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The Top 3 Mistakes Growers Make When Growing Seedlings

Growing seedlings unlocks the door to thousands of plant varieties, all with their own unique flavors that you can’t find at grocery stores or nurseries.

It can also save you money… if you grow the seedlings correctly. But when you’re first starting out, it’s easy to make mistakes. And those mistakes can end up costing you more money and time, leaving you frustrated and wishing you’d just purchased the same ol’ hum drum varieties.

To help you grow healthy, robust seedlings, here are the top three mistakes new growers make when growing transplants.

Growing Seedlings Mistake # 1: No Substrate Nutrients

Seedlings don’t need nutrients to get their first few leaves out. But once those leaves emerge, seedlings need nourishment from their surroundings. Quite often, new growers fail at growing seedlings not because they don’t know that transplants need nutrients, but because they aren’t aware that their substrate doesn’t contain any.

The most common way this happens is with peat moss and coco coir. New growers will buy coco coir pods, for example, and plant in them expecting the seedlings to grow healthy.

But the reality is that coco coir and peat moss do not have ANY level of substantial nutrients for your transplants. If you use these substrates without adding a complete liquid nutrient profile, the seedlings aren’t going to make it.

Ideally, you would use an organic seedling mix with compost and worm castings. Whether you make your own seedling mix or buy one pre-made, make sure it has the nutrients your plants need to get a healthy start.

Growing Seedlings Mistake # 2: Not Enough Light

Once your seedlings germinate, they need light. Unless you’re growing in a greenhouse that gets plenty of sunlight year round, you want to supplement with full spectrum plant lights. Newly germinated seeds need 16-18 hours of artificial lighting!

It’s best to purchase grow lights from a company that specializes in agricultural lighting. With the popularization of LED lighting and cannabis growing, the plant light industry has exploded. As demand rises, there always emerges a subpar industry that wants to profit but doesn’t want to produce the quality. So lighting companies that specialize in garage and bathroom lighting, or nightclub and office lighting, are now selling LED lights as agricultural lighting. The problem is that their technology is often of lesser quality than companies who specialize in agricultural lighting.

Growing Seedlings Mistake # 3: Over or Under Watering

Watering plants is a challenging skill to master, and growing seedlings is no different! When growers first start growing transplants, they’ll either lean towards over or under watering. Avoid water extremes by practicing the following moisture tips:

Be sure you hydrate your substrate before you plant your seeds. For a starting place to gauge proper substrate hydration levels, pick up a handful of your substrate and squeeze. A few drops of water should fall out. If no water droplets fall, your substrate may be too dry. If a ton of water falls, your substrate is too wet. New growers (especially busy ones!) are often tempted to skip this step. If you do, the substrate can actually pull water from your seeds, not provide water to them.

If you find yourself low on time, you can still accomplish your task without cutting corners. Dump your seedling mix in a tub, and add some water. Put the lid on and walk away, letting the mix absorb the water while you do other tasks. After a few hours, check on the mix and stir it. Do the squeeze test. Repeat until you have the desired moisture level. This process takes much less time, and you’ll often get more moisture consistency throughout the mix than if you try to work the moisture evenly into the media by hand.  

Making sure your seedlings have nutrients, enough light, and adequate water will help ensure your transplants are healthy and robust. And once you get the hang of growing your own seedlings, you’ll gain access to thousands of exciting varieties you can’t find anywhere else.

Crystal Meserole
GYOV Instructor and Harvest Club Support

Crystal owns and operates a one-woman wholesale commercial living microgreen operation in the mountains of western North Carolina. After working and managing local restaurants for over a decade, she saw the need for chefs to have access to more affordable, organic food for the delicious creations they craft for our communities.

Crystal hopes to stand as a clear message to anyone who thinks they can’t grow: You can. Anyone can. With the right system, mindsets, and mentor, everything becomes possible.  

3 Easy to Grow Culinary Herbs with Kami McBride

3-Easy-to-Grow-Culinary-Herbs

Kami McBride has been a long-time friend of Grow Your Own Vegetables and we are excited to share her with you in today’s article. 

Kami-McBride-in-garden

“Hey Kami, which kitchen herbs are the easiest to grow?”

I get this question a lot, so I thought I would write about the 3 absolute easiest culinary herbs to grow, even if you have had no success with growing herbs.

These are the 3 go-to herbs that my students have had the most success with over the years.

You can do this.

Oregano

Oregano

I have a friend that recently moved into an old homestead that had herb and vegetable gardens that were tended to for decades. The house was empty for a couple years and the gardens were neglected, no watering, no weeding, nothing.  Which herb do you think had overgrown the garden? 

Yep. Oregano.  Everywhere, oregano. I actually had never seen so much oregano. While all the other herbs needed to be watered and were long gone, oregano was holding on and actually thriving!

So if you feel like you can’t grow anything and all your gardening attempts end in failure. Oregano will turn that around! I have to weed out the oregano from my garden otherwise it would just dominate the whole place.

Gardening Tips for Oregano: Oregano does well in full sun or partial shade and somewhat dry, well-drained soil. Do a deep watering once every week or two and then let it dry out. It doesn’t need as much water as most herbs. Oregano spreads easily and is an evergreen plant that can winter over in hard frost.

Garlic-chives-bloom

Garlic chives also known as society garlic

I love to decorate my food with the pink/purple flowers of garlic chives. The fresh leaves are spicy and I use them in my cooking more often than regular chives. They are delicious added to any soup, salad or savory dish. Check out my blog on spicy edible flowers. https://kamimcbride.com/decorate-food-six-spicy-edible-flowers/

Garlic chives are anti-microbial, helping to fight colds and infections. They are also carminative, garnishing your food with garlic chive leaves or flowers helps you with digesting your food.

Gardening Tips for Garlic Chives: Garlic chives like full sun and a little shade. They are a hearty herb that grows in just about any kind of soil. They like moderate watering and well-drained soil. This plant tolerates hot and cold weather and will spread in your garden. This plant has white or purple flowers and both can be used interchangeably.

Peppermint

Peppermint

Do you think of peppermint as a culinary herb?  Tea is usually the first thing to come to mind, but peppermint is a staple culinary herb in our kitchen. You can add fresh or dried peppermint to meatballs, hamburger patties, marinades for any kind of poultry or lamb. Minced peppermint is delicious mixed into yogurt or smoothies. It also goes really well mixed into quinoa and kale salads.

Gardening Tips for Peppermint: Peppermint likes partial shade. It likes some sun, but in hot climates, make sure it gets some afternoon shade.  It likes rich soil but actually I have grown it in all kinds of soil. Keep it moist but be careful where you plant it. Peppermint sends out tons of runners and can take over your entire garden. This is one that you may want to plant in a pot so you can keep control of it. Plant peppermint in an area of your garden that gets the most water. Peppermint grows best along creeks and damp areas.

These 3 herbs can get you started growing your kitchen herbs. Try starting them in pots. Don’t put them together in pots though. Give each of them their own pot! Put them in a sunny spot on your porch, that way you can easily just grab a few snips here and there to add to your meals. Let me know how your gardening adventures go!

Kami McBrides’ mission is to inspire a cultural shift that embraces taking care of our bodies with healing herbs, a deep connection with the earth, and a lifestyle that passes this knowledge on to our children.  She is the author of the much loved book, The Herbal Kitchen, and over the past 30 years has helped thousands of people demystify the world of herbal medicine and learn just how simple it can be to use the healing power of their garden for self-care, prevent illness, and take care of common ailments.

Kami developed and taught the herbal curriculum for UCSF School of Nursing and her work is centered in sustainable wellness practices, creating self-reliance and revitalizing our relationship with the plant world.

Interested in learning more from garden experts like Kami? Check out our Best of Superfood Garden Summit Collection. It’s an inspiration celebration! Think of it as the red carpet of garden masters… in overalls and boots. Kami shares more on Herbal Medicine.

Grow Your Own Immune Boosting Garlic For Improved Health & Vitality

Summary:

Store bought garlic is bred for shelf life, not flavor or nutrient density. Luckily, growing nutrient dense garlic varieties takes very little time and effort. You can grow enough garlic for a whole year in just a 4’x 6’ (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden bed. Discover how to grow your own garlic, bursting with flavor and nutrients for your health and vitality. Plus, get the pro tips on how to maximize your garlic nutrition.

Garlic is an ancient remedy

Garlic is one of the world’s oldest cultivated agricultural crops and has been used for centuries to treat a vast number of diseases and ailments. From malaria and meningitis to tuberculosis and typhoid fever, garlic has been recognized as a powerful healer throughout time in cultures across the globe.

There was a time when people hoped to cure misunderstood ‘evils’ with garlic and other alliums. Today, scientific studies are confirming many of these ancient medicinal remedies. More on the allium family and some of their benefits here.

Of all the alliums, garlic single handedly wards off more ‘evils’ than any other vegetable or herb. It’s no wonder it was revered to have magical properties.

Why Grow Garlic When You Can Buy?

Flavors You Can’t Find at the Store: Grocery store garlic is bred for one thing: shelf life. While this is helpful for food being transported hundreds and thousands of miles, the cost of breeding for shelf life is a loss in flavor. In addition, there’s not a lot of variety at the grocery store. They carry one of three typical varieties. However, when you grow your own garlic, you can choose from over one hundred different varieties and flavors.

Health and Disease Prevention You Can’t Buy: Studies show a direct correlation between flavor and the presence of nutrients for many foods. That great garlic flavor is an indicator of more nutrients and therefore more health for you. Allicin is just one of the many active compounds in garlic that supports your health. You can read the amazing benefits of allicin here.

You don’t need to settle for less. Enjoy superior flavor and health when you grow your own garlic. Plus, it’s easier than you might think!

How To Grow Flavorful and Nutrient Dense Garlic

When inviting plants into your life, it’s important to remember that plants want to thrive. They do whatever it takes to grow strong and turn to seed for the next generation of plants. Your role as a caretaker is to provide the best conditions for your plants to flourish. Here are the eight considerations when growing garlic.

1. Growing Garlic: A Great Choice for Busy Growers

Unlike other annual garden veggies and herbs, most garlic grows from fall, through winter and all the way to summer. Growing garlic takes very little maintenance so it’s great for busy people. Once garlic is in the ground, the only thing you may need to do is mulch before temperatures freeze. Then curl up with a cup of hot tea and take the entire winter off. That’s right, nothing left to do but wait until harvest in late spring, early summer!

2. Choosing the Right Garlic for Your Climate 

Hardneck and softneck varieties can be grown in colder climates, but if you live in a warmer climate, you’ll want to choose a softeneck variety.

For more on choosing the right variety, grab your complimentary printable Garlic Growing Guide here.

Sow garlic at the beginning of your cool season. Hardnecks need the first four to six weeks of growing to be between 32-55°F (0-12°C). Softneck and warmer tolerant garlic varieties can be planted in warmer temps, but need to be below 80°F (23°C) for the duration of their growth. 

Garlic sprouts should be at least 6-8” (15-20cm) tall before temperatures drop below freezing. When sprouts are at least 6” tall, mulch the garlic bed with a light material, like organic straw to protect it through the winter. You can also use mulch to keep the soil cooler in warmer climates.

3. Your Garlic Plants Want 6-8 Hours of Sunlight  

Without proper sunlight, your garlic plants cannot photosynthesize properly. Because sunlight hours change through seasons, you’ll want to make sure that wherever you plant your garlic it is getting 6-8 hours of full sun from fall through summer and up until harvest time. 

4. Quality Soil Means Nutrient-Rich Food 

Health starts underground. If growing in a container, choose a high quality, organic potting mix. If growing in soil, ensure it is well draining with plenty of fertility. Keep your fertility levels up by adding a 2” layer minimum of organic compost on the top of your potting mix or soil each growing season.

5. How Many Garlic Plants in How Much Space? 

You don’t need a lot of growing space for garlic. You can grow enough garlic to savor year round in one 4’ x 6’ (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden bed. And that one garden bed can give you much more of that cherished garlic flavor beyond the bulbs. 

Before your garlic head fully matures, grab an early harvest with hardneck varieties. Hardnecks produce edible shoots on the top of the plant called ‘scapes.’ Simply cut the scapes when they are between 6-10” (15-20cm) long and enjoy them raw or cooked. They make a delectable addition to sautees!

PRO TIP: in the early spring, plant lettuce between the rows of garlic. Your garlic and lettuce will be ready to harvest at the same time, so you get two crops out of the same space. Plus your planting bed will be clear to plant summer crops.

6. Watering for Perfect Garlic Harvests

When you first plant your garlic, water 1” (3cm) per week until leaves emerge. Then, reduce watering. No need to water once temperatures go below freezing.

When the ground thaws, water 1” per week in temperatures of 60-70°F (15-21°C) and 2” per week in temperatures of 70-80°F (21-26°C). 

PRO TIP: Watering less often and more thoroughly is best. 

7. Harvesting and The Secret to Getting Superior Garlic Harvests

Harvesting garlic is easy! Your garlic is ready for harvest when lower leaves turn brown and papery. Using a digging fork, gently insert the digging fork into the soil and lift the garlic heads from soil. 

But you don’t have to wait until the garlic is mature to start harvesting. Aside from the scapes of hardneck varieties, you can enjoy delicious fresh spring garlic by harvesting before maturity and cooking immediately.

Important Tip When Growing Garlic: The secret to getting superior garlic harvests is to save the largest, healthiest bulbs for planting next year.

8. Curing and Storing Your Garlic 

Once you’ve harvested your garlic, gently brush off the excess dirt. Never wash harvested garlic or get the bulbs wet as this can cause your garlic to mold. Hang your garlic or lay on a wire rack out of sunlight for 2-4 weeks in temperatures of at least 80ºF (26ºC). In colder climates, curing can be done indoors. 

Once cured, cut the stems off and peel the very outer layer of skin off the bulbs. Store in a ventilated, dark, dry area at 60ºF (15ºC). When garlic is cured properly, it will store for anywhere between 4-12 months, depending on whether you’re growing the hardneck or softneck variety. 

Limited on space? Container growing can help you see opportunities instead of limitations. You can customize your container garden to fit your space, budget, physical abilities, and lifestyle.
Check out our NEW Container Gardening Micro Course

Are you a garlic grower? Share below your garlic tips, recipes and growing experience.

Growing Basil & Avocados: A Tale of Two Plants

Every single plant you decide to grow can make a huge difference in your life.

How about $1,000 in groceries per year from just ONE garden pot? It’s all about choosing the right varieties for your strategy and goals… That’s what makes growing food WORTH IT! So just how much of a difference can choosing the right plant make for you in a single year? Watch and decide for yourself: basil vs avocados!

And… discover an unexpected secret to making awesome pesto.

 

Download a Quick Tips Guide for Growing Basil.

Click Here!

Share your favorite plant varieties and why they work so well in your gardening plans.

You Don’t Need Seeds to Grow Herbs

Did you know that you don’t need seeds to grow your own herbs at home? All you need is access to healthy plants to take a start from. Whether they are from a friend’s garden or the grocery store, it’s simple to get started.

It doesn’t work for all herbs, but it does work for most.

Learn how to get started in this video:

Please share what herbs that you are going to try to do this with in the comments below.