing the amount of pathways while using a similar amount of total square feet compared to a conventional rectilinear raised bed or row crops.  

Plant Suggestions: Full sun keyhole beds can contain sun-loving annuals such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and basil while full shade beds can contain shade-loving annuals such as cabbage, kale, and most other leafy greens.